Marketing automation can seem like an easy way to increase the efficiency of your systems, but if you choose the wrong system or take the wrong approach, the ROI of your new setup might be low (or worse, negative!). Fortunately for you, we’ve been down this road before, so here’s a comprehensive guide on everything you’ll need to know to answer this simple question: “Am I ready for marketing automation?”.

Considerations for Marketing Automation

  • Inbound marketing
  • Evaluate your MarTech stack
  • Pitch a new platform
  • Appoint a strategic leader
  • Plan your budget
  • Align your strategy with your platform capabilities
  • Set SMART goals
  • Organize your resources
  • Select your platform

What is Inbound Marketing?

You probably already know this, but inbound marketing is a strategy that uses engaging content and material to attract clients to you, rather than an outbound marketing strategy. An outbound approach involves reaching out to potential clients who may or may not be interested in your products/services. Not only is this far less effective as a whole, but you actually may be preventing probable clients from becoming customers at all! No one likes in-your-face ads or disruptive, unwanted phone calls in the middle of the day, so you’ll see much more success with an inbound strategy than with an outbound one.

Lead generation is the process in which you gather information from potential clients who come to you, not the other way around. Using lead magnets such as free ebooks, coupons, and other forms of useful content that will interest potential clients, you’ll offer them your content for free in exchange for their contact information. By doing this, it will seem much less intrusive when you contact them later on since they’ll already be familiar with your company and (hopefully) have seen the potential benefits that you can offer them. There are four main types of leads, so let’s take a quick look at each of them.

  • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQL) - These are potential customers who’ve interacted with your current marketing material (such as providing an email in exchange for a free ebook), but aren’t quite ready to receive a phone call just yet.
  • Sales Qualified Leads (SQL) - These potential customers have expressed interest in your products or services offered. For example, a person who inquired for more information regarding one of your products via an online form would be characterized as an SQL.
  • Product Qualified Leads (PQL) - If a potential customer has used/is using the free version (or a trial) of your product/service and asks for more information regarding the paid or premium features available, they’re considered a PQL. 
  • Service Qualified Leads - Service Qualified Leads are the perfect type of leads. These potential or current customers have told your service team that they would like to purchase or upgrade their services; all that’s left now is for your sales team to handle their request!

It may be tempting to take the easy route and purchase lead lists, but we strongly recommend you don’t do this. The advantage of an inbound marketing strategy is that your potential customers know who you are, what you offer, and have interacted with you willingly before. Reaching out to unqualified leads you’ve purchased on a list provides none of these benefits, could cost you your contract with your marketing automation platform, and essentially reverts your strategy back to outbound marketing. No good! 

As you continue to generate and collect leads, it’s important to stay on top of and up-to-date with your lead lists. Effectively managing your leads is a fairly simple process; you simply need to review your current leads (nurturing where necessary) and eliminate the old, disengaged ones! Depending on your sales cycle, if a lead hasn’t interacted with or shown an interest in your company in the last 90 days, it’s time to either revisit that lead or eliminate them from your list. This prevents you from wasting time on dead-end leads and allows you to focus on leads with the most potential profit.

Marketing to dead-end leads can actually hurt you.

If your emails keep getting thrown into the trash, this will eventually be noticed by Google (or other email providers) and may result in your emails being marked as “Spam”. This will put your company on a blacklist, which is shared between various email providers and will severely impact the effectiveness of your email marketing. Fortunately, you can avoid this with one simple step—routinely screen your leads and eliminate the outdated ones!

After you’ve successfully eliminated the outdated leads from your list, you need to make sure you’re ready to grow your list and gather new ones. Fortunately, there are plenty of various lead generation practices you can try to help build your lists and expand your business.

