Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Marketing automation is going to solve all your business problems, save time, improve relevancy, and reduce sales cycles. It will be marketing’s silver bullet.
Well, it’s not exactly the silver-bullet fix of your dreams, but it can make a huge difference.
Consider this: At around 6 p.m. on a Thursday, you pull into your driveway. The front lights automatically turn on, Pandora starts playing your favorite station through your home speaker system, and Amazon Echo just ordered your favorite two-topping pizza from Domino’s. Sounds almost perfect, doesn’t it?
It’s automated, seamless, and personalized exactly for you. Those elements — automated, seamless, and personalized — characterize the future of marketing, and it’s what the major brands are already practicing. Welcome to the world of marketing automation.
Understanding Marketing Automation
Marketing automation connects your business to your consumers through a scalable system built on personalized data, and it presents a critical opportunity to connect the dots and engage with your audience. It’s about building effective relationships, and with every piece of information, you learn more about who your customers are, what their likes and dislikes are, which channels to leverage, and how they desire to be connected.
In the past, marketing automation was considered personalized if you sent “Hello, First_Name” emails. That was the bar, low though it was.
Today, it looks a little more like this: Prospective consumer visits X webpage, remains for more than seven seconds, downloads content or submits a contact form, becomes part of a target audience segment, receives personalized offers via email or social advertisements, etc., until you’ve driven that prospect through the path you’ve mapped out.
For small companies and large enterprises alike, marketing automation software improves productivity and efficiency. It drives deeper personalization and content generation, improves lead quality and scoring, enables real-time action, and improves your customers’ experience with your brand.
Despite how valuable it is, marketing automation is not a replacement for real marketing. Lots of companies think that software and tools themselves solve problems; they do not. People, creative thinking, and strategy solve problems.
Sending a “Hello, First_Name” email and calling it automation won’t affect your bottom line by itself, nor will it provide value to its recipient — being relevant, understanding consumer needs, and following behavior will.
Selecting the Right Tool for Your Needs
If your team experiences longer sales cycles, speaks to multiple target audiences, offers several products or services, or is based on e-commerce, then automation efforts will almost never be wasted.
Once you determine your need for marketing automation, it’s time to evaluate your options. But considering the right platform for your needs isn’t comparing apples to apples; it’s more about assessing your organization, identifying where you are now and where you want to be, and finding the tools that can help you get there.
Some platforms provide every feature you’ll ever need (and a few you’ll never use). Others deliver a more modular approach, letting you add features and services as your needs expand. Some are relatively user-friendly, while others are necessarily more complex, requiring deep product knowledge, considerable resources, training, and time to get up to speed and maintain.
So how do you get started?
1. Create a selection process.
The key is to strike the right balance between internal needs and platform capabilities. Many tools will work well enough, but you’ve got to find the right tool to meet your exact needs. Start by prioritizing your goals, balancing your internal capabilities, and aligning prospective vendors with each.
2. Ask the right questions.
Once you’ve figured out how you’ll approach your decision-making process, you need to get started researching and asking questions of potential providers. In the end, the goal of asking these questions is to separate your options and find a platform that scales your operations according to your goals. Consider the following questions:
- How easy is it to integrate this software into my organization?
- What kind of support and training are included? For how long?
- What effort is required to maximize adoption in my organization?
- Will we have a dedicated account rep available to us? For how long?
- How are current customers utilizing the platform’s full functionality?
3. Shortlist the leading vendors, and make a decision.
Based on the answers to your questions, do any vendors stand out as clear options? If not, it’s often helpful to look at the platforms others in your industry are using — and how they’re using them. If you’re a small- or mid-sized business, platforms like Infusionsoft, Mautic, HubSpot, and SharpSpring are solid options. But if you’re a larger company (or looking to become one soon), consider options like Adobe Campaign, Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, or Pardot by Salesforce.
With all your options on the table, it’s time to make a choice. At the end of the day, the best choice is the platform that fits your current structure and culture while placing you on the path to reach your desired destination in the next five years.
Are you feeling brave enough to take on this automated world? It takes some work, but with the right processes and platform, you can do it.