How to Choose the Best Marketing Automation Software for Your Business
It’s easy to get deep in the weeds trying to identify the best marketing automation (MA) software for your business, especially when you are facing a MarTech landscape where thousands of companies are providing overlapping capabilities.
But taking time for big picture thinking is critical when determining which marketing technologies are the right ones to drive your company forward, and in the long run this process will save your organization precious time and money.
For FullContact, a fast-growth SaaS company, the objective was simple: To support our revenue goals we needed robust, integrated, right-sized marketing automation that directly supported our sales and marketing strategies and tactics. Because at the end of the day, we simply want to better connect with our customers by sending personalized, 1:1 messages.
The selection process to find the right marketing automation provider was made simple with the guidance of an email and inbound marketing consultant, Melanie Darienzo of Darienzo Consulting, who brought a well-designed workflow that created efficiencies, and saved us a lot of time. And the best part? This process is now made easy for you.
Read on to learn more and use our workflows for yourself.
Step 1: Take time to gather internal and external information
There are considerations that extend beyond your marketing department that need to be mined in the early stages of your process. In the absence of a cohesive platform, different departments will cobble together their own solutions, which can lead to a confusing customer journey. Our previous MA platform was going unused in large part because early consideration wasn’t given to how it affected all the relevant departments, so as our business grew it created integration and ultimately usability issues.
1. Stewardship: Identify which department owns the results and is accountable for spearheading technical implementation, campaign development, day-to-day marketing automation management and reporting. Here at FullContact, this is the marketing team.
2. Stakeholders: Critical to the decision making process is the involvement of key stakeholders from relevant departments. We included representatives from marketing, sales, product, customer support, business intelligence, IT and creative.
3. Survey & Interview: Send a survey (we used SurveyMonkey), to collect basic needs/wants responses from your stakeholders. Survey questions may include:
- What types of recipients do you regularly email to?
- How many emails does your team currently send each month?
- Number of active contacts?
- What tools do you currently use to send emails?
- 12 months from now, how many active contacts does your team anticipate sending each month?
- What are your top 5 required features from marketing automation?
- What are your next 5 features you would like to have?
Conduct 1:1 interviews with your stakeholders to further identify and clarify needs, ideas and biases for consideration.
4. Sift & Sort: Your survey and interview results will give you a great starting point with needs, wants, features and benefits for consideration. Next, prioritize and rank this list into three buckets:
- Must have
- Nice to have
Some of FullContact’s critical needs included customizable templates, trigger based nurture campaigns, Salesforce integration, lead scoring, robust APIs, data analytics and performance reports.
1. Capability: With an overwhelming number of providers out there, culling the herd can feel like a daunting task. It’s easy when you begin identifying which systems are best suited for your size organization, (SMB, mid-market or enterprise). In addition, you’ll want to consider your growth strategy to gauge the platform’s capability to adapt with your growing needs.
2. Matching: Begin to match your ‘critical’ needs list against those companies’ feature sets. By looking at the above graphic, you can see that there were over 400 providers that offered solutions which fell within our consideration set. Our consultant desk-researched 100+ of these companies based on our ranked list of critical needs and then further reduced this list to 25 companies that were a stronger match.
3. Reducing: Seek an objective and unbiased perspective on this shortened list as you move forward and interview these providers. We tasked our consultant with interviewing our short list of 25 providers from an anonymous perspective so that it was a completely independent representation. She then reported back her insights and offered recommendations.
4. The Final Five: With the list of potential providers whittled down to five, you are now ready for a deep dive into a side-by-side comparison. We were open to having a combination of well-known players alongside relative newcomers in this group of five. As long as the newcomers had a product roadmap, positive feedback from existing and former customers, and a stable platform, they were considered serious contenders.
Step 2: Analyze
1. Presentations: Request a presentation and capabilities pitch from your final five. Give them your ‘critical’, ‘must have’ and ‘nice to have’ list so that they can save everybody time and address the core issues head on. It’s important to note that this is where our key stakeholders were pulled back into the process. Their unique perspectives throughout the presentations were critical to this final assessment.
2. Debrief: After each meeting, collect feedback, additional insights and follow up questions from your stakeholders. Rank these final five and eliminate the bottom three.
3. Head-to-head: With your list now narrowed down to two, request a final round of demonstrations from the providers to address any additional unanswered questions and dive a bit deeper. Be sure to include your key stakeholders at this stage to ensure their buy-in with the final decision.
Step 3: Decide
As we found from our Feature Matrix, Autopilot was one of two vendors who met the majority of our criteria. We loved the flexibility of the platform, the number of integrations, the power of the API’s and how easy they are to work with. At FullContact we have a very ambitious growth strategy and we were assured that Autopilot would be with us on the journey to when we are 10x our current size.
Autopilot’s features that appealed to us here at FullContact:
- Lead capture forms that automatically turn anonymous visitors into leads and customers. It provides us with critical data from our website, blog and apps that help us nurture these leads.
- Customizable campaigns that allow us to personalize our customer’s experience by sending targeted emails, in-app messages, then trigger journeys and engage them automatically.
- Intuitive UI allows us to design customer journeys and execute on a campaign simply by dragging and dropping.
- Segmentation of our contacts and easy organization into static lists, dynamic segments, and folders. Lead scoring ability so that we can track where they are in the sales funnel and send signals to our sales team.
- Integrations into Salesforce, Segment, Zapier, Slack, and Autopilot’s API to build a rich view of our contacts and drive engagement through personalization.
- Reporting that allows us to track journey performance and get insights into which messages convert, how journeys are trending, and what’s driving sales.
Equally as important to us here at FullContact is selecting business partners who share our values of being awesome with our customers. So as we got to know the account team through our vetting process, we were quietly assessing their response time, their degree of knowledge, and ultimately their core values to determine if this was a company we wanted to work with.
But what sealed the deal was when we realized that what was most important to Autopilot was making sure we were selecting the right platform for us. It truly felt like they were helping us figure out if they would be the best solution. That’s when our relationship developed trust.
Marketing automation is a critical tool for growing your business, so selecting the right partner to help facilitate growth should be given the attention it deserves. Each business is unique, so your final decision should be based on a unique combination of values important to your organization. Once you have marketing automation in place, you don’t want to change it, so take time to understand what matters most, and nurture this process in exactly the same way you want this system to nurture your customers.