  • Content - You can offer content, such as informative ebooks, to download for free in exchange for an email address.
  • Social Media - Social media platforms are becoming increasingly popular, so they present a great opportunity to build brand awareness and generate leads. You can share valuable content, promote your products, and offer trials on your choice of social media platform(s).
  • Email Marketing - You already have their email address; now it’s time to utilize that information. Make sure your emails are clear, engaging, and have a clear CTA so your subscribers can easily purchase or learn more about the products/services they’re interested in.
  • Blog Posts - This is a great way to establish yourself as an expert in the industry, offering helpful and informative content with a must-click CTA at the end of each post.
  • Referrals - As your reputation grows, users will start telling their co-workers, friends, and families about your products/services. This is great because (assuming they’ve had a positive experience working with you) they’ll be able to serve as proof to others that your products/services really work.
  • Trials - People love free stuff, so offering free or reduced-rate trial offers is a great way to engage with potential customers. Put some thought into how long your trial offers will be, as some industries may benefit from longer trial offers (ex. one month vs. one week) since a user who’s invested a lot of data into your system will be much less likely to leave.
  • Ads - Alongside more modern techniques, old-fashioned advertising still is an effective way to create new leads. Make sure that your offers match the advertisements so you can meet (or exceed) their initial expectations.

With these inbound marketing approaches and strategies in mind, let’s take a look at your MarTech stack to determine how we can make the most out of your inbound-optimized setup.

Evaluate Your MarTech Stack

Think of your MarTech (Marketing Technology) stack in the same manner as you would a sports team. In sports, if one player doesn’t play at the level of proficiency required, then it’s up to the other team members to pick up the slack. This single weak link brings down the entire team's performance, so what do they do? They either train the player up to the level required, or they ditch him and replace him with someone who’s already up-to-speed. Essentially, you need to do the same thing with your current MarTech stack!

Your current MarTech stack most likely has a lot of different moving parts: sales, marketing, analytics, and social media (just to name a few!). With so many different processes running at the same time, it’s crucial that these systems are working together towards a common goal, not independently. The last thing you want is to need manual data entry or imports across systems. Not only are these time-consuming, but they don’t offer the benefits of a real-time system and can often set your performance far below that of your competitors. If you can’t keep up, you can’t play, so you always need to be searching for the best path to success!

Be budget conscious 

No one wants to unnecessarily blow through their budget, but it’s this mindset that often prevents businesses from saving money. While it may seem appealing to stick with the programs and systems within your current stack that already meet your allotted budget, the truth is, you could actually save money by spending more! How so?

Well, while the dollars in your budget obviously have a direct effect on your financial situation, it’s important to consider another currency: time. If your current CRM system only costs $150/month but requires employees to spend hours of their time integrating information over to other systems, the actual cost of the system you’re using quickly rises. Compare this to an integrated solution, which costs $240/month but requires little to no employee intervention. The advantage is clear: fully integrated solutions (though costlier upfront) require only a fixed investment each month, whereas a non-integrated system can end up costing hundreds or even thousands of dollars beyond the initial bill! It’s important to consider these potential costs when analyzing your current MarTech stack because chances are good that there’s room for improvement.

Three Things Blocking Success with Marketing Automation

1. Your systems aren’t in sync.

If your systems aren’t in sync (meaning they automatically transfer relevant data from one platform to another), then unfortunately you’ll have to do this yourself. Not only does this take tons of time (it’s an everyday job), but it also puts a delay in cross-departmental communication. This isn’t good, as some sales and marketing opportunities are time-sensitive.

2. Data integration is limited.

Maybe you’re one step above the bottom, and you do have some sort of integration system in place. That’s great, but is all the data you need being relayed to all the necessary platforms? Many companies are set up to sync some data but don’t bother to invest in solutions that can provide real-time results and information to employees in multiple departments. If that’s you, that’s OK! This actually provides an easy way for you to vastly improve right away, simply by taking a closer look at your MarTech stack and determining which tools are best for the job.

3. Results aren’t shown in real-time.

Delayed results can happen when either:

  • no automation is implemented at all, or 
  • when some data still needs to be relayed manually

Fortunately, as you work to identify issues, eliminate unnecessary processes, and optimize your MarTech stack, these problems will tend to sort themselves out.

The best MarTech stack is one that can be handled fully by an automation platform. This will require some research on your part (to figure out which programs can be integrated and which cannot), but it’s well worth it because it will save you a lot of time in the long run. You’ll have a bunch of different options when it comes to your marketing automation solutions, but we’ll get more into the details later on in this article.

