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It hasn't gotten any easier for marketing teams looking to choose marketing automation software. The ballooning number of SaaS software solutions (Blissfully 2020 SaaS Trends Report) for every marketing need means sitting through live demos or wading through product sheets and case studies can be exhausting.

Well, we've done all that work for you. Below, we share what you need to be evaluating when looking to pick the right marketing automation platform, and more.

What are Marketing Automation Tools?

Marketing automation software streamlines the various marketing tasks your marketing team handles daily. For example, you can automate the setup of digital ads, create social media posts and responses, automate the setup of web forms, and create personalized email campaigns.

This technology reduces manual data entry and creates automated workflows that result in improved lead generation and increase the chances of conversion. The right digital marketing automation platform uses your customer data to trigger the various automation workflows you have set up.

Do You Need Marketing Automation Software?

Let's forget about the dreary nature of repetitive tasks or the mental exhaustion from creating 50 personalized ABM landing pages for your target accounts for a minute. Studies by Nucleus found the following benefits from teams using some of the best marketing automation software out there to automate marketing tasks:

  • A 14.5% increase in sales productivity
  • A significant reduction in marketing overhead across marketing departments
  • A staggering 451% surge in qualified leads for small businesses
  • Nurtured customers make purchases that are 47% larger compared to their non-nurtured counterparts.

What's not to like? These statistics show that a marketing automation tool directly impacts your bottom line. But before thumbing through Google for the best marketing automation platforms, it's important to consider whether investing in one supports your marketing strategy and, subsequently, your business goals.

If your business is at a stage where the benefits of a marketing automation tool — such as improved communication workflows, lead generation, customer relationship management, and enhanced customer engagement — outweigh the costs, then getting the best marketing automation platform for your business goals can be a growth catalyst.

9 Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Marketing Automation Platform

If your gut reaction to the idea of "evaluating marketing automation platforms" was an eye roll, that's understandable. Here are the criteria I use to pick the best marketing automation tools.

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1. Assess Your Current Marketing Processes

How do you currently run your social media campaigns? Do you have any social media automation set up, or does your team approach social one campaign at a time? It's tempting to jump straight into tool selection when choosing marketing automation software.

However, you need to take a step back, review your existing marketing processes, and identify which process could do with an automated workflow. Here's a three-step guide for the evaluation process:

  1. Step 1: Evaluate Current Marketing Workflows: Start by examining your existing marketing process and pinpointing likely candidates for marketing automation. This is a great time to check whether your current marketing process supports your business goals.
  2. Step 2: Identify Improvement Opportunities: Take a hard look at the tasks you have identified for automation and note down the areas you'll be looking to improve. It's important not to create workflows for the sake of automation.
  3. Step 3: Map Out Marketing Efforts: You'll need to ensure your automation choices support your current marketing focus. So make sure that whatever part of the process you deem fit for automation improves your approach to customer engagement, supports the customer journey, and doesn't further complicate your marketing stack.

2. Compare Features Across Automation Tools

A feature-rich marketing automation platform can be the difference between launching 100s of customized landing pages within 24 hours or spending weeks on repetitive tasks and formatting the landing page assets for your marketing channels.

The best marketing automation platforms usually include contact management features, from lead generation to data analytics capabilities. But mind you, there's no one size fits all. Your criteria for evaluating the features will depend on your budget and the marketing team's needs.

For example, if you plan to run one-to-many ABM content campaigns, the right marketing automation platform will have the capability to host marketing content, integrate with your email marketing software, and kickoff drip campaigns depending on the actions your prospects or sales rep take.

3. Identify the Key Features You Need

The next step, possibly the most important, is identifying the must-have features you need in your marketing automation software. Remember, these features must align with the needs you identified during the assessment stage.

For example, the ability to automate email marketing campaigns, automate lead generation, and build landing pages are non-negotiable for ABM marketers. Content management is also another key automation tool feature for most marketers.

Considering all the recent regulatory changes in customer privacy, robust security, and data management are key features to consider when choosing the right marketing automation platform.

In addition to the above features, the best marketing automation platforms should offer:

  • Ease of use
  • Robust customer data capabilities
  • Powerful capabilities necessary to execute a variety of marketing campaigns
  • Scalability
  • And real-time performance data analysis.

4. Research and Analyze Pricing Structures

Hidden costs can be an ROI-negative booby trap when looking to purchase marketing automation software. You need to consider the following during the evaluation stage:

  • Potential Extra Fees: Be aware of charges for extra features, enhanced customer support, and rates based on the number of contacts you have uploaded or the number of emails sent over a period of time.
  • Hidden Costs and Charges: Look for hidden costs or variable charges associated with any additional features you find crucial to your overall marketing workflow.
  • and understand charges for additional features that are critical for your marketing efforts.
  • Potential for Discounts: Explore the possibility of discounts based on the number of features you require. It might also be wise to speak to existing customers to get a sense of its cost-to-value ratio.

