DIGITAL INTERACTIVE SERVICES
How to Select a Marketing Automation Tool for Your Small Business in 2023
Robust omnichannel marketing support is de rigueur for sales teams, and by extension, enterprises to succeed. As companies grow, they put together their marketing programs brick by brick, person by person and reach a point where a marketing automation platform becomes vital for further growth.
Marketing automation platforms are almost always Software as a Service (Saas) web-based platforms that offer a panoply of features that let you set up, track, report and analyse your marketing campaigns. Some of the leading platforms include HubSpot, Marketo, ActiveEngage, ConstantContact and Oracle Eloqua.
Most tools offer the same basic set of features. Here is a listing of key features that you must consider as you evaluate tools:
- Lead management – the ability to store information on leads, and track them through as they move through the sales funnel towards conversion
- Email campaigns – templates and tools to set up and send drip emails, newsletters, alerts and notifications
- Social marketing – track and analyse your social media marketing campaigns across different portals
- Analytics – the ability to dissect the data that flows out of your digital properties and campaigns to analyse user behaviour and campaign efficacy.
Tools also offer Customer Relationship Management (CRM), campaign design, personalisation, workflow automation, advanced lead scoring, access management, landing pages and A/B testing capabilities, among others. Some businesses seek specific features such as internationalisation, mobile optimisation, webinar marketing or calendaring. We recommend that you draw up a list of features that are high priority for your 2023 roadmap, and score various tools for that set.
Confronted with a wealth of alternatives and rich features, how are small businesses to select the right marketing automation tool for themselves? As we enter 2023, here are some important criteria that will help you slice and dice the capabilities of the various tools on offer in the marketplace.
- Budget - It goes without saying that pricing is an essential criterion, particularly for small businesses. Although most marketing automation tools are SaaS-based, evaluations reveal if they have pricing structures and packages that are friendly for small and medium ventures. Some platforms target large enterprises squarely. With that focus built into their DNA, their small business offerings are afterthoughts – meaning, they don’t really have viable pricing or feature bundling for small businesses.
Determine what budget range you have and look at tools that are within that range.
- Customer experience – Evaluate tools with the customer experience lens – look at online reviews to determine if the tool offers good customer support. Is onboarding and migration of data a smooth affair? Are the user interface and user experience friendly for novice users? How is the learning curve associated with the software? Ensure the tool is supported by a full-fledged help system, with ‘how-to’ videos and personnel on call for issues.
A targeted search online, including video reviews on YouTube, and product reviews on portals such as G2 and Capterra, will elicit much of this information.
There may be tradeoffs involved that you will flesh out as you assess this criterion – for example, tools that may be super easy to use may not score high on customisations. This may be a tradeoff you are willing to live with for a few years, if you have a small team.
- Features – As we mentioned before, almost all packages have similar sets of features. Some tools emphasise a particular aspect of digital marketing over others. For example, MailChimp is an automation tool that grew from its origins in being a world-class email engine. Depending on your marketing roadmap and emphasis on particular types of campaigns (social vs. emails, analytics vs. a wide variety of templates), some features may be more important to you than others.
- Integrations – Does the tool offer seamless out-of-the-box integration with social media platforms such as LinkedIn, Facebook, or data analytics platforms such as Google Analytics and others? Do you need to use third-party software such as Zapier to perform such integrations? If yes, do you have the time and/or people with the capabilities to perform such integrations? Does the company’s onboarding support include integration setup?
These are the questions you must ask yourself as you evaluate the tools for integrations. Some integrations may be at the Application Programming Interface (API) level that may require coding support.
As you draw up your comparison sheet, keep your marketing team’s capabilities and limitations in mind, as well as your team’s size and whether you plan to expand the team in 2023. Do not buy subscriptions to tools that the team is not capable of learning to use and integrate. As a marketing leader, you must also emphasise the importance of moving to such a platform and track tool usage, ensuring adoption across the board for your campaigns.
We wish you a 2023 filled with marketing success!
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