Marketing automation software is becoming a bigger priority for businesses big and small. Implementing marketing automation strategies can raise customer engagement, improve ROI, streamline the sales process, and allow teams to work more efficiently.
But not all marketing automation software is created equally, and choosing the right platform for your needs can feel overwhelming. Before you choose a tool, you need to understand what marketing automation can help you accomplish, what your specific needs and goals are, and the pros and cons of the best software options available to you. This article will help you understand how to automate your marketing in a way that makes sense for your business.
What is Marketing Automation?
Marketing automation refers to the tools and processes that optimize your digital marketing activities. Marketing automation tools allow you to target certain messages for certain customers based on their particular preferences and behaviors. Using marketing automation software effectively can help businesses acquire new customers, nurture existing relationships, and analyze the performance of their marketing efforts.
Marketing automation systems must tie into a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system that is used to track pipeline sales. By doing so, marketers can apply attribution that ties together marketing efforts and the sales that result from those efforts.
Why Use a Marketing Automation Platform?
Marketing automation facilitates the ability to provide your customers and prospects with personalized content. Complex algorithms allow marketers to better understand customer behavior and deliver segmented content that they will find truly valuable.
Marketing automation platforms let you deliver personalized and relevant experiences to your customers while saving time, giving you the space to create high-quality content and build on your strategic marketing efforts.
Understand and Assess Your Needs
No two organizations are exactly alike. Identifying the best marketing and sales automation solution for you will require looking inward and reflecting on your needs and challenges as a business. You should have a clear understanding of:
- Your goals: Are you focused on acquiring new customers? Improving conversion rates? Elevating customer satisfaction reports? Gaining visibility into your sales and marketing efforts? Clearly defined goals will help you understand the kinds of tools you are looking for.
- Your existing marketing tech stack: Your life will be made much easier if your marketing automation platform can seamlessly integrate with the tools already used by your team. Look for systems that integrate with your social, paid media, website, and event management platforms.
- Your internal resources: There’s no point in having all of the marketing tools under the sun if you don’t have the internal capacity to implement and manage them effectively. Try to understand how much time you can devote to your marketing automation efforts.
- Your business and its complexities: The more product or services segmentation and different audiences you have, the more complex your systems must be to automate specific tasks. If you find yourself needing conditional logic (e.g. if “abc” value changes from x to y, notify sales), the more advanced your system will need to be.
Top Marketing and Sales Automation Platforms to Consider
Here is a quick marketing software comparison to help you understand some of the different automation tools available to you. You can always book a demo before deciding on your platform.
Lovingly referred to as a “bag of legos” by our CEO Jamie Hardin, Marketo is the preferred favorite of built-to-specification nerds. Marketo has strong APIs and integrations with other systems and can set up cloneable templates with variable values (called tokens) that can make a marketer’s campaign sing with high levels of personalization and save the operations team hours of work with templates. Marketo is the gold standard for customizable systems. Similar to a “bag of legos,” as Jamie says, “you can build whatever you want with Marketo and make it as complex as you prefer, but you’re going to build it brick by brick.”
Extremely customizable and the preferred software for the tech industry alongside Salesforce.
The system requires trained teams as it’s easy to make mistakes. Marketo administrators aren’t cheap, but they can deliver incredible value to your marketing efforts.
Best for syncing with Salesforce, Pardot boasts the strongest integration with their parent company. Pardot is great for multiple systems as its form handler can capture leads even when the form is not on your website and their visual nurture builder was among the first systems to build complex nurtures easily.
Built for Salesforce integration, Pardot is best known for its easy-to-build nurture campaigns.
Historically there have been system glitches with Pardot. Otherwise, you’ll need to have advanced marketing operations personnel to work on your Pardot system.
Constant Contact is for those looking for more control over their email, but don’t need advanced systems. It specializes in offering marketing operation software for small business and nonprofit needs.
Easy to manage audiences, especially for teams who are limited in capacity and technical marketing skills.
Tagging options are very limited. You can not automatically tag/segment your contacts, it must be done manually. In general, the options for automation are limited.
Constant Contact offers a tiered pricing system dependent on the number of contacts you have, broken into two different feature levels:
- Email: Starting at $20 a month
- Email Plus: Starting at $45 a month
Mailchimp is an excellent and affordable system for those just getting started. It easily integrates with other systems and offers simple user journeys for automated messages. One of the best functions is the demographic data and insight you get on each email, including a click map of where your audience engaged.
Cost-effective and easy to use. Great tips on send times and audience engagement that help optimize email campaigns. Mailchimp is best for direct to consumer businesses, but can be used as a starter system for B2B.
Limited capability for advance nurture campaigns. Mailchimp relies on tagging instead of integrating with other system fields, so if you’re working a lead and want to suppress them from receiving nurture emails, you have to add a tag to the contact. Preference centers can also be challenging if you have multiple communication segments (e.g. News, Events, Product Updates), because of the way the system is set up.
- Free: $0 a month
- Essentials: Starting at $10.99 a month
- Standard: Starting at $14.99 a month
- Premium: Starting at $299.99 a month
Hubspot boasts being the go-to system for small businesses and offers a lot of training videos that are designed to help people who are inexperienced at marketing use Hubspot for their campaigns. Hubspot offers a high level of integration with other systems.
Best for an out-of-the-box simple tool that has an intuitive interface and lots of supporting information to help you get started.
Pricing can be expensive for large databases or B2C businesses. While Hubspot, “gets the job done,” it offers no “best in breed” or exclusive features. Additionally, not all of the features function the way you’d expect, leaving a huge gap in user experience. For example, anyone can create a Hubspot meeting link to book client meetings and the system will automatically send reminders, but there is no cancel or reschedule function for the user, so when a prospect needs to reschedule, they have to book another meeting. Another con is that Hubspot habitually de-features its subscription levels to encourage you to spend more on your subscription. A feature you may have previously had access to (like workflows), can suddenly be an upsell only which makes it difficult to examine costs over time. And you pay for the size of your database, so as you capture more leads, your subscription price will increase. For large databases (more than 500,000 records), Hubspot is cost-prohibitive.
Hubspot features three subscription tiers that vary based on database size:
- Starter: $45 a month
- Professional: $800 a month
- Enterprise: $3,200 a month
The Right Solution for You
Don’t just think about today, think about tomorrow. Migrating campaigns and automation from one system to another can take 4-6 months with a dedicated team. Remember that your system is everywhere, integrated into your email, website, CRM, payment processor, and more. It is critical to choose a system you can grow with.
Thinking about making the switch? We recommend you start your migration process at least 6 months before the renewal of your current system.
Here a the essential steps to follow when adopting a new marketing and sales automation platform:
- Make a list of all the requirements you need.
- Rank each feature/requirement as Critical, Important, and Nice to Have.
- Look at all the systems and rate them against the features they offer and weigh the value against critical, important, nice to have.
- Apply that ranking against the price.
- Look at which system is most affordable and meets your needs.
Don’t want to do this yourself? We don’t blame you. Let the ops experts at GreenLit Marketing help you to discover the marketing and sales automation solution that best fits your needs.