Build the Case for a New Marketing Automation Platform

Engage your end-users

Change management is crucial. Surprising your team with a new system is not a good move, so it’s important to make sure that everyone and anyone who will be using the new automation system has a say in what’s going on. If you don’t talk it over and address their concerns from the get-go, chances are, you’ll have some pushback. Not only will this affect the initial success of the new system (due to their lack of enthusiasm and willingness to learn), but it can also have long-lasting ill-effects that will ultimately ruin your chances of a successful implementation! This is where it’s important to keep the golden rule in mind: “treat others as you would like to be treated”. Would you like it if someone came in and told you that all the processes you were familiar with were gone, and you had only a few days to learn an entirely new system? Probably not. Keep that in mind moving forward.

Evaluate your options and address concerns

Once you have a few different platform options for your marketing automation system in mind, that’s a great time to ask for feedback from the end-users. Take this time to schedule a meeting (or a few) to discuss any challenges or concerns your staff may have. Your employees will most likely have a lot of questions to ask, so you should make sure you’re fully equipped to answer any questions that may come up during the conversation. Being prepared ahead of time will actually help you out as well because it prevents you from being caught off-guard and possibly overwhelmed with inquiries you’re unable to answer. 

If you’re only proposing a single platform then you may be able to get by with a single meeting. However, if you’re proposing different options to determine which one is best for your company, then you should definitely consider scheduling multiple meetings. Your team will look to you as their resource for answering any questions or concerns they will have, so you’ll need to have all of the answers prepared in advance. Rather than sticking to a single meeting, we would actually recommend scheduling multiple meetings with the various departments throughout your company so you can address their concerns individually. This will also show them that you value their specific department, and aren’t just looking at the company as a whole with no regard for the individuals within. Showing a little appreciation goes a long way when you’re trying to win over your employees on the idea of implementing a new marketing automation system!

During your meetings, be sure to leave time to take questions after your initial presentation of the new system. Implementing marketing automation throughout your company will have different effects on different departments, so it’s important to address these concerns. Considering the input you receive is important, because not only will it give you insight into any potential problems that may arise, but it will also give you an idea of how well these new changes will be received by your employees. Staff who are resistant to change will be unlikely to properly utilize the new system and may be unwilling to learn/change their routines, which can create a plethora of new problems down the road. Remember, the main point of utilizing marketing automation is to get the various departments on the same page and working in sync towards a common goal. This is why explaining the benefits of the new system to the employee (not the employer) is so critical throughout the decision-making process.

Managing rejection

Unfortunately, sometimes the option you propose simply won’t be accepted by your employees or leadership. This is OK; it simply means you need to revisit alternative options! If you do find yourself needing to consider additional options, focus on your system search from a new perspective. Rather than thinking of how marketing automation can help boost your business, think of how marketing automation can help make your job easier as an employee. By approaching it from this new angle, you will have a lot more helpful insights to rely on when pitching to your teams again, which will allow you to win them over and make the changes necessary to take your company to the next level.

Appoint an Internal Marketing Automation Owner

No one likes to be told what to do, but if you don’t have a clearly defined leader who’s in charge of implementation and decision-making regarding your marketing automation platform, you risk turning a streamlined system into a jumbled mess. If no one is sure exactly who’s in charge, then people will tend to make decisions as they see fit—and this can have dire effects on your business. From legal complications to financial failure, the lack of a clearly defined leader is sure to run your marketing automation system into the ground. Therefore, the first thing you’ll need to do when implementing a marketing automation system is to determine who’s ultimately in charge and how the chain of command flows from them.

You might want to consider having managers assigned in each department to monitor and track their department’s automation needs. They can relay the gathered information back to the leader, who will have the final judgment call in making any changes or updates to the system. Avoid giving these managers the authority to implement changes in the system, as the changes they make may be beneficial to their specific department but detrimental to the processes of another. Whoever you decide to appoint the automation leader must have a complete understanding of all the systems used in your MarTech stack, which may be an issue if no one in your company meets these requirements. Fortunately, you can outsource this responsibility to a marketing automation specialist, whose training and knowledge of the systems will help you make informed decisions regarding your systems.

