What to consider when choosing marketing automation tools

By Stellan Björnesjö

What to consider when choosing marketing automation tools

It's easy to get lost in feature comparisons and pricing discussions when deciding what marketing automation tool(s) to use. However, as vital as they are, there are even more important things to consider for maximum likelihood of reaching your project objectives. In this article, I aim to shine a light on some of them. 

What people tend to look for

At Zooma, we've been working with marketing automation since 2012, and thus we've seen quite a few projects come and go. What customers are focused on varies, of course, but a few factors have always been present:

  • The cost of the software, meaning the pricing model and how that affects the overall licensing budget. Can a new marketing automation solution replace one or several other tools to offset the additional cost?
  • The cost of training everyone involved, meaning user-friendliness, is essential. How easy is it for someone with no previous experience to understand the tool and become operational? 
  • Analytics and reporting; will this tool enable us to do "360" or "closed-loop" reporting so that Marketing can prove to Sales that they bring real value and isn't just a cost centre?
  • Having an all-in-one, integrated solution. Everything increases, including the number of tools used by companies, so how can this solution help simplify and reduce our tech stack? Can it also reduce the number of complex or custom integrations?
  • Lead nurturing; how can this tool help automate the qualification of leads for our sales teams? Note: This point is often mistaken for "how can the tool generate more leads?" (Which isn't the job of marketing automation per se.)
  • Campaign automation; when we launch this new product, can the tool automate relevant parts of the marketing communication?
  • References; what other companies like ours are using this tool? And are there local representatives, partners or agencies that can help us get going and support us on our journey?

Above are all relevant points. In our work, as a partner to several platforms with automation at their core, we're trying to help customers focus on the goal; what job is it that we're trying to achieve with marketing automation? But we're also trying to add other dimensions to the marketing automation tool discussion that is vital for a successful outcome.

What people should look out for

Just recently, I came across an article on marketingcharts.com around the subject of "Most Marketers Say They're Not Getting the Most Out of Their Marketing Automation Tools. Why?" It's a relevant topic as it reflects our experience from the past ten years of some of the prerequisites for running a successful marketing automation operation. And it highlights that the most significant barriers to success are part of what people should really be looking out for when preparing to invest in marketing automation.

So, when making a choice, remember these critical barriers to success, many of them unrelated to the more feature-intense focus above:

  • Lack of training: Interestingly enough, despite training often being discussed as a critical factor, when push comes to shove, staff tend to have more than one thing going on, and something else is often more important than getting trained. 
  • Lack of resources to manage: Always underestimated. As we've mentioned when talking about marketing automation, the danger of the word "automation" is that managers think existing resources can also handle this. And therefore, additional resources aren't budgeted.
  • Lack of budget to maintain: Linked to lack of resources, but in the way that the false narrative of handling everything internally sometimes leads to not getting the expert advice that would improve the overall ROI. 
  • Complicated setup: The "time to market" and complexity factor is essential to consider but often overlooked. Or, as Leonardo Da Vinci once said, "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication".
  • Slow onboarding process: This factor is often underestimated, especially at the local level. The global team, who usually has fewer other "musts" than resources managing the website at a local level has, is onboard, so how hard can it be to roll out across markets? Immensely challenging sometimes in our experience, so don't underestimate this factor. 
  • Inability to integrate with other tools: This problem is a never-ending challenge despite being on everyone's mind. 
  • Missing or inadequate features: In our experience, this is a relatively minor issue (compared to many of the other factors). Most marketing automation tools are highly feature-rich and offer more power than necessary. As mentioned separately, integrations can be an issue, as can scalability across multiple countries/markets and languages.
  • Decentralised data: When you want to do automation, you need data on individuals and groups of individuals. So if your data is scattered around, an initial challenge is to bring it together if you want to leverage it. 
  • Lack of internal adoption or buy-in: This could be re-phrased as a lack of management buy-in at the right level. In turn, this leads to a lack of training, resources and budget. In our experience, changing incentives is key by connecting a successful outcome to key individuals' personal metrics.

As you've seen, there is a lot to think about when selecting marketing automation tool(s). Hopefully, this article can help set you on the right track for you and your organisation.

If you'd like to keep learning more about marketing automation, make sure to take a look at our guide on the topic. It's also available as downloadable PDF - get it below.

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Stellan Björnesjö
Online Strategist at Zooma since 2012. 15+ years of experience as a manager, business developer and specialist within online and e-commerce.
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