Maybe you’re a David in an industry of Goliath competitors, searching for your metaphorical slingshot.
Small businesses and startups often have to “fake it until they make it” — marketing automation allows them to do just that. These solutions help independent companies operate like larger enterprises by getting specific messaging in front of potential customers in an accurate, timely and efficient manner.
Marketing automation takes care of manually segmenting and batching communications, managing responses and lead nurturing. (It’s important to note, however, that it’s not an ideal tool for demand generation.)
How do companies go about selecting a solution in a marketplace saturated with options?
Earlier this year, marketing analysts Raab Associates and tech news site VentureBeat surveyed 158 marketing automation users (most from small companies with fewer than 100 employees) about their experience and compiled the findings in a report, “What Matters Most in Selecting Marketing Automation.”
Of the companies surveyed, 44.1 percent said the benefits of marketing automation software were worth the cost and investment of employee time, while an additional 23.7 percent said the returns were even better than they’d expected.
The results of the study indicate that companies were most satisfied with their marketing automation choice when they had invested significant time and energy into researching systems beforehand. Additionally, those companies quickly deployed campaigns after launching marketing automation, and made use of an average of 10 to 12 system features.
How can you regret-proof your purchase and make sure your small business chooses the right marketing automation software? Keep the following in mind when making a decision:
- Time: Spend 5 to 6 months learning about and evaluating alternatives
- Options: Narrow choices down 2 to 4 solutions to choose from
- Preference: Know what features you need; the system should have at least 10 you would use on a regular basis
Capterra, an online software directory, offers a function that allows users to sort through top marketing automation software by filters such as number of users and features like email marketing, CRM integration, multi-channel management and more. Some top-rated options for small business include Hubspot, Hatchbuck, Infusionsoft, Marketo and Pardot.
Once you’ve narrowed the choice down to a few vendors, the Raab Associates report authors recommend evaluating systems based on:
- Cost, available support and ease of use
- One-on-one vendor demonstrations
- The amount of support materials the vendor has published/made available
- Features available that will be needed for campaigns
- Independent reviews
Think about what your marketing strategy will look like over the next couple of years; how will market automation support those various campaigns? Finally, plan to implement campaigns sooner rather than later; don’t sit on automation technology once you have it. You’ll be slaying giants in no time.