Don't Panic! The Ultimate Guide to Picking a Marketing Automation Tool.

Marketing isn’t the easiest thing in the world.

Go around and survey a bunch of business owners, and they’ll undoubtedly tell you how critical marketing is to building consumer-brand trust and building a solid relationship with their customers. This is because marketing and sales go together like mac and cheese, and is the foundation that keeps companies strong and able to continue growing.

While business evolves, it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with daily operations and still maintain value-driven, personalized relationships with each and every customer. This is when marketing directors get called in to build performance-driven programs that create the conversions business owners need for their company.

However, having an efficient marketing director means that company’s marketing program is once again too large to comfortably manage. Budget meetings get held. Expenses get cut. Valuable time and money are wasted on menial, repetitive tasks like email blasts and social media updates.

Fortunately, there’s such a thing as marketing automation software, which plays a huge role in helping professionals grow their business.

About Marketing Automation

When you pare it down to the basics, marketing automation is an offshoot of customer relationship management that uses software and web-based services as means of implementing, managing, automating, and even optimizing various tasks and processes that would have otherwise taken up valuable time. This includes things like email marketing, website integration, lead generation, customer profiling, form and page building, and A/B testing.

Basically, it does all of the repetitive tasks that take time and money away from the budget for your marketing department, like email and social media marketing. All of those tasks are replaced by marketing automation software and its applications, which are both designed to optimize the performance of your business.

How Marketing Automation Works

Marketing automation creates a web of connections between multiple marketing channels, such as content marketing, email marketing, and social media marketing. This makes sure your leads are generated, scored, and nurtured to better allow your team to focus their attention on other aspects of running your business.

With the help of marketing automation software, it becomes a million times easier to send targeted emails and other messages with personalization so you can build consumer-brand trust by ensuring your brand and the services and/or products offered are directly relevant to the needs and interests of your target consumers.

This automation means your marketing department is then better able to focus on the quality of the campaigns being run, rather than the quantity of the campaigns. Additionally, the software collects data on your prospects’ interests, demographics, purchasing behavior, and needs, to better nurture those leads and personalize any future offers being sent.

The Benefits of Marketing Automation

The list of benefits that come from using marketing automation to optimize your business is a long one, but there are some benefits that really stand out and are the key to growing your business and getting new leads.

Saves Time and Money

Through the use of marketing automation software, a single individual can send out a massive email blast of hundreds of messages and do the work of a large sales and/or marketing department – all on their own.

Implement the software and your business will have automated marketing campaigns in a short amount of time. Your business will be able to send out hundreds – or even thousands – of personalized emails every single day, in addition to generating and nurturing leads while spending less time and money on doing so.

Increases Revenue

Increased revenue comes with decreased time and expenses, and makes up the biggest benefit marketing automation has to offer. In fact, last year’s report by Adestra revealed a staggering 74% of all survey respondents claimed their marketing automation software’s ability to save them time was the biggest benefit, with customer engagement being a close second for 68% of all respondents.

With all of this time being freed up, 80% of businesses surveyed by VB last year found that using marketing automation has resulted in significant increase in leads. Considering the fact these are the very lifeblood of a business’ sales, this is one benefit that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Even better, the same study found that these leads aren’t just any type of leads either – they are generally quality leads that brought about an increase in conversions for 77% of businesses.

Consistent Branding is Easier

There’s no question about it: Consistent branding is essential.

With marketing automation software, it’s a million times easier to create a consistent brand that spans across your multiple marketing channels.

Considering how much money and time you save with this, your marketing is better able to focus their efforts on expanding your audience to better reach your target demographic across emails, social media channels, mobile applications, direct mailers, and more. You can spend more money on perfecting your web design, landing pages, content marketing, and other aspects of building your brand and growing your business.

By making your business more available to your customers, your visibility is gets the boost it needs to turn those website visitors and prospects into customers.

Versatile and User-Friendly

Even with all of its uses and benefits, marketing automation is actually surprisingly easy to use. After all, the software is all about optimization and making it easier to grow your business. Because of that, even the employees that aren’t so technically-gifted will be able to use it with little training.

Most marketing automation software packages come with templates, editors, and helpful guides that walk you through the while process all the way from initial creation and design to final distribution.

It doesn’t require your employees to know any coding, graphic design, or other technical skillsets. They can jump right in and get to work once it’s implemented.

Lead Generation and Nurturing

Having to spend time reaching out to each individual lead and nurturing that lead through an entire sales funnel takes time. It takes money.

With marketing automation, you can reach out to a potential lead right away from the very first interaction, even if it’s just a simple list subscription.

Let’s say a website visitor spends time reading through your content and offered products/services, and decides to sign up for your mailing list. Once you’ve got that email added to your list, you can send out one of several types of automated solutions.

They’ll receive a welcome message and that confirmation notice (always a good idea), and then the prospect will be immediately guided through the sales funnel. You can use the automation to offer discounts and other offers that are directly relevant to your customer’s needs, interests, and past purchase behavior. As the customer is guided through the sales funnel, the software collects even more data to fill out their customer profile, enabling you to better target your emails and other marketing campaigns.

