When talking about B2C and B2B communications, marketing automation in unavoidable. Businesses of all sizes and in all industries are looking for ways to optimize their communications and save time. And, what better way than with marketing automation tools?
Marketing automation tools allow you to automate your communications with contacts, increase personalization, and save valuable time and resources. To learn more about the benefits of marketing automation, click here.
Before you dive head first into marketing automation, it's important to know what you're looking for and what you should expect from a marketing automation platform. There are a lot of options out on the market right now, so to aid in your search we have created a list of the most requested features and tools by clients.
Marketing Automation Tools: Features to Look for
Before diving into specific tools, it's always a good idea to get a broad picture idea of the functionality you're looking for and see if a specific platform matches those needs. Here is the list of the most common functionalities found in marketing automation tools:
A system that has the ability to automatically send personalized drip campaigns to potential leads help you build their interest without taking you away from your day-to-day tasks to manually send them emails.
You also want a system that automatically moves leads and prospects through the sales funnel (or pipeline) automatically based on engagement so you always know where they are at a glance.
You may have campaigns that last a week or ones that are perpetually ongoing. No matter the case, you want a system that lets you adjust and manage these campaigns immediately instead of needing to devise complex workarounds.
You may be starting small with marketing automation, which is totally fine. But, once you're comfortable and ready to expand, you want a platform that is ready, too. Picking a platform now that has features you anticipate needing in the future will save you from the pain of switching systems down the road.
After determining if the platform has the basic functionality that you are looking for, it's time to delve into specific capabilities you'll require moving forward with the platform. You will want to look for things such as:
Email blasts are great. But, know what's even better? Customized messages relevant to the stage your leads and customers are in the sales cycle. The right platform will allow you to use merge tags, lead status, tags, score, conditional formatting, decision logic, and more to ensure each contact is getting the message ideal for the stage they are currently at with your organization.
On top of offering personalized content, you want your marketing automation platform to qualify leads automatically for you. Whether this is through a scoring mechanism or a sales pipeline, your chosen system should have the capability to provide this to you automatically.
Perhaps seen as a "bonus" to some is really an asset when it comes to using a marketing automation platform that excels with the ability to track all forms of engagement. You may have website tracking of some sort in your website, but a platform that has a built-in web tracking system allows you to connect that information directly to your campaigns.
Comprehensive reporting is essential in any platform you choose. In order to see just how well your campaigns are performing, you want detailed, raw data that shows you exactly the results you are receiving. This gives you information you can use to optimize future campaigns and sends.
Now it's time to get into the nitty-gritty and see if your selected vendor has all the features you're looking to leverage. Most clients are looking for:
The most popular channel for online marketing is still email marketing. Having email included in your marketing automation platform allows you to personalize and automate messages through this popular channel.
You're running campaigns and communicating with contacts through one platform so it only makes sense that their contact information is stored in a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) that is built into the platform as to ensure no data loss. If you do need to use a separate CRM from the marketing automation tools, be sure the platform as pre-created CRM integrations to make this process easier for yourself and your team.
Social Media Marketing
Another popular channel for connecting with your contacts, specifically potential leads is social media. As these contacts may not know of your organization yet, social media gives you the perfect place to introduce yourself. A platform that allows you to automate your social media presence saves you time while still being able to connect with your audience.
Landing Pages and Forms
How are you gathering your contact information now? An easy way to capture the information of interested leads is through a web form or landing page. Using a platform with these already built in means that any information submitted is going straight into your marketing automation platform and any required campaigns. In this instance, forms and landing pages could act as a trigger for campaigns.
An increasingly popular form of communication is SMS messages. Being able to automate these and include them as part of your marketing is a huge asset. This is especially true if you're marketing to a younger audience as this market tends to prefer SMS to email.
But, maybe you're dealing with an older demographic. If that's the case, automated voice broadcasts are great for connecting with these audiences. No matter the channel, being able to automate it will save your company time and resources.
If you're looking to send documents over a secure line or if you're looking for an easy way to send faxes to offices as part of your marketing strategy, you can save time with online fax broadcasts. Again, having this in your existing platform means that all your information and campaigns are in one place.
When speaking of communication methods, it's possible that not all of them will be applicable to your business. However, being able to engage your contacts over their preferred method of communication increases your engagement rates. That's why it's very important to look for a marketing automation platform that has multi-channel capabilities that work together and separately.
There are, of course, also going to be things you're going to want to investigate that may not fall into one of the above categories, but are important to know nonetheless. These items may include:
Some marketing automation providers charge additionally for support. To avoid unexpected costs, be sure to look for a vendor that either has support included in the price or provides free support.
Is the platform being maintained? How much downtime does the application experience on average? These are important questions so you know what kind of application maintenance to expect.
Within the realm of marketing automation, you may want to consider a vendor that has an option for some extra "help," such as a managed service offering. If you want to leverage the power of marketing automation tools but don't have the time, a platform where someone does the work for you may be ideal.
What is the pricing for the platform? With so many marketing automation tools out there, you want to ensure you are getting the most for your money.
Get the Checklist
Finding the platform with all the features you're looking for can be quite the task. To help you out even more, we've created a downloadable checklist PDF based on these features that you can use to help navigate the potential vendors you are considering. Click here to get the checklist.