Even if you don’t need someone to handle the entire automation system, a specialist can still provide support to your teams as they learn the new systems. This includes addressing any issues that may come up, ensuring all processes work perfectly in sync, and getting the highest ROI possible out of your investment. Of course, you could decide to forgo a specialist entirely and attempt to do it yourself, but if you’re not sure what you’re doing, the end result could be much worse than where you started from. A lot of negative outcomes can occur from a mismanaged platform. Here’s a real-world example.

“I once worked with a client that had their sales team implement HubSpot without the support of the marketing team or a consultant. Without knowing best practices, one of the salespeople purchased a large list of contacts and uploaded the list to HubSpot, and started sending marketing emails without opt-in. This violates the HubSpot Acceptable Use Policy and the company was at risk of losing their HubSpot account without a refund due to the sales person’s honest mistake. Without a clear system owner and process guide, there can be large legal and financial implications.”

- Lauren Kennedy, Coastal Consulting

Plan your Marketing Automation Budget

In a world where maintaining a high ROI is of utmost importance, you probably already know the importance of budgeting. Of course, just knowing you should have one doesn’t do any good by itself; you have to actually make one! Next, we’ll take a look at all of the things you’ll need to consider when creating a budget for your new marketing automation system.

Defining success with Marketing Automation

Before you can effectively determine what success looks like, you’ll need to have an idea of the budget needed to finance your marketing automation. Once you’ve figured out the approximate price of the implementation, then you need to set a target ROI for your system. It’s important to track these numbers over time, as you will be referring to them, later on, to make sure your investment is worthwhile. Here are a few points for you to consider.

  • Your budget for the year. Since this is your first time implementing a marketing automation system, it’s important to set a budget. Remember, there will be additional costs beyond the initial cost of the software, so make sure to include these in your first-year budget. These initial costs may include:
    • Consultation Costs
    • Software & Licensing Costs
    • Onboarding Fees
    • Implementation Services
    • Internal System Support
  • Your target ROI. There isn’t any point in investing in a marketing automation service if it doesn’t provide a suitable return on investment for your company. You should talk this over with your shareholders to set a target ROI, which you will use later on to see if your system is worth the cost it commands.
  • Return on Objective. It’s easy to focus on your overall revenue as the only metric to measure success, but you should consider the bigger picture. There are other objectives you can track, such as email engagement, brand awareness, communications sent, and publicity performance, which provide valuable insights you can’t get from simply tracking your finances.
  • Determining if your ROI justifies an ongoing investment. After some time has passed (3 months, 6 months, or a year), you should take a look at your metrics to determine how your new marketing automation system is performing if the ROI is meeting (or exceeding) expectations, great! However, if you find the system is underperforming and not meeting your baseline ROI, it’s time to consider changing your strategy, bringing in an outside consultant, or switching platforms entirely.
  • Your budget moving forward. You will most likely experience a change in the ongoing costs of maintaining your marketing automation setup. If you were able to secure a lower price for the first year of service, it’s important to include the new, higher pricing in your ongoing budget. You’ll also want to take a look at your support costs. You may not need to allocate as much money for these services, or you may actually need to invest more! Do your research, so you’re not caught off guard when the new year starts.

Marketing Automation Implementation Costs

Like most things in business, implementing your new marketing automation system costs money. The question is: how much? Your individual costs will depend on which approach you use, and you’ll also have to consider ongoing costs as well. Generally, there are three approaches you can take to implementing and managing your automation system.

  • Using an implementation partner. Certified Solutions Partners (like Coastal Consulting) have received service certifications from the software company, and they know the system inside and out. They’ve put in the time to learn the system so they can provide customized recommendations for your company beyond the basic setup steps the company-provided onboarding team may offer.
  • Dedicating internal resources to your system. If you have internal staff trained and proficient in managing your marketing automation system, you may consider assigning the system to them instead of outsourcing the work. It’s important to recognize the amount of time needed to successfully manage your system, so they should have between 30-40 hours of availability each week to dedicate to marketing automation.

Long-Term Costs of Marketing Automation

You’ve made it this far. You’ve successfully implemented marketing automation, hired ongoing support for your system, and made it nearly a year without any fallout. Where do you go from here?

