Being Smart When Choosing a Marketing Automation Platform

Your smart phone can only be smart if you’re smart with how you use it.
This is the advice I gave my mother a few years ago when she was looking to purchase her very first smart phone. I believe this same rule can apply to pretty much any modern day convenience, but particularly for marketers seeking to implement a marketing automation strategy. What’s marketing automation? Let’s briefly review and look at some of the finer points every marketer should consider when choosing the right marketing automation platform.

Marketing Funnel

Quite simply, marketing automation refers to software or technology platforms designed for marketing teams that help automate marketing tasks. Whether you have implemented a marketing automation platform or not, your organization likely has an established process to help streamline marketing tasks and bolster lead generation. This can be something as simple as handing over a contact’s business card to the territory-specific sales rep after meeting a prospect at an event. With marketing automation tools, you can optimize your marketing, lead generation and sales hand off processes by defining behavior-based triggers that move leads from the top of the marketing funnel through to becoming sales-ready opportunities at the bottom of the funnel. So, that event prospect gets added to your marketing automation database and is entered into a workflow that has specific follow-up rules or actions based on their behavior, triggering additional customer-specific touch points, ultimately leading to closing that big deal.

If you’re a huge marketing nerd (guilty!), all of this stuff sounds pretty cool…and it truly is pretty awesome stuff. There are a wide variety of marketing automation platforms out there and the fact that marketing automation is becoming such a huge opportunity for organizations, the tools and services are only becoming more readily available, affordable and advanced. But, your marketing automation platform can only be smart and efficient if you’re smart and efficient.

Let’s say your organization runs pretty fast and loose when it comes to their marketing and budget. You tend to be more reactive than proactive in your marketing tactics and instead of taking the time to develop strong multi-channel campaigns based on market research, you tend to rely on trying several different approaches and figuring out what works as you go along. This sounds like a fun and exciting environment, but investing a ton of money in a top tier system with advanced marketing intelligence capabilities probably isn’t the wisest investment.

On the other hand, let’s say your organization is in a rebuilding phase. Among several budget cuts and layoffs, your marketing department is trying to figure out how to do more with less. You’ve begun researching marketing automation platforms that will be specific to your strongly defined customer personas. You’ve already tried to implement more manual tactics in order to engage your current customer base, but these manual tactics cost time and manpower. Not to mention that they haven’t proved to be entirely effective. While you’re facing growing pressure to find a decent, cost-conscious platform, you should not simply settle on the cheapest option out there. You need a system that can be easily adopted for your current workflow processes, freeing your marketers of the manual admin duties so they can flex their creative muscles as they begin brainstorming future automated campaigns. You should consider a system that has some more advanced capabilities, so that it can grow with you as you become more fluent with the technology.

My point with both of these examples is that your decision on choosing the right marketing automation platform needs to be process-oriented. If you have a strong understanding of your audience and there are clear processes and workflows already in place, you can benefit greatly from marketing automation. But if you are looking at marketing automation to be some sort of magic bullet that will be a lead gen mill than you may want to take a step back before you migrate to marketing automation.

I think what happens for many organizations is that you have one software demo and you become seduced by the marketing power these platforms can possess. Don’t fall victim for choosing the most supreme model that your budget will allow. Before you even start to consider vendors, come up with several different campaign ideas or scenarios that you think would benefit from marketing automation. This will help you determine what functions are most important for the success of your marketing automation capabilities now and in the future.

As for my mother, I was happy she finally retired her flip phone and left the world of T9 texting behind. However, she has yet to accept my game invitation for “Words with Friends” and on my parents’ last visit, while getting lost driving from Pennsylvania to DC, they decided it was far more convenient to call me for directions than turning on their GPS on either their smart phones or GPS devices. Let this be another point of consideration; be sure you choose a marketing automation system your team is actually willing to learn and use!

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