5. Review Case Studies, Customer Testimonials, and Reviews

You've read all the best marketing automation platform articles, and you've reviewed a dozen pricing pages, but you still aren't sure. Cue case studies and customer testimonials. These can help you cut through the clutter by answering the following questions:

  1. Has a business similar to yours benefited from your preferred marketing automation platform?
  2. What are the automation software's most liked features?
  3. What issues do you see reoccurring across the reviews?
  4. Are users satisfied with the support and assistance they receive?
  5. Do reviews suggest that this is a stable and dependable marketing automation platform? No recurrent outages?
  6. Are there tangible improvements in marketing efficiency and outcomes as reported by users?
  7. Are these tools part of the conversation at marketing automation conferences?

Remember, customer reviews and testimonials are more than just star ratings or G2 awards. Spend time reading the reviews and making notes if anything particularly stands out. This might come in handy when you get down to vendor selection.

6. Consider Integration and Compatibility with Your Existing Tech Stack

Will the automation platform integrate with your current tech stack? Or will you manage failed API calls and a frustrated team for the next six months? Your potential marketing automation platform must seamlessly communicate with your existing CRM, analytics, email marketing software, and content management system.

Compatibility with these systems enables accurate data handoff, improved personalization, and a happy sales team as they rack up leads and sales. Furthermore, integrating marketing automation with your CRM systems can lead to:

  • Improved sales and marketing collaboration
  • Detailed behavioral tracking
  • Enhanced lead qualification process
  • And an improved campaign performance.

Ignoring the need for integration across your various marketing tools is like trying to complete a jigsaw puzzle without certain pieces. Your big-picture vision for marketing automation might never come together. You end up with a fragmented view of your customer interactions, leading to poor decision-making and a potential revenue loss.

7. Prioritize User Experience in Your Selection Process

Is the learning curve for your preferred marketing automation platform steep? Is it easy to use? Does the software have tools like educational videos, searchable knowledge bases, and online user communities that help users get comfortable during the onboarding process?

Is the design intuitive enough that all team members, regardless of technical proficiency, can use the software without pulling their hair out?

Yes, you picked the best marketing automation platform on the shelf, but your team's time-to-value is linked to the software's ease of use. So, make sure:

  • The software's interface isn't clunky and hard to understand
  • They offer extensive support options such as help docs, customer forums, and other educational and vendor support that ease learning.

8. Assess Vendor Training and Support Capabilities

Your vendor's training and support capabilities are also key to the adoption of your brand-new marketing automation platform. A comprehensive range of support options and educational resources indicates a vendor who prioritizes user satisfaction and software usability.

Your team should have access to:

  • Immediate assistance through instant support channels
  • Real-time problem-solving via live chat
  • In-depth queries addressed through email support
  • Direct communication through phone support.

These support options ensure seamless onboarding and mean you don't have to spend the next budgeting session justifying your investment in a marketing automation program to your CFO.

9. Explore Analytics and Reporting Capabilities

It is important to measure the impact of any social media automation you have or any other marketing automation efforts happening across the team. This not only justifies your investment in automation but also allows you to track the impact of your marketing strategy on the business goals.

The analytics tools baked into these platforms should allow your team to analyze customer data and find opportunities to tweak or optimize our approach.

10 Marketing Automation Software Options to Consider

Here’s a rigorously vetted list of the best marketing automation tools in the market. We’ve considered what problems you might be trying to solve, integrations, who will need to use the tool, and more, to come up with this list.

Once you've decided on your preferred automation software for email or social media automation, it's time to rock and roll.

Time to Choose Your Marketing Automation Software

Whew, now it's your turn. Whether you're looking to automate your email marketing campaigns or eliminate repetitive tasks, choosing marketing automation platforms should be a breeze once you consider the following:

  • Your business needs
  • The marketing automation software features
  • Integration capabilities
  • The user experience
  • And most importantly, your budget.

So, get to it. To keep yourself one step ahead of the competition, subscribe to our newsletter for more insights and tips on mastering the art of B2B marketing.

Dozie Anyaegbunam
By Dozie Anyaegbunam

Dozie Anyaegbunam is the Senior Editor of The CMO, digital marketing firepower for SaaS pioneers. He's a marketing strategist with years of experience in Marketing, Communications, Ecommerce, and SEO. And has worked across verticals ranging from software to edu-tech, apparel, and F&B, leading teams at B2B SaaS startups, global multinationals, and the public sector. He’s the Founder & Host of The Newcomer’s Podcast featuring immigrants and their stories of moving to a new country, and he’s currently producing a documentary on the immigrant’s experience.