If the system is working, then there’s no need to change it (although you might be able to optimize a few things). That said, the budget for your second year of service may look very different from the first year’s budget, so it’s important to address these price changes ahead of time. Did you get a first-year discount? If so, you’ll need to plan for an increase in price. Are there any changes or updates you’d like to make to your system? Now is the perfect time to add them to your upcoming expenses. You want to be as prepared as possible moving forward to avoid any unexpected costs that may hurt your overall ROI.

Align your strategy with your platform capabilities

When you’re considering integrating marketing automation into your business, it’s important to have a plan. It’s not enough to just want to implement it; there needs to be a why. Fortunately, determining the why shouldn’t be too much of a challenge. You simply need to identify your business goals and figure out how marketing automation benefits the bigger picture.

Automate your business pain points

After you’ve determined what your business goals are with marketing automation, it will be much easier to determine how marketing automation fits into the system as a whole. If you’re unsure exactly what goals to set, take a look at your current MarTech stack. Where is your system succeeding, and what is it lacking? Are there any severe communication breaks across the channels? Take note of these issues because they will be the issues you address using marketing automation (and they also have an effect on your choice of marketing automation tools).

Build internal alignment

While deciding to implement marketing automation may be your decision, the actual implementation is a joint effort that involves people across all departments. Without the combined effort of your entire staff, your marketing automation is unlikely to be successful, even if the system itself is implemented successfully. Therefore, before, during, and after the new system is implemented, it’s crucial that you keep everyone even slightly affected by the changes on the same page. Misinformation is the enemy when it comes to a successful implementation, so make sure you provide all necessary details to each employee that lets them know how they will personally benefit from the new changes. Be sure to build a playbook to distribute throughout the company after implementation that ensures everyone is in the loop and trained on the processes & system put in place.

Don't underestimate bandwidth

Take a quick break from marketing automation for a moment, and let’s think about a “simple” email marketing campaign. To the uninformed person, the process sounds quite simple: pick a product/service, write an email, send the email. However, the actual process involves much more than that. Even a “simple” email marketing campaign can involve up to 10 hours of data discovery, 2 hours of list preparation, 4 hours of copywriting, 5 hours of workflow development, 2 hours of testing, then an additional 3 hours to launch, and monitor performance! See how we quickly went from “simple” to strategic? You’ll need to have the same mindset when approaching your marketing automation.

Rather than thinking of it as a one or two-step process, consider each part of the implementation individually and strategically. Have you identified the issues you hope to amend with automation? If so, which systems would be the most beneficial? Once you’ve picked out the system, have you reviewed the option(s) with your shareholders and team members? What will you do to alleviate any concerns they may have? How much will the whole process cost? When will you be paying for this? Where will these funds come from? How long will the implementation take? As you can see, there are many different things you’ll need to consider (and that was just a quick overview), so it’s important that you take a strategic approach when implementing marketing automation to make the process as painless as possible.

Set SMART goals

Everyone wants to be successful, but many people shoot themselves in the foot before they even attempt the task at hand! We’re sure you want to know how to be successful (hint: it involves setting SMART goals!) but before we get into that, let’s look at a surefire way to fail.

How to wind up in marketing automation rehab

We know you don’t want to fail at your business goals, but in this short section, we’re just going to assume that failure is your goal (for some reason). Here’s how to fail before you’ve even begun.

  • Setting general goals. Setting non-specific goals is a great way to set yourself up for failure. Choosing goals like “increase revenue” or “integrate Hubspot with Salesforce” that don’t involve a timeframe and can’t be measured are highly unlikely to go very far.
  • Taking the cheapest opportunity available. Less is more, right? Not likely, but if you’re purposely trying to fail, then taking the cheapest opportunity without doing any research (beyond checking the price tag) is an easy way to do so.
  • Implementing without a strategy. Shooting blind isn’t much of a strategy, but if you’re not looking for results, then it’s likely to get the performance you’re looking for. You’ll be completed unprepared for any issues or complications that come up!
  • Wondering why nothing’s working. This is just part of the process when you’re setting yourself up for failure. Since you neglected to set any measurable goals, chose the cheapest platform possible, and skipped making any strategies, you shouldn’t be expecting things to work seamlessly together towards a common goal.
  • Ignoring any feedback. When your team has problems or issues with the current system, completely disregarding them is a sure-fire way to be unsuccessful in your marketing automation efforts!

