So you have hired your B2B marketing team and you’re ready for a product launch. However, having the right marketing strategy and team is only part of a successful marketing engine. You need to have the right automation software in place to jumpstart your marketing. Choosing a marketing automation platform that’s right for your business can be a daunting task. Particularly if your team is comprised of marketers from varying backgrounds and industries, you may get feedback that’s grossly misaligned. Do not panic. The first thing you should do Is define what it is you would like to get out of your marketing automation software. You can start by asking the questions below.
Automation Software Questions
1. How big is your marketing team?
2. How much time do you have to get the automation platform up and running?
3. What is your monthly budget?
4. How big is your list of contacts?
5. What functionality can you not live without?
Marketing Automation Players
Keeping the above answers in mind, let’s briefly pivot to discuss the players in the marketing automation space. Some of the more recognizable names in the space are Marketo, Eloqua and Pardot. These three are the behemoths in the space. With large corporations behind them having deep pockets, they can afford discounts and long integration periods. Even with the deep discounts, prices are still high to start with and some tools have legacy systems left over from previous acquisitions. Aged systems require improvements and add-ons, which large companies are notoriously slow to implement. Typically the larger automation companies are recommended for bigger marketing teams which have dedicated resources to spare for implementation.
On the flip side, you have smaller, more agile companies which have been taking the marketing automation industry by storm. Hubspot, Sharpspring and Act-On are the smaller players which are generally better suited for start ups and SMB’s. They typically have more responsive support teams, lower costs and more native CRM connectors. (more on that in our automation comparison cheat sheet) Most automation companies started out with one specific focus and expanded overtime. Therefore, you should consider the tool’s history when making your choice. As an example, Act-On started as an email solution. You can safely assume they have better email deliverability than the competition. Hubspot on the other hand started out as the “little engine that could” focusing on start-ups and SMB’s. They offered a lot of functionality for lower prices. Hence, they have great customer support and listen to their customers when implementing new features.
Choosing the Right Automation Software
Now that you know the players, how do you choose which one is right for you? Well that depends entirely on your answers to the above questions. If you answered “A” to 2, 3 and 4 of the above questions, you most definitely do not have the resources or team in place to set up a Marketo or Eloqua. What you need is an automation tool such as Hubspot or Act-on which is very easy and quick to integrate and doesn’t require complex coding to get started. If however, you have large scale resources and a big team, you may want to look at the capabilities of a Marketo or Eloqua.
Use the automation sheet by process of elimination. Meaning start with the most important features which you need, and work your way down to narrow your preferred choice. For example, if you have a large Adwords campaign and you would like to integrate it into your automation software, you know that Eloqua is out of the question for you. So even if you have a large team and a large database, you can still choose from Marketo or Pardot. You’re now successfully down to two contenders. When you come to your top two preferred vendors, get a demo!
Besides the time required to onboard these tools, and the complexity of using it, the major difference between the tools is their capabilities and the support you receive. When evaluating the different automation tools, think about what you will be doing with the tool. If your main purpose is to nurture the leads and build out workflows, take a look at each tool’s workflow functionality. Eloqua has a very intuitive drag and drop interface which can make your job much easier. If you’re after a robust a/b testing functionality, check out Pardot’s newly redesigned platform. Make sure to test whichever functionality is your priority, prior to signing the contract, so there are no surprises later.
Automation Software Implementation
By now, most marketing automation platforms offer different levels of support based on the amount of hand holding you need. If you have a complex internal system to on-board and a CRM platforom, you may want to consider boutique companies such as Benissimo that offer custom integration services. If you go this route, choose at least 3 companies so you can compare them. Once you have chosen your contenders, you should outline your needs and what you would like to get out of your automation system integration.
Next, communicate your needs with all 3 firms and get your bids. Make sure you get an estimated date of completion in your quote. Find out how much time and resources the 3rd party firm will need from your teams as well. Based on the answers you get, you can determine if you’re getting a good deal. If you need to spend more time with the 3rd party than you would have to spend integrating the systems internally, you’re not getting a good deal. Evaluate your choices based on: pricing, timing and methodology. Ask the contenders to lay out their plan of action along with their timeline. During the implementation there will always have hiccups. Therefore it makes sense to minimize the disruptions by proactively avoiding common mistakes upfront.