January 31, 2018

How to Find the Right Marketing Automation Platform for your Business


Marketing Automation is a second beating heart, thinking brain, and breathing lungs for your business. You may not have the resources to hire someone to manage all of your customer and/or client interactions.  That’s the beautiful power of Marketing Automation. Powerful technology takes the place of a human being and frankly, sometimes does the job better.

Still unsure of what Marketing Automation can do for your business? Or even what it is? According to Hubspot (whose Marketing Automation platform is THE most popular amongst marketers everywhere),  Marketing Automation refers to “the software that exists with the goal of automating marketing actions, such as email, social media and website actions.” We can almost 100% guarantee that you have been at the receiving end of an automation at some point in your life.  

Those constant Amazon emails – you know, the one with the “If you love 10-Pack Solid Gold Golf Clubs, You’ll Also Love…” subject lines – are a prime example of Marketing Automation. Trust me, there’s no sad, pale little man sitting in a basement somewhere sending you those! (*Disclaimer* If there is, I’m really sorry and I’d like to personally thank you for not judging my Amazon searches.) The POINT is, Amazon has a really robust Email Automation program that you’ve no doubt enjoyed.

Most businesses, both B2B and B2C, can implement powerful Marketing Automation software to increase upsells, reduce cart abandonment, nurture warm leads, and so much more.  But the challenge lies in finding the perfect Marketing Automation platform for your business. As a digital marketing agency with 10+ years of marketing technology experience, we’ve tried our hand at several platforms, and we’ve learned one thing: one size does NOT fit all. Every business has different needs and will, therefore, require different functionalities in their technology,

Here’s how to choose the best Marketing Automation platform for your business.

A brief intro to the biggest contenders in the Marketing Automation game: For years Hubspot, Marketo, and Pardot were the three most commonly used automation platforms. Organizations in every industry were thrilled with the toolbox of these platforms, and the UX and technology suited their needs enough to get by. As time passed, handfuls of new technologies boasting “A more powerful CRM” or “We’ll help you send better emails” were thrown into the ring. By the time 2017 rolled around, you’re looking at hundreds of MAPs with thousands of users each.

So how do you cut through the noise to find your MAP match? Follow these steps.

  • Define Your Automation Needs
  • Research and Compare
  • Trial Run and Recon
  • Finalize!
  • Make it Rain

Step #1: What are your automation Needs?

Gather your marketing team in a room and clearly map out your marketing strategy. Outline your efforts for every stage of your marketing funnel. For example, what messages do you want to send to people who have NEVER heard about your company before? Where do you want to display these messages to give them maximum exposure to your target audience?  Once your strategy is clearly defined, you can identify where a machine could be doing the work, and where a team member must be involved.

An example would be: Johnson’s Wholesale Liquidators is looking to increase the number of manufacturers and retailers who pass on their extra SKUs to JWL. Their strategy is to send out a newsletter to their current providers as well as a list of contacts the CEO, Tom Hicks, has forged a connection with on LinkedIn. While these emails can be custom-crafted in Gmail by the CMO, Larry, it would save JWL considerable time, funds, and energy to offboard this task to a MAP. So Email Automation is a Need.

Additionally, they want to get very granular with their user journey. If a potential provider clicks on a link, JWL wants them to receive an entirely different follow-up sequence. So Unlimited Sequencing is a Need.

While social media marketing plays an almost negligible role in acquiring new providers, JWL understands how important it is for brand credibility and B2C marketing. So an SMM manager, either baked into the software or available as an integration, is a Need. Keep refining your Needs, and throw in a few Bonuses. If the MAP can provide  Search Marketing tools and A/B testing, that’s great, but not a must-have.

Step #2: Research and Compare

This is the fun part. Ask friends in your industry (or even competitors!)  what Marketing Automation Platform they use and why they like or dislike it. Compile a list of personally recommended MAPS. Then hop online for additional options.  Try and narrow down the options as you research. If you see a negative review over the course of your research that scares you, cross the platform off your list. Choose your top ten based on reviews, functionality, pricing, customer service/support, and UX- you don’t want to get stuck with a platform that’s devilishly tricky to operate.

Once you have your top 10, compare how many of your Needs and Bonuses each includes. If you find one MAP that “does it all” – congrats! You’ve found your dream platform! If you’re stuck deciding between a few and simply can’t choose – don’t worry. It’s all part of the process. Here’s a good plan: choose your top three contenders. Create a test project for each and try it out for a trial period (if your software doesn’t offer a trial…you may want to dive a little deeper into their customer service reviews).  Which brings us to Step #3

Step #3: Trial Run and Recon

Let’s give this baby a test run! Have your marketing team test out the software (or softwares if you’re still undecided) for the trial period. Don’t migrate all your content just yet- create a test project for the trial. Have them carefully monitor and take notes about their experience. Specifically:

  • How simple is it to create campaigns within the platform?
  • Did you find the software intuitive, or did you “have to get the hang of it?”
  • Were the campaigns you tested successful?
  • How easy/difficult was it to interpret the data and analytics the MAP spat back?
  • Was the support team responsive, patient, and helpful?
  • Would you rather stick pins in your eyes then look at that layout all day?

Ask them to be perfectly honest, as this decision will likely impact them for the year or so. In fact, maybe kick off the recon meeting with your own scathing review to encourage that open atmosphere. The team is going to disagree on some things, particularly if you’re testing more than one MAP at a time. People are going to choose favorites and fight for their choice – but that’s healthy. Your team will benefit from bouncing the pros and cons off each other, and will eventually come to a unanimous decision.

Step #4: Finalize!

Give your account manager a call – it’s time to sign on the dotted line!

Step #5: Make it Rain

It’s time to set up your automations to perfection and start making money while you sleep. Set up those babies, and let the platform do the work for you! Of course, some light maintenance will be necessary, and interpreting the data should (hopefully) be a weekly task, but as far as sending emails, drafting social posts, writing blogs, sending site messages, etc. etc.: you are off the hook!

So that’s our strategy for finding the perfect platform for your business. To help jumpstart your research, here are some helpful resources detailing several Marketing Automation platforms and their functionality. Happy Reading!

For more insights on your business’s marketing tactics

Quarterly Industry Insights Newsletter

Want insights on B2B marketing trends? Sign up for Ajax Union’s quarterly marketing newsletter below to get tips and insights on what’s trending in the B2B landscape that could ultimately affect your business.

Enter your info below to sign up today