Ok, sarcasm aside, let’s look at ways you can actually succeed in your implementation (and business) efforts!

How to get it right the first time

  1. Setting SMART goals. Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Timely. These are the points to keep in mind when setting the goals, but what exactly do they mean? Let’s come up with a SMART goal example for a business planning on implementing.
      • Specific: Increase conversions by 25%.
      • Measurable: Conversions can be tracked within Salesforce.
      • Attainable: This one is more subjective, but we’re going to assume that a 25% increase is reasonably attainable for this hypothetical company. A 200% increase, on the other hand, is most likely not reasonably attainable.
      • Relevant: An increase in conversions will increase sales, consequently raising the ROI of marketing efforts. Avoid arbitrary goals that won’t have a direct impact on your business.
      • Timely: Increase conversions within 3 months’ time.

    The final SMART goal: Utilize marketing automation to increase conversions by 25% over the next three months using Salesforce to track conversions.

  2. Considering all available options. You’ll most likely have multiple options available to you when you’re looking for a marketing automation system, so it’s important to review and compare these options. Doing so will help you determine which system can provide the most benefits to your MarTech stack and (hopefully) provide an AIO solution.
  3. Setting an initial strategy. Before actually implementing your new system, it’s important to have a strategy in place designed to handle any potential issues, complications, or inconsistencies that may come up. You will also want to include staff training in your initial strategic plan.
  4. Addressing issues as they come up. The longer you wait to address issues, the more they will compound into bigger problems. You should have a designated service provider, marketing automation expert, or in-house employee on-call to address these problems as they occur.
  5. Setting prioritized goals. While setting initial goals is important, it’s also crucial to think of your goals moving forward. After you have the system implemented, where do you want to go from there? Where would you like to be in 3 months? Six months? A year? Think of this as a growth plan for your marketing automation system - much like you’d put in place for onboarding a new employee! Set SMART goals for extended time frames as well. Doing so will help ensure the ongoing success of your marketing automation system. Here are a few examples of long-term goals:
    • After three months, I want our data model implemented, our three core systems integrated, and our system users onboarded to the platform.
    • After six months, I would like to have 10 automated workflows delivering emails & SMS to leads. These will create tasks for the sales team to follow up on and be triggered by web-behavior.
    • In a year from now, I want to have driven $10,000 in revenue from leads nurtured by our marketing automation system.

Organize your resources

When you’re going through the process of implementing marketing automation solutions, it’s important to consider both your internal and external resources. What issues can be solved in-house? Are any of your employees qualified to manage the systems? Will you need to rely on an external agency for support? Can a freelancer do it better? Here are some things to consider when arranging your marketing automation resources.

Internal resources

  • Expertise - The first thing you’ll have to do is determine if any of your staff possess the necessary skills to run your marketing automation system or at least provide partial support. It’s crucial that you make sure they’re actually qualified, not just randomly assign tasks to someone with no clue of what they’re doing. Trusting these vital processes to someone who’s either overrepresented their own skills or isn’t trained at all both place tremendous stress on that individual, making a failure in your MarTech automation highly likely. Avoid doing this at all costs. Much like during the hiring process, make sure all potential candidates are qualified before assigning them a new job role.
  • Staffing - After you’ve identified possible candidates for managing part (or all) of your marketing automation software, it’s time to delve into their pasts. Ask them about any similar work they’ve performed, what experience they have with the software in question, and what they think they will struggle with. You should also obtain proof (certifications or course completions) of these claims, if possible, to avoid incorrect staffing and automation issues later on.
    • Training - You can’t simply present your team with a new system and expect them to automatically understand how it works. Ensure you have time set aside dedicated to training staff on working alongside the new marketing automation system. The overall success of your automation efforts is largely dependent on staff understanding, utilization, and optimization, so a comprehensive training plan will help prevent issues and errors moving forward.
  • Bandwidth - There’s no way around it: proper implementation takes time. After you’ve identified who’s qualified to do what, it’s important to take a look at your timeline. Implementation can take anywhere from 20 to 40 hours per week of your time, so make sure your schedule can accommodate these requirements without cutting into other necessary tasks. If time management poses a serious complication, consider turning to external resources instead.

