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10 Steps to Selecting a Marketing Automation Tool

It’s no secret that marketing automation is becoming an essential tool for modern B2B marketers. Adding automation software to your marketing toolbox takes the guesswork out of lead nurturing, personalizes the user experience, and centralizes sales and marketing. Marketing automation is a digital extension of your team, performing tasks that once had to be done manually with more ease and accuracy. To reap all these benefits, you need to find a platform that your team members can embrace and works well within your company’s process. The top criteria of a marketing automation system for B2B marketing managers are price, product integration, and ease of use. We’ll explore why these factors, among others, should influence your choice and where along the decision making process they come into play. Follow these ten steps and you’ll have the smarts you’ll need to select the right marketing automation platform for your B2B business.

1. Understand Marketing Automation

Technopedia defines marketing automation as “the use of software and web-based services to execute, manage, and automate marketing tasks and processes. It replaces manual and repetitive marketing processes with purpose-built software and applications geared toward performance.” This software operates through a central platform to bring your marketing practices, from email to social to analytics to lead nurturing, to one place, streamlining your marketing processes. Marketing automation lends a digital hand to analyze your contacts, segment your leads, and send targeted, personal marketing communications. It then delivers the results and ROI data in simple and customizable reports. Be sure to have a full understanding of what marketing automation is and why it’s important before you move on to the next step. Without this knowledge, you’ll have a hard time spotting why it’s important to find the right one.

2. Know Your Business

Before you can look at specific platforms, you need to understand your business and what you’re looking to gain from a marketing automation tool. Know how many people will need to use the tool and how many contacts you expect to have in the coming year. These numbers factor into the cost and functionality of many platforms. Next, determine what your marketing automation wants and needs are. While most tools provide the same basic features, each one has unique strengths and weaknesses. Would you like real-time lead alerts? Do you want a platform that offers marketing resources targeted to your business’ size? Use your marketing automation research and knowledge of your current systems to answer these questions. Create a spreadsheet with this information, so you can record which marketing automation platforms fulfill your requests once you begin your search.

3. Know Your Software

To take advantage of the unique functionality each platform offers, you need to know what software you currently use and if you want to integrate this software with your marketing automation platform. This is also a chance to determine whether or not you would like to begin using any additional marketing tools in tandem with marketing automation, such as analytics (Google Analytics), email testing (Litmus), or social media. An essential tool to know is what customer relationship management (CRM) software you currently use (if any). Managing your contacts goes hand in hand with automation, and most platforms combine these two marketing efforts. Most marketing automation software integrates with Salesforce, while some provide a built-in CRM at no extra cost. Understanding this software and how it benefits your business will help you optimize your marketing automation.

4. Determine Your budget

Once you have a comprehensive understanding of your business and how it will utilize marketing automation, it’s time to visit your budget. Marketing automation software is nearly always a monthly cost, sometimes billed annually. Costs range from under $10 to over $2,000 per month depending on number of users, number of contacts, integrations, and features. Know what you’re comfortable paying beforehand to focus your search on only the software you can afford. With the wealth of options available, you should be able to find one that falls within your budget without sacrificing the pieces you need to automate your marketing.

5. Consult the Internet

Now it’s time to explore what automation tools are available. Always keep your business—have that spreadsheet you created earlier right in front of you—and budget in mind when looking. You need to have a solid understanding of what’s out there, so you can be certain your decision is the right one in the end. To make this task easier, we’ve recommended 15 tools to get you started. Here are a few more tools to aid in your search:


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6. Read Reviews, And More Reviews

Reviews can reveal features, benefits, and downfalls of each marketing automation tool that may not be clear on the product website. Every company will highlight their strengths, but in order to uncover weaknesses or quirks you’ll need to dig a little deeper. Pay close attention to businesses similar to yours. What tools are working for them? What features do they like or dislike? The most highly rated or well-known tool isn’t always the best tool for your team, so don’t simply focus on number of stars or quantity of positive reviews. Ask around your area and gather information from competitors. There’s a solid chance that what’s working for them will work for you.

7. Create A Short List

Now that you understand your options, it’s time to hone in on a few systems that’ll be a good fit for your company. Build a short list of two to five tools that are within your budget, have the features you need, and allow for any necessary software integrations. Take great care in this step as the goal is to purchase one of these tools at the end of this process. Consult your marketing and sales teams in addition to anyone else who will use the software. Be sure to take into account input from all the departments that will be using the software.

8. Complete An Online Demo

Every marketing automation platform will have a different user experience. Even if the software has the features you’re looking for, it will not enhance your marketing unless you’re able to properly use them. Many of these marketing automation companies offer a free online demo to take you through the unique interface and processes of their software. Perform one of these for each platform on your short list. Hopefully, this will allow you to narrow your list down to one or two. Then you can complete a free trial, which often lasts a couple of weeks, to determine if each tool lives up to your needs and expectations. During these trials, pay special attention to how easy it is to use each platform. You want to make sure your team will quickly learn and understand how to use your new marketing automation software.

9. Ask A Lot Of Questions

Throughout this entire process, and definitely before making a final decision, ask a lot of questions. Most marketing automation companies are ready and willing to answer to any concerns or comments you may have through contact pages, email, phone, and even live chat. Your team will be interacting with your automation platform every single day, so you need to be certain that the product you choose will work for everyone. Any lingering questions or even the slightest of concerns should be addressed before you go ahead and make a purchase.

10. Make Your Decision

After nine steps, you’ve reached the final and most crucial one. It’s time to pick the marketing automation platform that will help your marketing and sales team excel at capturing leads, nurturing them with personalized marketing, and calculating the results of your efforts. Everything you’ve learned from your business, demos, and questions should influence your final decision. Choose the platform that checks all the boxes, meets the budget, and works well within your organization.

(Bonus Step) Onboarding

Once you make your decision, get started right away on learning how to use this software. Take advantage of any tutorials or training to get acquainted with the software. Ensure all sales and marketing personnel who will use the software are well-versed in how it works and how it benefits your business. Help your team members understand why automation is important and why the specific software you’ve chosen meets the demands of your company. Finally, complete any software integrations, import your company’s information, and begin nurturing leads. In no time, you’ll be well on your way to automating your marketing in a way that’ll improve your efforts and deliver measurable ROI.

Katie Yohn

Forever a student of marketing and the written word, Katie is always on the lookout for new ways to connect with audiences. She enjoys learning about emerging trends and sharing what she's learned. She also has an affinity for alliteration.