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10 Tips for Evaluating a Marketing Automation Solution

Chris Osterhout SVP of Strategy
#Digital Marketing, #Inbound Marketing, #Digital Strategy
Published on July 6, 2016

We look at 10 things that you need to consider when determining whether a Marketing Automation Platform is right for your organization.

In today’s competitive online landscape, many organizations struggle to reach their customers and stand out against the torrent of information that is always available. If you’re trying to find a way to demonstrate the value of your products or services to your customers, Inbound Marketing is a great way to provide people with the information they are looking for and show them how you can help them solve their problems.

One key part of any Inbound Marketing strategy is a marketing automation platform (MAP) that allows an organization to capture lead information, schedule email and social media messages, and integrate with other connected systems to eliminate the gaps in your digital strategy.

However, many organizations are not sure how to evaluate whether a MAP is a good fit for their needs. In order to help you determine whether a marketing automation solution is right for you, we’ve compiled the following tips:

1. Anonymous Visitor Tracking

Does the MAP which you are evaluating provide the capability to track prospective customers that have not yet converted on your site? Being able to track the activity of your site’s visitors, personalize a user’s experience to deliver the information that is most valuable to them, and guide them through the buyer’s journey is one of the most valuable aspects of a marketing automation platform, so you’ll want to be certain that your platform will provide you with this important capability.

2. Web-to-Lead Forms

Does your prospective MAP offer the ability to create lead capture forms that can be easily embedded on your site? Capturing lead information is one of the most important aspects of an inbound marketing strategy, so you need a marketing automation solution that allows you to create forms that are versatile and easy to use.

Pro tip: Make sure the forms created in your MAP are natively responsive, so that you will be able to reach users on mobile devices.

3. Setup and Development Time

How much time will you need to budget from your development team or digital partner in order to integrate your MAP with your website? Setting up marketing automation includes creating new forms, calls to action (CTAs), and landing pages; determining what contact information you want to capture; and integrating the platform with your social media accounts. Make sure you understand the amount of work needed in order to complete this setup, as well as what will be required to manage your day to day inbound marketing efforts.

4. Landing Pages

One of the key parts of an inbound marketing strategy is creating content offers which your prospective customers will want to download. Does your MAP provide you with the ability to easily create landing pages where your prospects will be able to fill out a form and download an offer? Are these landing pages responsive? Ensuring that you have the tools in place to capture lead information in return for valuable content offers is an essential aspect of your inbound marketing strategy.

5. A/B Testing

Does your MAP provide the ability to perform tests on your landing pages, CTAs, or other content? Being able to test different variations of the messaging and content you provide to your users helps eliminate the guessing process about how people convert on your site. Having the ability to perform these kinds of tests within your MAP can make a big difference in determining what customers respond to and how best to meet their needs.

6. Blogging

Creating and curating content is a key part of an inbound marketing strategy. Does your prospective MAP provide a platform for creating the blog content that will attract visitors to your site, or will you need to use another system to integrate a blog into your website? Ideally, you’ll want to be able to combine all of your inbound marketing efforts within one system, integrating blogs, CTAs, and landing pages to ensure that visitors never reach a dead end and always understand the next steps that they can take.

7. Analytics

Does your MAP provide its own analytics data, or does it integrate with an external system like Google Analytics? Many marketing automation platforms provide analytics on how your customers interact with your blogs, landing pages, and CTAs, but you may also need to employ a more robust analytics system to get a full picture of how people interact with you online. Understanding what analytics your MAP tracks and how this fits into your overall analytics picture is key to being able to realize success in your digital strategy.

8. Reporting

What reports does your prospective MAP provide to show how well your inbound marketing efforts are paying off? It’s important to be able to track macro and micro conversions, see how prospects are progressing through the marketing funnel, and determine the ROI for your inbound marketing strategy, which will allow you to adjust your strategy to ensure you are meeting your customers’ needs and providing them with the value that will encourage them to convert.

9. Content Calendar

Does your MAP provide you with a way to plan your content efforts in advance and then execute on that plan? Being able to use a content calendar to schedule blogs, social media messages, and email campaigns can allow you to streamline and align your content creation efforts and ensure that every action you take fits into your overall inbound marketing strategy.

10. Integration

How well does your prospective MAP integrate with your CMS, CRM, or other connected systems? Being able to connect these different systems together will allow you to make sure your data is consistent throughout your organization, eliminating the possibility of data silos. Understanding how to integrate these systems through tools like Diagram's HubSpot-Episerver Connector will help you unify your knowledge and bring more value to your digital strategy.

Bonus! Don't Forget Social Media

Ideally, your MAP will provide you with the ability to control your presence across multiple social channels all in one place, allowing you to evaluate social campaigns, track your social influence, discover how people are interacting with you, and determine how long it takes to close leads from different social channels.

When used correctly, a Marketing Automation Platform is an invaluable tool that can unify your inbound marketing efforts and provide you with the information and capabilities you need to attract prospects and convert them into customers. Following these tips will help you determine whether your chosen MAP will provide you with the tools you need to make your inbound marketing strategy a success. If you have any questions about implementing a marketing automation solution, please contact us, and we’ll help you get started. If you have any tips of your own, we’d love to hear them! Please share them in the comments below.