Compare Top Marketing Automation Solutions

2019 Marketing Automation Buyer's Guide

Marketing Automation software contains a suite of centrally-located marketing automation tools designed to help you be more efficient and successful in all types of marketing, including:

• Email marketing
• Social media marketing
• Direct mail
• Mobile marketing

Marketing campaign management and marketing resource management (MRM) are also valuable MA resources that are designed to help you assess the impact of your marketing efforts and customize your strategies to reach more customers and drive higher profits through your marketing.

There are many Marketing Automation solutions available on the market, so it can easily become overwhelming trying to figure out which system will bring your business the most benefits. This guide will help you understand what you should know to choose the best marketing automation software for your business. 

Fundamental Capabilities of Marketing Automation Software

Almost without exception, all Marketing Automation solutions come with certain core functions built in. The most common set of core functions includes:

  • Email marketing
  • Landing page development
  • Lead capture and scoring
  • Lead nurturing and development
  • Central contact and marketing database
  • CRM integration capability
  • In-depth data analysis and reporting tools

Building on the core capabilities listed above, solution providers also offer advanced features to differentiate their products. Key advanced features include:

  • Dynamic content generation for websites
  • Multi-channel campaigns
  • Template optimization for tablet and smartphones
  • Detailed revenue reports
  • Integration with tools provided by independent software vendors (ISVs)

Making an Informed Decision

Acquiring a new MA solution can be complex. Decision makers have to know what their present status is in terms of marketing activities. They must also understand the limitations of their current system and the areas that need to be improved. Making an informed decision is a four step process:

  1. Knowing your business needs
  2. Selecting a vendor 
  3. Requesting software demos
  4. Checking references and contracting

Assessing Your Business Needs

Every company has some kind of a marketing system. What are the characteristics of the business’ current one? Why is there a desire to procure a new system? Some key questions that must be answered are:

  • Is the current marketing system proving inadequate? What are its shortcomings? What are the features that a new system must have?

  • What MA capabilities are most critical to your business? What does your business need? Do sales representatives have access to real time data? Is the CRM system integrated with marketing? Whatever these needs are, they have to be understood to focus the solution search.

  • What kind of MA platform is required? - Different businesses have different ways of reaching their customers. Some prefer inbound marketing, others prefer outbound. Is email segmentation critical? How important is social media to your line of business?

  • Is there adequate internal IT staff? A major impediment to MA solution adoption has been the complexity of setup and use. Does the business have a skilled staff ready to handle implementation and user training?

  • How will success be measured? Decision makers need to know the specific metric they want to track. They have to know the base values for whichever measurement they seek to improve.

Marketing Automation Vendor Selection

This is a critical process that should commence only if the business really knows what it wants. A list of must have, “could have” and “good to have” features can be drawn up, based on specific company needs. Additionally, a requirement list has to be drawn up and a decision matrix needs to be created to evaluate various solutions and the costs. Vendors and solution providers may offer many features and options, but they are of no use unless they figure in the requirement list generated prior to the vendor selection process. Using these tools, users should be able to generate a short list of vendors whose products meet their specific requirements. Once this is done, a demo is called for.

Demonstrations

Vendors should put on a demonstration with existing data. As many users as possible must attend that presentation, do get as many end user assessments as possible. Critical questions to answer are:

  • Is the solution user friendly, intuitive and easy to use?
  • Does the vendor understand the business problems or does he have any clients in the same industry?
  • Are must-have features included in the package?
  • Is the solution responsive to actual user queries?
  • What does a typical report look like?

These additional concerns should also be addressed:

  • Possible extended free trial
  • Support and training offered by the vendor
  • Ease of integration with existing enterprise software
  • Implementation timeframe

Checking References

Shortlisted vendors must provide a list of clients who potential users can contact. Try to reach out to every client on the list and ask about the quality of the software, the kind of support that the vendor provides and how satisfied they are with the solution overal.

Marketing Automation is a complex process that requires efforts to be targeted, closely aligned with business goals and in harmony with customer requirements.

To be find the right MA solution, businesses need a rigorous understanding of different vendor options and their specific needs. Companies that don't put time and energy into the process are typically unable to get the full value of their marketing automation solution.