In this blog, Engaging Partners (MA Content Marketing Sponsors and Inbound Marketing specialist agency), share their advice on the right steps to take to evaluate, select and implement a marketing automation platform for business success (and more free time)!

As any experienced marketer knows, there’s a huge variety of marketing automation software platforms available that offer a blend of features suitable for both large and small organisations. Some have originated from traditional Sales SAAS companies, some have emerged from website CMS providers or local email marketing platforms, and some have been purpose-built for Marketers.

New to marketing automation or not sure if you're on the right track? Get our free 'How to: Guide to marketing automation'.

Boyd Wason, Partner, Engaging Partners, offers this advice: “When considering a marketing automation provider, it’s important to choose the software and company that best suits your business and your unique goals. Don’t focus on the individual features - focus on the business results you want to achieve and the long-term partnership you want with your software provider.”

Ask yourself and your key stakeholders the following questions:

  • How will marketing automation complement your business goals and priorities?
  • What relationship do you want with your software provider to achieve these goals?
  • Is your organisation comfortable with cloud-based services that are hosted offshore?

Strategy first

“Too often we meet Marketers who’ve been lumped with a marketing automation platform that no one knows how to use,” says Wason. “Typically the decision had been made by an eager IT team or previous Marketing Manager with great intentions, but no idea how to translate the functionality of the platform into the real world that Marketing and Sales live in.”

The best way to understand your marketing automation needs is to start with the development of a thorough Inbound Marketing strategy. An Inbound Marketing strategy will help you understand your buyer personas and their journey from prospect to customer, so you know what content and processes need to be set up to generate, nurture and convert leads from strangers, into loyal customers and raving fans.

Make it a team decision

The selection of a Marketing Automation platform shouldn’t be a ‘silo’ decision. Armed with a solid strategy, Marketing, Sales and IT should all be involved in the decision.

“However,” cautions Wason,” in reality, the Marketing and Sales team should have the majority of the say. At the end of the day, they’re ones who have to use it – and they are accountable for the results.”

“Sure, consideration must be given to data security, cloud policy and other factors your IT team worry about...but if your IT team is driving the selection of a platform that doesn’t first meet the needs of Marketing and Sales, then be prepared for a bumpy ride.”

Have you got the resources and capability to drive it?

The shift to an Inbound Marketing strategy and marketing automation is a significant

change for most NZ businesses. And it takes a change in mindset and resources to make it work.

“Many Marketing and Sales employees have limited (or sadly, no) knowledge of how to use marketing automation platforms,” says Wason, “and this is where the best strategy in the world will come unstuck.”

So be prepared to either recruit talent, engage an Inbound Agency or train a team that is dedicated to your inbound and marketing automation programme.

Figure out how it will support your sales function

Both the Marketing and Sales teams should be invested in platform selection and have shared goals in terms of what the programme is expected to deliver.

“We see time and time again the Marketing team delivering hard-earned, high quality leads, only to see them disappear into the void of the Sales department if the Sales team aren’t equal stakeholders in the programme,” says Wason.

Marketing automation is increasingly becoming central to the entire customer experience - in fact, leading companies are already using marketing automation in new ways, including driving internal communications, customer satisfaction initiatives and channel optimisation.

“Successful companies are navigating the responsibility of automation between Sales and Marketing functions with CRM integration, so it’s vital to do your homework with the Sales team to ensure they too see a future with the chosen platform,” advises Wason.

Is your CRM helping or hindering your marketing efforts? Maybe it's time to upgrade?

How easy is the platform to use - really?

There’s only one way to find out. Try before you buy. All the platform providers have highly trained sales teams adept at peddling their wares! The only way to really understand how it will work, and if it really is ‘that easy’ is to trial or demo the solution before committing to a license.

Says Wason, “there’s no better way to get a feel for the solution, but if the provider you’re evaluating doesn’t offer a free demo or trial period, then reach out to your peers in other Kiwi companies who use the platform and ask them about their experience...New Zealand is a village!”

And lastly, here are some common-sense tips from Engaging Partners:

  • To implement an agile, efficient Inbound Marketing programme, you don’t want to be reliant on developers to set up and edit basic pages such as landing pages or forms, or to perform simple data queries for you. Make sure you ask around and are clear about the functions you and your team can and can’t do yourself on the platform.
  • Check out the training and support packages the solution provider offers. How comprehensive and intensive are they? Do they provide ‘self-service’ online training or will your team have to attend on-site training courses?
  • What are they like to work with? Even from little-old New Zealand, you can still get a feel for what it’s going to be like working with the big international platform providers. Check out their social channels, sign up for their blogs and watch how they nurture and interact with you. How they do Inbound and marketing automation for themselves will give you a good taste of what they’ll be like to work with. Do they drink the cool-aide or are they super-techy? Understanding the type of people and interactions that you prefer is an important consideration – because you’ll be working with these guys for a while!

New to marketing automation or not sure if you're on the right track? Get our free 'How to: Guide to marketing automation'.