Choosing Marketing Automation Software

Just like with any other type of major software implementation, it’s essential to go through a full assessment of your business before purchasing and implementing marketing automation software. Even with its numerous benefits, you may decide your business hasn’t yet reached the point for it to need all those extra components for your marketing.

You need to go over the needs of your business, such as your staffing capabilities and revenue goals, how much you can invest in new marketing software, and what your current employee skills and abilities are.

Some things to consider are:

  • The type of marketing automation software that would best fit your needs
  • Your sales and marketing goals
  • The size of your staff – Do you have enough staff available to implement a marketing automation solution?
  • How you will measure the marketing automation software’s success – What benchmarks do you have in place?
  • Your income and expenses – Do you have the financial resources required for this?

After taking these things into consideration, it’s best to take some time to prepare your business for marketing automation before implementing the solution. Just like with anything else in the world, whether it’s business-related or not, marketing automation software isn’t perfect. This is why business owners need to take the time to understand both its benefits and limitations.

While it automates most things, it doesn’t automate everything. You will still need staff available to do hands-on marketing, including sending out messages and interacting with customers. While it optimizes and streamlines a good portion of you business’ workflow, it doesn’t replace a human employee.

A big part of the confusion people have when they purchase marketing automation solutions from a vendor stems from the implementation and utilization being driven by someone who doesn’t think about the fact they need involve the CRM, content, email, and/or SEO teams.

At one point or another, all of these different teams within your marketing department should be expected to handle this technology, so they should be informed of how it works. If they never get to learn about it, explore its different uses, or discuss it with the CMO or the vendors, conflict is bound to come up.

There should also be a discuss of who should be the one in charge of running the marketing platform once it’s introduced and set in place. This person, as well as the rest of the team, should be able to test out the platform and speak to the vendors.

To do this, find a vendor and schedule a demo for your team. Things to consider are:

  • How easy the marketing automation solution is to use. Does it take a lot of time to learn, or is it basic and straightforward?
  • Your marketing needs, and whether or not the vendor is offering a solution that aligns with these needs and goals
  • The key features – Will they make a significant difference, or do they simply amount to expensive upsells you could do without?
  • How difficult or easy it would be to implement the new software within your company. Will it integrate well, or will it be too hard to get everyone on the same page?
  • The amount of time it will take to implement
  • Whether or not the vendor offers free trials – You should always test a new business tech before investing in it

Picking a Vendor

As you can see, marketing automation software can certainly yield a whole host of benefits that grow your business and streamline your marketing efforts.

Unfortunately, the software isn’t exactly “one size fits all.”

There are tons of marketing automation platforms available, and they vary widely depending on price, features, and complexity. This can make it a bit difficult to find one that will best meet your needs.

Once you’ve taken an assessment of your business and prioritized your revenue and marketing goals, it’s time to take the next step in selecting the right marketing automation platform.

Key Features

Most of them offer the same basic features across the board, but it’s the key components that set them apart.

  • Are you looking for comprehensive inbound marketing? You’re going to need something that integrates your blogging, social media, and email tools.
  • Do you want your sales reps to have access to your team’s marketing data? You’re going to want a platform that has its own CRM or at least CRM integration capabilities.
  • Do you want to be able to create landing pages that convert? Then you’re going to want one that has pre-made landing page templates that make it easy to design a page in the shortest amount of time possible. Those platforms that offer drag-and-drop processes, much like Sendlane offers, are the type you want to look for.

Price Point

Key features aren’t the only thing marketing automation vendors vary in – price is also a huge factor. Some platforms are bundled packages that are all-inclusive, but others come with a basic package with extra add-ons available for purchase. Pricing also tends to be affected by the number of contacts you have, so you may want to get one that reflects your next benchmark goal rather than your current numbers. This way, you have more time between upgrades.

It all depends on what your industry, budget, and marketing goals are. HubSpot is more expensive than Act-On, for example, but Act-On doesn’t have a content management platform and essential sophisticated analytics. If you’re focusing on content strategy, HubSpot would be the better choice.

The most reliable marketing automation companies make the purchasing, testing, implementation, and utilization process as easy and efficient as they possibly can. This solution should grow your business, not bring it down with complicated tech components and expensive add-ons that won’t directly benefit you. You want to pick software that is best for your business, rather than one you were talked into buying.

The following is a list of additional vendors that have proven to offer the solutions that best fit their customers, and make everything as easy as possible.

That about sums up all the basics about marketing automation and picking a platform – well, at least for this article. As you can see, marketing automation truly is the key to giving your business a boost, regardless of industry or size. This should give you a fairly good idea as to what marketing automation software is and what you should be considering when selecting the best marketing automation platform for your needs.

Do you have any comments or additional vendors you would add to this list? Let me know in the comments below, or get in touch with me over at