Marketing Automation Platforms
The number of marketing automation platforms have exploded in the last several years and it is easy to see why. As a marketer, there are never enough marketing resources to manage the company’s customers, prospective customers and the pipeline. We are also on a journey to do more with less and increase efficiencies. Those of you looking into a system might be wondering where to start. My best advice is to do your homework and pick one this is the right size and suitable for your business needs. Questions? Give me a call and I will be happy to help.
Why use a marketing automation platform?
The foundational reason for using Marketing Automation software is to be more efficient with your sales, leads and customer follow-up. You and your team will be able to understand which prospective customers you should focus your efforts on from the lead scoring system. However, the benefits of marketing automation goes way beyond simply automating your marketing department’s repetitive tasks.
Marketing Automation, when set up correctly, is fabulous, but the very term sounds a bit mysterious and difficult. Even when sales & marketing staff have a basic understanding of what it is, there isn’t ever enough time to research the hundreds of software packages available and pick the right one. Marketing automation software is available at the enterprise level at a large price point to the small business level for teams of 1, at wildly different price points. The decision as to which one to pick is difficult, and involves a lot of research.
Jordie Van Rijn put together some amazing information about marketing automation statistics here. As Alexandra Skey writes here, we already use marketing automation platforms in different ways in our everyday workflows, we just haven’t recognized it as such.
Other benefits include:
- Follow up with new leads quickly and efficiently: Imagine a world where your new leads get a beautifully written email talking about how nice it was to meet them. All you have to do is put them into your CRM and tag them with “the nurture campaign” (or whatever you would like to call it) and the rest just happens. Then 3 days later, the system would send out a 2nd email to keep in touch and highlighting some of the ways you might be able help them. And, so you see, marketing automation is about helping you follow-up, nurture leads and make sales.
- Nurture your customers after you make the sale: Don’t stop talking to your customers post-sale. Think about the whole sales and marketing process, and what value your content and expertise can bring to new and existing customers. With the proper configurations of your system, you can apply the same methodologies of profiling, segmenting, and nurturing to your existing customers that you apply to your prospective customers.
- Boost your customer lifetime value: Marketing automation is perfect for up-selling and cross-selling into other other product lines or services. Use tags in the system to remind customers of maintenance or other routine issues. You could even remind customers when their warranty is about to expire and encourage them to come in for service or buy another warranty. It all depends on your product line and how you service your customers.
- Maximize the use of content: Creating good content is expensive, so re-purpose it. Use every piece of content you create, whether it is a video, a podcast, a sales sheet, a promotion, or a blog post in as many ways as possible.
- Online sales leads have a short life cycle: Review this fabulous article from the Harvard Business Review about how companies invest heavily to generate online sales leads from their websites. I quote, “Firms that tried to contact potential customers within an hour of receiving a query were nearly seven times as likely to qualify the lead (which we defined as having a meaningful conversation with a key decision maker) as those that tried to contact the customer even an hour later—and more than 60 times as likely as companies that waited 24 hours or longer.“
Below is a list of marketing automation platforms that are typically well-regarded and gain favorable reviews for small and mid-size businesses. You can be sure than one of the platforms described below will meet your needs.
Lightweight marketing automation platforms for small to mid-size businesses
Drip is lightweight and fabulous. I personally use Drip for my business and I love it for its simplicity and efficiency.
An easy one, for small teams at a low pricepoint ($49 per month) is Drip Marketing Automation Software. I use Drip and it is a lightweight platform compared to some of the software giants. It is easy to use, offers a free demo, does not require a set-up fee or a meeting with one of their salespeople. I reached out to their support one time and got a quick response.
This system is presented as an all-in-one marketing platform combining the power of email marketing, marketing automation, and sales/CRM automation. Send newsletters, design beautiful email campaigns, and keep in touch with your contacts and customers. Automate your marketing channels using personal and behavioral data about your contacts. The CRM is CRM lite, which is perfect for many businesses. Prices are very reasonable and start at $9 per month. ActiveCampaign offers a free 14 day trial.
LeadSquared is rated highly by several reviewers and bills itself as the customer acquisition software your business needs to “Land More Leads & Close More Deals”. Its easy for you to organize lead capture and analyze revenue potential of all the lead sources. Seamless to build and engage relationships with your audience across multiple channels. Intelligent lead insights help your sales teams identify, follow and close sales ready leads. Powerful marketing and revenue analytics will keep you on top of your business. This platform’s prices start at $15 per month. A free trial is available for 15 days.
Inspired by drawing campaigns on a whiteboard, Autopilot helps you visually automate your marketing on a drag and drop canvas. Create personalized customer journeys based on behavior and nurture your contacts with email, in-app messaging, sms and direct mail. Built-in integrations to popular tools like Salesforce, Segment, Twilio, Slack and Zapier make it easy to connect systems and message consistently across online, offline and mobile channels. You can try it free for 30 days. Plans start from $4/mo.
Simple, yet elegantly intelligent, Hatchbuck is sales & marketing software that automates your sales and marketing efforts overnight. Turn emails into conversations, website visitors into handshakes, and customers into raving fans. This software starts at $79 per month and does not have a free trial available, which I consider to be a major drawback!
7Sheep’s pricing starts at $59 per month and offers a 30 day free trial. Love the 30 day free trial, all software companies should offer a 30 day free trial! 7Sheep’s product is a user-friendly, affordable marketing automation platform for marketing communications professionals. The platform is an efficient all-in-one solution that eliminates the need for separate spreadsheets, online event, survey and email marketing tools.
SharpSpring is a cloud-based marketing automation provider offering a next-generation marketing automation solution rivaling the industry’s top platforms in terms of features, functionality and performance. SharpSpring is one of the most flexible platforms on the market, offering native or 3rd party CRM integration, fully integrated call tracking, universal CMS compatibility, in addition to integration with hundreds of applications. SharpSpring does not offer a free trial and does not list pricing on their website – which is not inline with the competition, a definite negative!
The Big Marketing Automation Platforms
The following companies are well known in the marketplace for their marketing automation platforms. They are the big names and typically cost more, have more features and have a complex setup process with a higher learning curve. They have pros and cons, but are definitely geared towards larger companies with dedicated marketing resources.
- Marketo: Large and powerful.
- Pardot: Owned by salesforce.com.
- Eloqua: Part of the Oracle marketing cloud.
- Act-On: A rising star but a bit difficult to set up.
- Hubspot: Provides great blogs and resources.
Are you ready for your marketing automation platform?
Although marketing automation systems are still a new concept to most SME’s, the benefits of these systems far outweigh the complexity and the set-up time typically required.
With most of these systems, if the set-up process is done properly a return on investment is seen around 6 months.
Best of luck to you!