Six Key Features to Consider When Selecting Marketing Automation Software
Over the past few years, marketing automation software has exhibited explosive growth and become established as a must-have resource for marketers. This August, Raab Associates released a report stating, “Revenues for B2B marketing automation systems will grow 60% to reach $525 million in 2012,” building off of an already substantial increase of 50% from 2011. The B2B marketers who have adopted marketing automation are becoming more efficient with their time and resources, and the ones who have yet to do so are going to start to get that anxious, “late for the party” feeling, if they have not already. If you have yet to take advantage of some form of marketing automation, you may feel overwhelmed and not know where or how to even start looking for software. Here are a few key features that you should investigate and prioritize while selecting marketing automation software.
Lead Prioritization- A quality marketing automation tool should help you narrow your lead focus for higher conversion rates. Some programs offer analytics to help you clarify where a potential client is in the buying cycle, rank how engaged they are with your content offerings, or what their projected budget for purchases is. All of this data can help you decrease wasted time and energy from misguided expectations for a possible buyer, in turn, redistributing those resources towards companies that you are more likely to close with.
Automated Follow-Ups/Lead Nurturing- With a marketing automation program, marketers can develop messages catering to a particular industry, company size, etc. based on criteria you choose. For example, if an individual downloads a white paper from your company, the software then can analyze their company profile, online behavior, and other criteria you select, then follow-up the download with a more personalized message than the ones typical of pre-automated marketing. This can reduce the “spammy” message qualities that lead to either a quick delete or being filtered into the junk mail file.
Social Media Assistance- While social media activity may seem like relatively simple marketing task, anyone who is maintaining accounts on multiple websites can tell you, it gets overwhelming quick. Keeping track of comments, updating profile information, and posting consistently are all tasks marketers must juggle. Especially in cases where businesses don’t have an employee devoted to social media activities, this greatly lessens the effectiveness of your social media efforts, and can lead to an ignored and unengaged audience. Many marketing automation programs offer convenient “dashboards” that can display several social media feeds at once, and from where you can schedule posts, reply to followers, and measure engagement.
SEO- Many programs also offer very useful SEO tools and analytics that even a person with just passing knowledge of the subject can take advantage of. You can track which links are providing the most traffic to your site, what blog titles grab a potential customer’s attention, and which portions of your company website need a little tweaking. Sometimes, all it takes are a few minor changes to significantly boost the audience you need seeing your message.
Potential for Collaboration– How many people are going to be using the marketing automation software you select in your office? More than likely, you will not be the sole user. Consult the members of your marketing team while you weigh the positives and negatives of each automation program. You do not want to go with a program that only half of your team can use at a time, or one with too complicated an interface for some. If multiple individuals are going to have a hand in the same projects, you will need software that allows seamless sharing and simultaneous use.
Results Measuring- Along with SEO statistics/analytics, many automation programs offer results measuring for website traffic, e-mail campaigns, and other key facets of your activity. Before purchasing, make sure you fully understand what your software’s key metrics actually mean and that they are truly relevant to your online marketing goals.
Most marketing automation programs offer some sort of free trial, something you should absolutely take advantage of. On paper, one software may seem more appealing, but it ends up being too convoluted or does not deliver results in a satisfactory manner. Before making a purchase, test a few out, ask colleagues already using marketing automation what they like/dislike, and ask yourself: what do I want to get out of my marketing automation program most?