4 Tips for Choosing a Marketing Automation Tool
They call NFL a copycat league, where one team engineers a new playing style and the rest of the teams are quick to mimic. Well, you can say the same thing about the publishing market. Several years ago, a handful of publishers began to make the leap and implement marketing automation tools like Hubspot, Marketo, and ActOn, to name a few.
Those early adopters have sparked a trend in the media space. Across the board, media companies are either looking at or implementing marketing automation tools to improve event registrations, streamline the subscription process, enhance lead generation programs, and more.
But, the selection of a marketing automation tool is not an easy process. There are a ton of factors to consider – from integration to process to workflow and much more.
For the past few months, I’ve had the chance to work with several companies on either improving their marketing automation processes or defining the need for a marketing automation tool. From those conversations, here’s 4 key tips for walking through the marketing automation tool selection process.
Tip #1: It Starts with You
Like many technologies, there is a clear buzz in the market around the rollout of marketing automation tools in the media sector. That buzz makes it easy to say, “I need this to solve my problems.”
But, the question publishers must ask first is, “What problems am I trying to solve?”
Like any other technology rollout, the successful rollout of a marketing automation tool starts with first defining your needs. It’s easy to say, “I need drip marketing capabilities” or “I need a marketing automation tool to improve subscription renewals.” But, if you’re going to succeed, you need to be a lot more specific up front. Take the time to walk through the areas where you see marketing automation as an option and walk through potential workflows. For example, if you’re sending an email promotion to generate event attendee registration, there are several flows to consider:
- A user opens, clicks, and registers
- A user opens, clicks, but doesn’t register
- A user opens, but doesn’t click
- A user doesn’t open
In each case here, you can set a different workflow and a different messaging scheme.
In the case of a subscription renewals, you may want to set up a process where a user receives a special pop-up message to re-subscribe if their subscription is up or to subscribe if they are not one already.
These are both solutions where marketing automation can help. But, they may only be a few of the scenarios you have. So, to the best of your ability, identify the different use cases. You can then use these use cases to set up proof of concept campaigns with vendors during the RFP selection process.
Tip #2: Easy Workflow Set Up
One way in which today’s marketing automation tool vendors excel is in the breadth of features they offer in their product. But, that large feature set is a blessing and a curse. Just like many analytics tools, it’s easy to get lost and overwhelmed by the amount of capabilities found in today’s modern marketing automation products.
But, no matter what tool you use, one feature stands out more than most – the ability to easily set up workflows. Workflows lie at the heart of the marketing automation tool and are the keys to building a successful automation campaign. When looking at tools, search for one that offers a visual experience where workflows can be created or adapted by dragging and dropping blocks. This makes the workflow process more intuitive to a user and quicker to implement.
Most modern tools offer this capability. If you’re looking at a tool that doesn’t, you may want to look at additional options.
Tip #3: Get a Dedicated IP Address
Here’s the number one mistake some publishers, especially smaller ones, make when selecting a marketing automation tool. Marketing automation tool providers will push for all emails to go out through the tool. They have good reason for it. If you’re going to truly automate marketing efforts, then it’s critical to understand how users are interacting with all emails.
However, this is where some publishers have made a big mistake. To save on cost, some publishers are leveraging one of the shared IP addresses from the tool provider. That means that your emails are traveling on the same channels as other marketing partners that may not be following the same best email practices you are. So, if they do something wrong, it can have a direct impact on your marketing efforts. And, when you add in a higher-value email product like a newsletter to the mix, then you are opening yourself up for potential issues from both an editorial and business perspective.
So how bad can this be? The top complaint that I hear from publishers about marketing automation tool providers is that their emails have been blacklisted after moving the emails to a marketing automation tool. Now, I can’t say this is 100% true, but from my experience, this has happened the most with firms that are using a shared IP address for their mailings. So, they may be blacklisted, not for something you did, but for something another mailer did on the IP.
Adding a dedicated IP address for your emails will add cost. But, that cost is easily justified. Getting on one blacklist can cause a huge headache for your team and take days, if not weeks to resolve. So, without a doubt, adding a dedicated IP to your account is a critical piece of the marketing automation tool selection process.
Tip #4: Understand Your Costs
As we all know, cost is key contributor to the overall selection of any tool. Selecting a marketing automation tool is no different. The tools I’ve reviewed to date are all priced based on a contact model. Basically, the price is based on the number of contacts loaded in the system.
But, how providers charge for these contacts differs. Some marketing automation providers will charge based on the total contacts in the database. Other will charge based on active contacts. Some use a costing approach that combines contacts and email deliverability.
Make sure you understand the approach each vendor is using. Also make sure give providers real numbers from your list so that you can get a real estimate of the costs you’ll encounter when implementing a marketing automation tool.
The above tips are just four of the key factors to consider when selecting a marketing automation tool, Other issues should be considered like:
- Ease of email creation
- Ease of integration with your CMS and audience system
- Implementation timelines
One of the key things to keep in mind here is that the implementation of a marketing automation tool in your organization will only succeed if you have a team dedicated to using it. In many occasions, I’ve talked to media execs that say they have the tool, but are not using it as well as they need to. Purchasing a marketing automation tool is no small investment. So make sure you have the team and processes in place to get the most from the tool once it’s rolled out in your organization.
Rob Keenan is the President of Keenan Media, LLC, a consultancy firm providing digital, content, marketing, and audience support to the media sector. Rob has worked in the BtoB media sector for 20 years, most recently at the VP of Online Media for Edgell Communications. You can contact Rob at firstname.lastname@example.org.You can also follow him on twitter @robkeenan11 or connect with him on LinkedIn.