At Bigfish, we find that we’re often involved in conversations with prospects and clients on the topic of marketing automation software and the various vendors offering those services. We know how to use many of them, we operate these systems FOR some of our clients—we’re always happy to discuss our experiences with companies in the process of evaluating (or revaluating) marketing automation tools for their own use. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the market has to offer and what differentiates the products.
First, a brief overview of what marketing automation tools (MATs) are designed to do. Basically, MATs use automation to replace high-touch, repetitive processes performed by people. This amounts to the typical electronic storage, streamlining, and error-reduction capacities attributed to many software solutions. Broadly speaking in the case of MATs, sales and marketing teams use them to plan, coordinate, execute, manage, and assess all of their marketing campaigns at the touch of a few keystrokes.
Next, an important point: MATs are not one-size-fits-all systems. Small to midmarket sized businesses (SMBs), for instance, don’t have the same database requirements of an enterprise level company. There are probably hundreds of MATs on the market—because there are hundreds of niches for each of them to fit into. Oh, and lots of price ranges, too, mostly depending on your number of users and contacts.
Now then, let’s talk (SMBs). Some of the well-known, reputable MAT brands in this segment include SaaS platforms like Infusionsoft, LeadSquared, Hubspot, and Ontraport. A small company with 1-2 users can expect to reach out to a few thousand contacts, segmented based upon position in the sales funnel, for roughly $2-300/month. Larger companies needing system access for 5-10 users and perhaps 50,000 contacts will need to spend $2000/month (or more) to send inbound touches such as email, links to special landing pages, social media posts, direct mail, and phone calls on a well-organized basis. Importantly, the best MATs integrate with other commonly-used software programs like Outlook, Gmail, and Salesforce. If you’re considering a MAT with limited integrations, we recommend you look elsewhere. Another key factor to think about: listening in on web traffic and social media. If a MAT can track responses to your social media output, that’s a big plus.
On to enterprise level MATs. This segment includes brands like Pardot, Eloqua, and Marketo. Many of the companies deploying these solutions have at least 20 users within and without their organizations, and 100,000+ contacts. In terms of integrations, these large-capacity MATs interact seamlessly with hundreds of other programs. They gather data on the status of contacts and campaigns, and turn the data into that Holy Grail called actionable intelligence. A quick word on that: if you don’t analyze your results thoroughly to refine your strategies, you are operating on hunches and pet theories. In other words, you’re taking wild guesses, and that’s playing with fire. Alternatively, the MATs we mentioned above can tell you, in readily understandable, graphical terms, where you need to make changes and where you can build on success. This capacity to pull real-time information from a lot of incoming numbers isn’t cheap: expect to spend $5,000/month (and up) for the privilege. Of course, if you use that information to target and win more effectively, that’s money well-spent.
Here’s your takeaway: bang for your marketing buck can rise dramatically when you automate sales and marketing processes including individual campaigns and movements within your sales funnel. And good business sense dictates that you base marketing decisions on cross-referenced reporting as your numbers come in, rather than intuition. After all, the big data revolution isn’t taking the world by storm for nothing. We named names above…every MAT brand has its strengths and weaknesses…large and small changes in this part of the marketing world happen frequently—if you’d like to hear more about our viewpoints and the ways we work with MATs, we’d love to have that chat.
A handy MAT evaluation checklist:
- How many users will need access to your system (including partners)?
- How many contacts will you reach out to with inbound touches?
- How many key software programs do you need to integrate with your MAT?
- How many daily decisions are based upon gut feelings instead of data?
- Do you A/B test your marketing campaigns?
- Where do the MAT systems on the market fit into your marketing budget?
- Should you outsource the management of your MAT to optimize ROI?