Marketing is an indispensable business activity that is crucial for the growth of small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs). The need for effective marketing strategies means companies worldwide actively seek the best marketing automation tool.
In addition, Lead generation marketing trends have shifted to using more marketing automation (MA) tools. Traditional marketing efforts have had to adapt to maintain marketing efficiency and keep up with changing customer habits.
Automating software for activities such as drip email campaigns and chatbots offers numerous benefits in this altered playing field. However, finding and implementing a marketing automation solution might seem complicated with hundreds of available products. Worry not.
Below, we explain the key factors you should consider when choosing the best marketing automation tool for your business. Let’s dive in!
1. Your Business Needs
Before investing in a marketing automation tool, identify your specific business needs. Look at your existing marketing strategy and the problems you currently face. You can have many business needs, depending on the nature of your business.
Collecting, reporting, and analyzing sales data is often time-consuming, yet it provides information about customer interactions with your products. Marketing automation software enables your businesses to track this data, determine marketing budgets, and forecast future sales.
Another common business need is tracking potential customer details and their progression through the customer journey. A customer relationship management (CRM) system gives marketing and sales teams access to these details. They can then use them to implement appropriate strategies and increase conversion rates.
Lead generation is the ultimate goal of marketing activities. It is a core need that affects your business growth and profit margins. Consider using a lead generation chatbot to spark the interest of potential customers who land on your website.
For most e-commerce businesses, content creation is a never-ending marketing activity, and writing quality content takes skill. Marketing automation solutions can help you develop article ideas and generate outlines based on your chosen topics. They also assist with social media marketing efforts by generating engaging posts.
Identify your business needs as they relate to overall organizational goals. Your needs will guide you in choosing the right marketing automation solution to satisfy those needs.
2. Your Budget
For small businesses, a long-term investment must be well thought out to ensure you get maximum returns. You want to get value for your money and not end up with seemingly affordable automation tools that lack important features. On the other hand, you don't have to break the bank for high-tech software that you will not fully utilize.
Talk to software providers to fully understand the tool’s marketing automation features. Then, compare them against the features you actually need. Most providers offer monthly or annual pricing plans for different automation capabilities.
Look at the prices of some commonly used marketing automation tools. This table shows the average cost based on the marketing task they automate.
Some tools limit the number of contacts you can have in your database so make sure these limitations do not inhibit business growth. Choose the marketing automation tool that doesn’t exceed your allocated budget for the same.
3. CRM Integration
For SMBs to thrive, they need to create and nurture customer relationships, hence the importance of CRM software for marketing, sales, and customer service teams. When choosing the best marketing automation tool, make sure it can be used in combination with your CRM.
Upon integration, the tool and the CRM combined should allow you to do one or more of the following:
- Streamline sales processes: CRM and marketing tools need to be able to communicate with each other. The contact information and interactions collected by marketing software give sales teams insight into which approach to use for each marketing-qualified lead (MQL).
- Monitor duplicate entries: When integrating a CRM with a marketing platform, there is a likelihood that prospective clients may approach your business through different channels. Teams should be able to regularly check for and delete duplicates to avoid annoying customers or false reporting of sales data.
- Create personalized marketing messages and campaigns: With the integration, you should be able to collect customer data such as individual demographics or company information. This helps marketing teams create personalized marketing campaigns and hyper-targeted paid ads.
- Respond to MQLs promptly: The faster your sales team responds to a lead, the more likely they will make a conversion. CRM and marketing automation software tools combined should make this lead scoring process more efficient. Establish key actions by leads, such as abandoning a cart or downloading a report that will trigger a prompt response.
There are many marketing automation tools with CRM integrations.
Moosend, for example, is an email marketing automation app that integrates with PipeDrive CRM. When they are integrated through Zapier, a third-party integration tool, salespersons and marketers can create triggers and automatic responses, as shown below.
In this example, a new subscriber will automatically be turned into a lead, and sales teams can nurture them to the point of conversion.
When you include CRM integration as part of your marketing automation strategy, you can take full advantage of a complete 360-degree view of the customer lifecycle. This encourages a more holistic approach to sales, customer service, and marketing activities.
4. Ability to Integrate with Other Organizational Platforms
Although an advanced marketing automation platform can provide an all-in-one solution, most focus on a few specific marketing processes.
In addition to just integrating with your CRM system, the best marketing automation platform will integrate seamlessly with your existing platforms. These include social media marketing tools, content management systems, and webinar software.
Firstly, identify which automation software you already use and those you plan to use in the future. Some marketing automation systems have inbuilt features that provide integrations with tools within the system.
One such marketing automation tool is ActiveDEMAND, an example of how to use an automation tool for social media management.
