What does a new year mean to a marketer? In my experience as an in-house marketer and a consultant, I find it usually means tackling a new technical monster project that — if it doesn’t eat us up — improves message relevancy, effectiveness and ROI. In years past, such projects for me have included researching and implementing an HTML email marketing solution, an online meeting solution, and a content managed website solution.
This year, many marketers have geared up to tackle Marketing Automation: selecting and implementing the ideal marketing automation solution.
But hold the phone. What is marketing automation? How is it different than email marketing? Fine questions. Email marketing has typically been utilized as a one-to-many, mass email marketing tool. Instead of sending boring text emails, marketers used email marketing platforms such as Mail Chimp and Constant Contact to created branded, professional templates and messages that spiced up their audiences inboxes.
With advances in technology (or what some perceive to be violations of privacy) marketers can now target audiences one to one. Obviously, marketers love this. In my opinion, consumers should love it too. It means less junk and more meaningful messages, based on the fact that you “Like” Pampers or Zales on Facebook, for example.
So what is it? Marketing Automation is a software used by marketers to learn more about key audiences’ behaviors and interests and then automatically push out dynamic content messages to them based on that knowledge.
With a variety of software-as-a-service solutions, such as Act-On, Marketo, and HubSpot, it can be difficult to know which set of capabilities is right for your organization. For example, Act-On is a great, affordable product with very responsive service. It offers a simple solution with a quick time to deployment. But considering it falls on the lower end of the cost scale, what are you giving up by implementing this solution? Maybe it doesn’t matter, given how your company plans to use it. Or maybe it does and two years down the road you’ll be tackling the same issue. Adding to the decision dilemma, if your website already lives on a platform like Sitecore, you have access to a digital marketing system that provides trigger-based email automation, personalization and A/B testing.
It’s tempting to just punt, make a snap decision based on what is easiest or least expensive. But is that the strategy that will win the game? OK – enough with the football analogies. If you’re a marketer starting to analyze Marketing Automation follow this process:
- First. Discuss your company’s expectations for how marketing automation will support sales, service and marketing. What are you short-term and long-term goals? What is feasible, practical and affordable given your available resources.
- Second. List out the products you’re interested in. Keep a master list of all features and functionality each provides.
- Third. Make informed assumptions regarding how much time, money and personnel resources will be required for each solution and whether or not it requires assistance from an outside vendor.
- Fourth. Map functionality to actual need.
- Fifth. Make a decision and a timeline for how the product will be implemented.
- Sixth. Get buy-in early and maintain buy-in throughout the entire process.
As marketing automation becomes more mainstream, more affordable and easier for marketers to use without IT assistance the question becomes, “which marketing automation platform best meets the needs and expectations of my company?” And it’s a great question to ask! The last thing you want to do is make a rash decision based on convenience and then spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars only to find the product you’ve selected isn’t your ideal match.
If you’re on Team Act-On or Team Marketo – why? What aspects of these products influenced your decision? If you’re yet to join a team, what are the most appealing capabilities marketing automation can offer you? In the end, your solution needs to be usable by civilians, cost effective and flexible enough to grow with you.