Marketing Automation: Is it Right for You?

Marketing automation sounds like a boring topic, and you’re likely to want to skip reading this post in favor of stabbing your eyes out with a fork or something like that, but we encourage you to stick around!  Its actually pretty exciting stuff and it might just help you out a ton, but deciding whether it’s right for you and which platform to choose is complicated. Let’s take a look.

What the heck is marketing automation?

The term marketing automation refers to software platforms that are designed for businesses looking to market on many different channels online (like email, social media, websites, etc.) and who want to make repetitive tasks easier to accomplish through automation. It works by deciding what criteria and outcomes you would like the software to interpret, store and execute so that you don’t have to do it manually. Using marketing automation is cool because it takes the burden of a very time consuming task off of you and let’s a computer do the work.

There are two kinds of marketing automation: business-to-business and business to consumer. The tools work similarly in that they gather, interpret and act on data but do different things based on the audience.

A brief overview of options

More marketing automation platforms have email as a core capability, but that’s changing quickly. The focus is no longer all on email but on email PLUS multichannel data collection and storage, campaign development and execution and ROI analysis and reporting. The goal here is to give marketers the capacity to build, track and manage digital campaigns as well as keep an eye on the flow of potential new customers.

Almost every marketing automation platform out there has three main capabilities: 

  • email marketing
  • website visitor tracking
  • a central marketing database 

You can then add tools to these core packages based on what your individual goals and needs are.

 The good and the bad

You don’t have to be a big business to use marketing automation. Any size business with any level of marketing expertise can use marketing automation tools effectively, but you have to go into it with your eyes wide open. Here are some of the benefits and drawbacks.

Marketing automation tools are cool because they:

  • Increase the efficiency of your marketing efforts
  • Make it easier to get better quality leads—and more of them
  • Give you a view of customer behavior (what they click on, etc.) across multiple channels like email, websites, and so on.
  • Provide you with valuable information about who is interested in what, making sure you understand your customer’s desires so they can be fulfilled.

Marketing automation tools can be tricky because:

  • Getting started can be complicated and time consuming
  • Folks may become frustrated and not use all of the capabilities of the platform, focusing only on email marketing. This does not give you a clear picture of what’s going on.

In order for these tools to work, you have to understand them fully and be able to use them to their full potential. You also have to do your homework to sort out which one is the right one for you. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. But before we get into which one, do you even need a marketing automation platform?

Do you even need it?

This is a big step and you should be sure you’re going to benefit from it before you sign on. Assess what your needs are, what your staff is capable of and how much money you can afford to spend on such a thing.

Ask yourself:

  • Who will be responsible for running this thing? 
  • Do we have the skills to pull this off?
  • What are our goals?
  • How will we be able to tell if it’s working?
  • Can we afford it?

If you decide that after a heart to heart with yourself and your staff that you certainly can dive in, it’s time to carefully weigh your options.

How to choose the right platform for you

There are a bazillion different platforms out there. Some of the major ones are MarketoEloqua, PardotHubSpot, and Infusionsoft.  While we don’t have time to go over the benefits and drawbacks of them all, you can find a comprehensive report on them at digitalmarketingreportdepot.com. They are not a one size fits all kind of deal so you have to shop around. Think of it as being like buying a car. There are many options available. Some you need, some you’ll never use—like having 4 wheel drive in Florida. 

Once you’ve narrowed it down

Once you’ve picked out which platforms seem right for you, you are totally not done yet. You now have to get in touch with the folks to set up demonstrations. You want to make sure it’s easy enough to use and that it truly does have all the features that will suit your needs and none of the ones that don’t.

Next week, we're going to talk about what this process actually looks like from the day you start using the software until the day you start seeing results. See you soon!

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