Marketing automation streamlines your online marketing trade, giving you time to focus on other business operations. It’s all the hype right now and it’s certainly giving back to marketing managers.

Companies big and small are migrating to automation strategies. But how do they choose the right tool or software for their business?

There are lots of considerations to make when opting to include marketing automation in a digital strategy. These consideration range from simple concerns to complex problems. We’ll go through these below.

Understanding Marketing Automation

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To understand marketing automation, or MA, you first have to be open to possibilities of both success and failure. Although automating your marketing strategies puts you at an advantage, you still have a lot of work to do.

Marketing automation software is often set up in conjunction with CMS and CRM. Having these will work to your advantage.

According to a Gleanster survey in 2013, 79% of respondents using the MA platform said the major driver of their implementation is increasing their revenue while 76% said they use it to generate higher quality leads.

MA Challenges

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According to Sirius Decisions, 82% of marketers who use MA as a tool feel they’re not using the platform to its full potential.

Despite the promising future of MA, a number of companies find implementation of marketing automation a challenge. Organisations are facing the following challenges:

Defining sales

Most companies find it hard to equate their sales and marketing processes to their marketing automation applications. Plus, lead generation, lead nurturing and sales funnel management also come in as terms that may be causing problems if not properly defined. Using these terms loosely might pose a challenge for implementers.

Companies or organisation targeting MA as a new tool should be able to define the ideal customer profile in their industry, criteria for lead qualification, lead status, opportunity stages, lead recycling and other important details.

Defining them for the whole company helps the process and management becomes stabilised.

MA maintenance

Data in your database may become too crowded or you may be gathering unnecessary data and taking up valuable space. Unless the database is constantly maintained, successful use of the platform cannot be assured.

Up your maintenance game by disposing of all duplicate data and identifying the fields needed to track leads.

The clear definition of terms we mentioned above will also help in the marketing automation integration.

Creating content fit for the buying cycle

You can create as much compelling content as you want but it will never draw customers unless you design it with the different stages of the buying cycle in mind. Conversions rely on informing, valuable, entertaining and engaging content.

Content creation should also be modelled on a different buying cycle from the early stages to the final stage.

Other marketing automation challenges include:

  • Lead scoring
  • Lead segmentation
  • Lead nurturing

Choosing MA That Works

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There are a few important steps that need to be taken before your marketing automation platform works to your advantage:

#1 Define requirements and goals

Like every marketing strategy, moving to automation requires definitions and goal setting. The very first step is to define and list down all your requirements. Different businesses need different requirements. Some companies may only need a few features of an MA platform while others may require much more to function.

Data from Regalix (published in 2014) shows marketers commonly use email marketing, lead nurturing, integration with other software for centralised customer intelligence and cross channel campaigning as MA features.

You also have to define your goals upfront. These will help you focus and ensure everyone stays on task. Marketing automation, if done right, may help reduce expenses and tools needed to get the job done.

#2 Choose the right platform

There’s average MA software and then there’s the best. As of the moment, there are several platforms on the market and are considered best for businesses. You’ve probably heard of Marketo, HubSpot and MailChimp. These are only a few of the most popular MA platforms available.

On the other hand, some software may also be used differently based on what they can offer. That’s right, not all marketing automation tools are made equal. Some tools may be good for certain aspects or features of the automation process while others produce better results in different fields. It all depends on what your business needs. This is where a clear definition of your goals comes in handy.

When choosing the platform, try as much as possible to go within your budget and choose the tool that will suit your needs. Consider the following criteria:

  1. Features offered. Make sure the platform offers features needed to meet you digital marketing goals. Train your eyes to notice features that may sound good but are ultimately unnecessary for your company.
  2. Ease of use. Some marketing automation tools may be the best in the field but require technical expertise. If you’re not comfortable with this, checking user experience reviews is essential.
  3. Integration. Choose platforms that will allow integration with third party systems you are already using.
  4. Support. There is nothing more annoying than bad customer support. Make sure you choose an MA platform that can provide the best service.
  5. Pricing. Even if you have the money to spend, you still need to consider the price of the tool you are buying. Don’t buy a popular tool for an unreasonable price if it offers the same feature as a cheaper version. But of course, there are various considerations when it comes to cost, and each business will have a different budget.

#3 Implementation considerations

Before buying the tool, one should also consider post-implementation scenarios. Who will be using the tool? The staff will also need to be considered before implementation. Hire a consultant to aid in planning, implementing and execution of the new marketing automation process.

#4 Plan and process

Once you get started, make sure you stick to the process your consultant outlined for you. This is the step where staff will be assigned to different processes within marketing automation management. You’ll also need to handle migration of contacts and setting up of all other processes.

#5 Start simple

Remember, you’ll need to do extensive testing before unleashing your new MA platform. Deploy the simplest possible features and consider adding more later when you are confident about what you and your staff are doing.

You can always upgrade once you’ve become settled. Tweaking and building the platform as you study the analytics is the best way to go about introducing new aspects to a marketing strategy.

#6 Consider a partner

It’s always safest to bring in a consultant to help during the implementation stage. Their assistance often helps the entire process roll out smoothly. Advice from someone outside of your own company and the MA company will help you see things from a different perspective.

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Marketing automation is the new big thing in the digital marketing world. It is now starting to saturate many marketing processes little by little. Some companies start small with one or two features while most are already taking full advantage of MA benefits.

Marketing automation may have a tendency to fail if you do something out of implementation bounds. Read our previous article, Why Marketing Automation Fails, to make sure you don’t make any mistakes!

Marketing automation is powerful technology which helps companies implement their strategies online with ease. However, without planning prior to implementation, businesses may not realise the available benefits.

About Author

Roelen researches, creates, tailors content for outreach and content promotion campaigns as well as social presence management. She likes poetry, blues, The Walking Dead and crime books.