4 Easy Steps to Choosing the Best Marketing Automation Platform for Your StartupMarch 28, 2017
Reading time: 5 mins
Marketing automation is an essential part of your inbound marketing arsenal. Many B2B startups turn to content marketing to generate leads, but without the right marketing automation platform to manage, score, qualify and nurture those leads, your startup cannot fully realize the benefits of your content marketing efforts.
Solutions tailored for startups
Startups require marketing automation platforms tailored specifically to the strict budgets and swift ROI requirements that are the hallmark of their ecosystem.
There are countless types of marketing technologies out there, and your final decision should not be taken lightly. Opting for a free email marketing hub like Mailchimp or a no-cost basic CRM like Insightly might seem like a solid solution that can get the job done. On the other hand, all-in-one solutions like Hubspot for Startups or Womplify can prove invaluable in fuelling quick growth and improving marketing ROI for Growth Stage startups.
The marketing automation platform will assist you with all your marketing efforts; lead nurturing, email personalization, storing and analyzing your prospect’s data, to simplifying communication between sales and marketing teams, ultimately increasing ROI. So how do you decide which one of the many marketing automation platforms on the market will give your startup the most value?
4 Things to Consider When Comparing Marketing Automation Platforms
There are currently 161 vendors of marketing automation and lead management tools. While you can’t explore each one, we’ve put together a few guidelines to help you understand what it is your startup needs from a marketing automation platform, and which features and functions will allow you to reach your goals as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
1. Business Goals
As with everything else in marketing, setting your goals is key to getting the best outcome. Ultimately, we all want and need quality leads, but there are a few questions we can ask, in order to fine tune our decision. At what stage in the buyer's journey are the majority of the leads you’re receiving? Where are they coming from and how many do you have? Does your sales team have the capacity to handle more leads?
Focus on traffic generation If generating quality traffic to your website is top priority, then having a platform for managing your content, SEO, social accounts and email marketing all in one place, can have a tremendous impact. With the right content and social media management tools, you can have an overview of all your marketing activities and tweak your inbound strategy as needed.
Focus on conversion Driving relevant leads into your system is only half the battle. Once those leads start pouring in, you need to focus on lead scoring, nurturing and transferring your MQLs to the sales department.
If you don’t have a dedicated sales team, your marketing automation platform will have to do the nurturing and qualification process for you. You’ll need to track the leads’ progress through the marketing funnel, and target them with the right content just at the right time.
If you have a sales department, you want to be able to seamlessly transfer qualified leads to the sales department and tighten this connection as much as you can.
In order to make the best of your marketing automation and to improve your sales funnel, get inputs from both your sales and marketing teams to understand what your pain points are.. And use them when comparing platforms.
Budgets are a tricky thing. On the one hand we don’t want to choose a solution we can’t afford, but if the solution will generate more business, we’ll return our investment pretty fast. As they say, “It takes money to make money”, and getting the right tools can become a make it or break it moment for your startup’s marketing efforts.
The good news is - you don’t need to spend your entire budget on a marketing automation platform. Depending on your business goals and specific needs, you could get Cadillac results with a Honda priced solution. HubSpot offers a 90% discount packages for startups that tailor a marketing plan and ease some of the financial burden most growth stage startups experience.
Most solutions price their services according to the number of employee accounts or the maximum number of contacts, so do a little research to find out your requirements. Keep in mind, that most solutions worth their salt will allow you to expand as you grow.
If you find a solution that reaches beyond your budget, look for similar alternatives. Most platform have basic programs that you can later grow with by adding additional features.
You need to make sure that the marketing automation platform you choose integrates with other solutions you are currently using. Do not try to fit the way you work into the platform - this should go the other way around. Having a marketing automation platform will help drive revenue, but only as a part of a cohesive strategy, so make sure that the platform you chose smoothly integrates with other tools in your toolbox.
Popular marketing automation platforms like Hubspot, Salesforce and Marketo offer API integrations for blogs, email campaign software, CRMs, content management platforms and websites to encapsulate your marketing strategy. See how the tools you currently use can work with different marketing platforms. The ideal marketing automation platform is the one that makes your life easier, not harder.
The most powerful marketing automation platforms in the world are completely worthless if your team doesn’t know how to use them properly. When shopping for the best solution, consider usability factors such as these:
- Is the platform easy to learn and use?
- Will the reporting features deliver the key metrics I need?
- Does the provider offer technical support or implementation advice?
- What kind of training is included?
- How long will it take us to implement the platform?
- Does the platform offer mobile access?
- Can I restrict certain features and information within the platform by user or job function?
It isn't always easy to visualize every detail without experiencing it for yourself, nor will you always know the right questions to ask before you commit. But the more you can learn about the platform and the results you can anticipate, the better. Define your goals, evaluate specific business needs, and map out adoption routes that will seamlessly automate your marketing efforts without running into roadblocks.As a rule of thumb, I think that the best marketing automation platforms are the ones that provide a broad set of tools, as opposed to only supporting one or two core tasks. In addition, the platforms that are the most suitable for startups can scale and grow together with your startup, so look for solutions that offer plenty of add-on capabilities.