How to Choose a Marketing Automation Platform

By: Bayforce    Posted: September 29, 2017    Category: Uncategorized

You’ve got a database full of untouched leads and a library full of carefully edited email templates. Your marketing machine is ready! Now you just need to choose the right Marketing Automation Platform–but how? You should begin by deciding what is most important to your company and selecting expectations you have from this new solution. Here are some options you might consider:

  

Deliverability Support
Your email deliverability score (also known as email reputation) is a crucial asset that helps your messages get delivered. If your score is too low, you will see a high block and spam rate, which leads to you spending a lot of effort for very little results. Deliverability can be an elusive, mysterious creature and there are dozens of theories of how to improve your score. Unfortunately, it is more art than science, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

Pro tip:  When looking into marketing automation (MA) vendors, take the time to ask your sales rep how they support their customers in increasing deliverability and improving reputation.

Website Analytics
Depending on the level of interaction on your website, you should consider MA platforms that offer website tracking with a range of analytics including number of visits, page views, and webform engagement. Website tracking often costs extra and may only be worth it if you don’t already have a web tracking tool and if your website has one or more forms that prospects are invited to complete.

Pro tip:  Meet with your web team to evaluate your website and determine whether these kinds of features would be beneficial to your marketing efforts.

Email Sending Features
The availability and cost of certain features will vary among MA solutions. You should consider which features are most important to your organization and which are worth paying for. For example:

— Send Time Optimization (STO) is an analytical tool that, over time, determines when a prospect is most likely to open, read, and click on an email. An MA platform that uses STO will scatter your sends and will send to each lead at the precise time that they are most likely to open and read it. It’s not fool-proof, but research has shown it can be effective.

Pro tip:  STO works best when you have a few months of data to analyze, so it takes a bit of a commitment before you see any measurable improvement.

— A/B Testing (also known as split testing) is a useful tool that allows you to test multiple subject lines, email bodies, images, or from addresses before you commit to a finished product. For example, this can be used if you plan to send an email to a list of 10,000 recipients and want to test two different subject lines to see which is more likely to be opened and read. The system will send the email to a small percentage of your list, half with the first subject line and the other half with the second subject line. Whichever subject wins will be used for the remainder of the list. A/B testing can be incredibly useful for testing out new messaging and getting to know your database.

Pro tip:  This tool is not available with all platforms so if you decide it’s something you want, you’ll need to check with your prospective vendor.

— Throttling enables you to split up your send emails to a large list incrementally over the course of a few hours, a few days, or even a week or more. You set up your list and attach your email, and the system takes care of the rest, sending your email in batches over the course of the period you selected. This approach is helpful for new marketers to avoid spam flags and preserve deliverability.

Pro tip:  Throttling can help prevent your email from being blocked by large corporate mail servers, but it is not always available.  Ask!

— Publish to Social allows you to repurpose content and publish on all of your company’s social networks with one click, this can be a huge timesaver.

Pro tip:  It’s worth evaluating how much time is currently spent going through these steps every time you have a new piece of content and whether this feature  could increase your flexibility and efficiency.

— Drip and Nurture Campaigns are useful tools that are not available on every platform. What’s the difference? Drip campaigns allow you to automate sending a series of emails on a pre-determined schedule that you define. Nurture campaigns allow you to automate a series of emails that are sent based off a lead’s behavior, such as clicking on an email, visiting your website, viewing a webinar, etc.

Pro tip: Some platforms support drip but not nurture campaigns; determine whether your organization prefers one to the other or needs both. Make sure you will actually use this functionality as MA products with this capability are generally more expensive.

Database Size Restrictions & Sending Limit
Database size and number of sends per month can vary greatly from company to company. Some MA platforms specialize in large companies with millions of records and hundreds of thousands of sends per month. Others are more tailored to the small business customers with databases in the hundreds of thousands and only tens of thousands of sends per month. Additionally, the way MA vendors charge for these variances can range dramatically.

Pro tip:  The size of your database and the number of emails you send per month can have a huge impact on whether an MA platform makes sense for your organization. It’s important to understand these restrictions when you are comparing solutions.

CRM Integration
Tech-savvy companies know that the best way to maximize your marketing efforts is to connect your MA platform to your CRM. Different MA platforms vary in the ease and seamlessness of this integration. While you look around, it’s a good time to examine your current lead management procedures and determine whether an MA solution can help you improve. For example, are you organizing your email sends into campaigns in your CRM system? Are you capturing email behaviors (i.e. opens & clicks) and using that data to score your leads? Are you going a step further and engaging leads that opened your email or clicked on a link? Can your sales team access a lead’s email behavior history when they are ready to make contact? This insight can be invaluable, but each MA solution is different in the way they capture and store this information and whether it can be synced with your CRM system. If you don’t have an integration specialist on staff, you’ll want to look into whether your chosen MA provider offers this integration, what the integration includes, and how much it costs (integration services are generally added on to your quoted price).

Ultimate pro tip:  Your selection of a marketing automation platform depends on a lot more than price alone. With a variety of products available at different price points and with different strengths and weaknesses, it may be difficult to assess the value to your organization.  This is where a consultant can provide expertise and guidance.  Email Bayforce to start a holistic evaluation of your organization’s needs.

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