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Five Tips for Choosing the Right Marketing Automation Software for your Business

It’s an almost utopian vision for over-stretched staff and marketers.  Marketing automation software promises to do the “heavy lifting” for you – not only reducing your workload but also transforming the tedious (but extremely important) routine of new business acquisition into a sophisticated and highly effective process that will happen automatically.

The concept of software that will lift the burden of nursing prospects all the way through to paying customers (and then ensuring those customers are aware of everything you have to offer and increasing their value to you) has been around for a while, but recently has started to gain a lot of momentum.  With that, inevitably, has come a rush of new products to the market.  Some of these are very specific tools that do a great job of one specific area of marketing automation, while others are more comprehensive, offering a whole suite of tools in one package.

The sheer choice of tools available has led to an increase in customer requests for assistance in choosing the right ones here at LeapGo, so I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog post to clearing a path through the smoke and mirrors for all you busy business owners out there. Let’s get started!

ONE – DEFINE YOUR OBJECTIVES

When you first set foot on the marketing automation ladder, it’s usually as a result of a specific problem that you want to deal with.  This might lead to your signing a contract to use a tool that deals with that issue.  This then opens your eyes to the enormous potential of marketing automation, and before you know it your business is signed up to a couple more tools.  Then, you find that some suites could do all the marketing tasks that your existing selection of tools currently do separately and much more besides…..

STOP!

Whatever stage you are at, you need to stop and take a step back from your business for a moment.  Consider your market (b2b, b2c, or a combination?), your sales channels and processes.  How much of your business depends on new customers being brought on board each month?  Every business is different and has different marketing automation needs.  It’s very easy to end up buying solutions to problems you don’t actually have in your business.  This is why you need to look at the bigger picture, not only of what tools will serve you well now but also what you will need in the future.

Trust me, the last thing anyone wants to do is make the switch from one marketing automation platform to another.  You will lose all that valuable history, start over with new analytics, have to retrain staff, and even face possible disruption to the customer experience while you transition.  So look at your requirements as they are now and as they will be in one, three, and five years’ time. Define what you want to achieve with marketing automation. Separate “nice-to-have” features from “must-have” features.

Set it all down on paper…or be kind to the earth and use something like evernote!

There – you’ve already made a huge step in the right direction! Moving on….

TWO – DECIDE WHETHER YOU NEED AN ALL-IN-ONE SOLUTION OR IF YOU WILL SELECT FROM A NUMBER OF COMPLIMENTARY SYSTEMS.

A common theme we see here is an attempt to get disparate systems and tools to work together, on the basis that the individual tools are each selected as “best in class” for the particular function they carry out.  This is understandable, but can result in much frustration and wasted time.

While in theory it should be possible to combine the complimentary features of different tools so that you can have the best of all worlds, in practice this is very difficult to achieve. While many providers advertise their software as being compatible with other systems you may already have, in almost every instance where this is attempted we experience issues as a result.  Some tools can be relied upon to play nicely with others in a full two-way integration, others simply cannot!

In fact, huge caution is needed here as some so-called “integrations” are nothing more than a one-way data dump with no real value or functions.  So, it’s time to decide whether to go with a complete solution (even if that means you will have more functions than you currently need) or if you will carefully select a few tools and make them work together.

As you have probably guessed, our opinion (based on thousands of hours spent implementing marketing automation systems on behalf of our clients) is to go with a suite of tools such as SharpSpring, Hubspot, or Infusionsoft.

As I often say, with a suite of tools: You might not get every single best-in-class tool, but you can rest assured they will all work together seamlessly and share data. In nine out of ten cases, that one factor makes the “suite” option a hands-down winner.  When you get into building even quite simple marketing automation campaigns, believe me, being able to trust the system you are using and knowing it will work is HUGE!

THREE – DECIDE YOUR MONTHLY BUDGET

Now is the time for you to decide your monthly budget, taking into account the labor savings that will result from implementation and considering whether you are going to be using the tools internally with your own team or whether you are going to be employing an agency to assist with your digital marketing tasks.

If you are thinking of employing an agency, (see next step) it’s important not to commit to spending all of your monthly budget on the software!  Clearly this decision will depend on your business and what skills and resources you already have available to you on your team.  You need to be aware that while marketing automation saves huge amounts of time in the longer term, to set a system up in the first place will require a considerable time commitment.  Do you and your team have the ability to dedicate large chunks of time to this in the first few months?

In terms of the tools or suite of tools you compare, bear in mind that it is well worth investing in a quality solution for your needs, even if it might seem a level or two above the stage you’re currently at.  The upsides of a well-implemented marketing automation system are too many to cover here, but suffice to say, it can transform your business growth projections. A system that can cope perfectly well with a business three times the size of yours might seem overkill, but in a few years’ time you might just be glad you thought ahead and planned for this possibility!

FOUR – CONSIDER HOW YOU WILL IMPLEMENT THE SOFTWARE

Who is going to be at the wheel of this new system?  Remember that for all the high expectations and wonderful-sounding case studies you will hear, what we are talking about here is a set of tools – nothing more. And like all tools, marketing automation systems are only as good as the persons controlling them. You could have the best tools that money can buy, but without a skilled team to operate them you’re in danger of throwing money to the wind.   I like to make the following analogy: A skilled carpenter will build a much better house with mediocre tools than I would with a brand new set of commercial grade tools.

If you have the needed skills in-house and you are eager to learn, then ensuring the solution you choose has lots of aftersales support, training, resources, intuitive controls, and implementation guidance will be a top priority for you.

If, on the other hand, you are going to engage the services of an agency, consider getting their advice on what solution to choose for your business – taking into account the parts of it that you will be using, and the reporting and analytics you want it to produce for you on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.

FIVE – GET SOME VENDORS TO DEMONSTRATE THEIR SOLUTIONS TO YOU

Finally, we arrive at the point where many begin their journey!  While it is great to get system demos, remember that the person you are talking to has one job, and that is to convince you to buy their software.  It rarely matters to them whether your business is a perfect fit.  They will do their best to answer all the questions and concerns you might have, but all with that end result in mind and following a proven sales process designed to win your business.

So, now you are fully prepared, you will be able to get really meaningful demonstrations that are applicable to your business.  You will have a list of questions for the vendor to answer.  Will their solution work with your website?  Will it work with your sales process? Can they give an example of how it works for someone in the same industry as you?

Determining how you will use the system is crucial, but most people go about this the wrong way.  They rely on the software demonstration to guide how they will use it, rather than going the extra mile to find the system that is most appropriate for their business and their needs.

This is where having a knowledgeable third party comes in invaluable. Maybe you know someone who has already implemented marketing automation, or maybe one of your employees has done so at a previous company.  Find out, because this kind of experience can save you many hundreds of hours (and thousands of dollars) later!

If you don’t have that experience internally, you can ask an impartial agency (like LeapGo) to help you create your own agenda for the software demonstration.  It is critical that you do this, otherwise, you’ll waste 60 minutes or more of your time listening to a sales script, that makes everything sound like rainbows and unicorns….right up to the point where you agree to buy the system, they toss you the keys and say “Good luck”!

That concludes our blog on selecting the right marketing automation system for your business. I hope you found it useful.  In case you’re new here, LeapGo is a professional website development and digital marketing company with a solid track record of delivering success for our customers.  We don’t believe in making fancy claims or empty promises.  If there is anything we can help you with please get in touch today!

And if you know someone else that is considering taking the plunge into marketing automation in their business, why not share this article with them?  They’ll thank you for it!