External resources

  • Software Company Support - If you need support for your MarTech automation setup, the companies whose software you’re using may be able to help. The advantage of this is that you’ll be getting help directly from the people who know the systems the best. The disadvantage is that they may only be able to help you with their own product and won’t be able to provide personalized recommendations for your business. This means you may have to contact multiple companies to solve your cross-platform issues. Also, since these companies' goal is to upsell, they will provide you with upgraded package options as solutions for your problems, not effective workarounds like you might get from a consultant (which can help save you money in the long run).
  • Agency Support - An agency will be able to provide you with a much more personalized experience than you would get from a software company. You’ll be working with a small group of people who are familiar with multiple software programs, which means you’ll only need to contact the agency (instead of multiple companies) whenever you run into issues.
  • Freelancer Support - The most dedicated support you can get is from a freelancer, but the quality of support you get will vary quite a bit. If you decide to go this route, it’s important to make sure your freelancer of choice is highly (if not overly) qualified for the tasks at hand and has enough time to dedicate to your systems. They will likely offer more competitive rates than you would get from an agency, but if the rates they offer seem like the opportunity of a lifetime, it’s best to be wary of their offer. You certainly don’t want to hire an overbooked, under-performing freelancer!

How to Pick a Marketing Automation Platform

It’s important to pick the proper platform for your business. If you don’t, you’ll be losing out on potential leads and conversions while reducing your overall ROI. Fortunately, we’ve come up with a fairly simple five-step technique to help you pick the perfect marketing automation platform to meet all of your individual business needs and requirements.

Define a purpose

You’re obviously considering a marketing automation system to help with your business, but what exactly do you hope to accomplish with this? Are you trying to:

  1. Generate more qualified leads
  2. Save time spent doing manual work
  3. Align marketing with sales
  4. Reduce your staffing needs
  5. Organize your data
    Or something else? You’ll need to be specific with what exact problems you hope to solve by implementing marketing automation. Once you’ve figured out these details and identified the benefits, you’re ready to start looking around at various marketing automation options.

Identify potential options

  • Research, research, research! The platform you chose will likely be used by your organization for years to come, so it’s important to make an informed decision on your final choice of platform. Using the purposes you’ve defined in the step above, compare the features (such as lead scoring, web behavior tracking, automated task creation, automated deal flow, email marketing, or triggered SMS communications) of each platform to see which ones align the closest with your goals (and have the necessary features you need). After you’ve reduced your list to a handful of options, it’s time to look more in-depth at each option.
  • Compare each platform to your business needs. Some platforms are better suited for larger businesses, while others are optimized for SMBs. Compare your potential platforms to make sure they will work well with your individual business. Will they work with the current data model you have in place, or will they require heavy revisions in order to be implemented? The ideal setup will require little to no revisions to your current system and can be implemented relatively quickly.
  • Consider the needs of your end-users. While many systems sound great on paper, in practice, they often fall short of expectations. It’s important to consider which employees will actually be using this new software and make sure that day-to-day operations will be well within their technological capabilities. You’ll also want to think about ongoing support. Will marketing automation support be provided by the software company, an agency, a freelancer, or in-house? If you’re going the in-house route, which team will be handling the software? Your approach and individual requirements will vary a lot if you have an on-site development team as opposed to a marketing/sales team only.
  • Test the potential platform(s). After you’ve considered all possible options, eliminated any impractical options, and made sure that the platform(s) in question will work for your team, it’s time to actually test these platforms out! Some platforms may allow you to test them straight from their websites, whereas, in others, you may want to call and set up a demo. When you call these companies, have a checklist of requirements on hand. Confirm with the sales rep that their particular product will meet all of these requirements before the demo.

Final thoughts

At the beginning of this article, we posed this question: your current systems work—why change them? Hopefully, by now, you’ve learned all the information to not only answer that question but also know if marketing automation is a smart investment for YOUR business. If it is, then get ready for streamlined systems, cooperative processes, improved conversions, and a higher ROI overall. There’s no time like the present to get started on your marketing automation journey!

Interested in marketing automation, but not quite sure where to start? The experts at Coastal Consulting would love to talk you through the process. Snag time to chat with Coastal and let's do this!

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