The social media automation tools include linking to your social media platforms and creating content from website content.
Other less complex systems will require you to integrate your other organizational tools with MA software manually. Although each tool has different setup requirements, make sure you align them to track the same data points.
They should also be able to communicate with each other and update information in real-time.
5. User-friendly Interface
Your marketing automation platforms should be easy to use yet still offer advanced features. You want a low learning curve that will help employees master the automation tools in the shortest time possible.
Some products offer a 14-day free trial, and it doesn't hurt to ask for a demo. The user interface and experience need to be logical and offer streamlined navigation. Ultimately, users should be able to perform an activity with the fewest clicks.
The dashboard from HubSpot does just that, as users can get contextual information when they hover over the title. However, as the review shows, not all users find the interface easy to use. Make sure to do a comprehensive test run with employees on all levels to avoid delays in uptake.
6. Customer Support Operations Feature
Along with lead generation, customer support operations play a significant role in a busy business environment. To meet ever-changing customer expectations, you need to look for marketing automation tools to help you deliver better customer service.
Support tasks such as replying to queries across multiple channels can leave marketers exhausted. Regardless, customers who send negative feedback must be addressed quickly.
To provide prompt action, streamline customer support across different marketing channels using automation tools such as live chat and chatbots.
Landbot’s Help Center Bot immediately responds to this customer's question in a professional manner. It uses inclusive language techniques and a friendly tone, giving them the option to contact the support team. Using similar proactive action could save your business from losing valuable clients.
7. Availability of Learning Resources
The best marketing automation tool will aim to empower your business. Look for a system that provides access to a robust knowledge base. Act-On is the perfect example of how software offers learning resources to its clients.
The Act-On Connect resource page contains highly detailed articles about the software’s features and capabilities.
From set up to campaign building and analytics, these how-to guides and educational articles will teach you everything you need to know about using their product.
8. Cost of Training Employees
Automation eliminates the hassle of finding and following up on leads. However, even employees without advanced technical skills must be well-versed in using your automation tool of choice.
The best marketing automation tools are easy to use and require minimum training. Although training will enable them to take full advantage of its system and increase productivity, you want to avoid extra costs involved with additional training.
If the software does not offer additional training, you will need to find a third-party trainer who specializes in teaching employees how to use automation software effectively.
Any extra training your employees receive should also provide actionable strategies you can implement. Ask for expert advice about the mistakes you should avoid and how to get maximum returns on your investment.
Above is just one of Hubspot’s training programs that outlines course information and pricing. You will need to include this extra cost in your budget, so confirm the full details from each provider.
9. Customer Service Provided by the Platform
This aspect of marketing automation software is sometimes overlooked. You may assume the provider will always be on-hand to give technical support. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Do thorough research by asking your provider what customer service they offer, such as a 24/7 hotline or live chat capabilities. Landbot’s own Help Center Chatbot gives customers immediate replies within seconds. If the user wishes to escalate their query, they are advised that an email will be sent to them within a few hours.
You should test the level of support provided during the trial phase to confirm their claims. Log a problem that requires help from the support team and monitor their report times and methods. The response will give you an idea of how the best marketing automation software will provide support during your subscription period.
In the absence of customer support, you will need access to secondary sources of information. Search for online documentation about the software or community forums and help centers.
10. Past User Reviews
Online reviews provide honest feedback that can give you crucial information about most marketing automation tools. Before investing in any tool, perform due diligence using review websites such as G2 and TrustRadius.
External review sites give unbiased reviews from past users, rankings, and case studies.
When looking at reviews, keep in mind these key factors:
The number of users: This indicates the marketing platform's popularity.
The type of users: Niche products are ideal for small to midsize businesses with a B2C sales funnel. More complex systems are tailored for larger enterprise businesses that use B2B marketing strategies. Where does your business fit?
User feedback: Read as many reviews as possible to get an accurate view of how the software performs.
These review sites also provide information about the providers’ standard of customer support.
The marketing department in small eCommerce businesses can be the most rewarding yet is often the most costly and time-consuming. Marketing automation software can reduce these costs and help you save time.
By identifying your business needs, you can begin to narrow down software with specific, must-have features. Read product reviews from independent websites as they will give you genuine feedback about real customer experiences.
Take a careful look at the pricing plans and confirm if your subscription package includes customer service. MA should not be a stand-alone activity, so ensure the software can fully integrate with existing systems, including your CRM.
It will also need to be user-friendly as ease of use lowers the cost of training employees and reduces downtime due to errors.
If you have not already hopped on the automation bandwagon, start looking for the best marketing automation tool. That’s one surefire way to stay ahead of the competition. Good luck!