When considering an email marketing or marketing automation platform, it’s easy to get analysis paralysis comparing features, promises and pricing tiers. With so many options, where do you start?
Whether you’re shopping for an alternative marketing automation platform, preparing an email or marketing automation platform RFP, or just starting to consider which platform might be right for the next level of your marketing efforts, the following questions can help you choose the right marketing automation platform for your digital marketing needs:
Be Selfish for a Minute
You are, in effect, hiring a new member of the marketing team. What do you expect this teammate to do? How will it support the rest of your team? What features (skillset) are required? What jobs will you trust to it? As important, what are you not willing to risk (hint: your brand)? Following are some fundamentals that marketers expect from an automated platform – as well as some less apparent factors to consider:
Marketing Automation Will Make Us More Productive
The right platform absolutely should make your team more productive with easy-to-use design tools, automated workflows, highly customized messaging and the ability to create and schedule social posts. If productivity is your primary goal, look for a platform that is full-featured (beware of add-on pricing strategies) and easy to use. Key productivity features include intuitive design, automated workflows, campaign tracking, scheduling tools and social posting.
Beware of Hidden Productivity Killers
A long list of included features can be tantalizing as you envision all of the great marketing you’ll do. They can also be deceiving. Some platforms tout infinite feature sets but are notoriously difficult to navigate. Don’t be tempted by platforms that are feature-rich but have a poor user experience. Keep an eye out for the following:
- Clunky Interface. How intuitive is the platform? Is there a steep learning curve with complex integrations? If the platform is frustratingly difficult to use, you haven’t gained any productivity. In fact, you may have pushed your team away from a tactic that consistently delivers the highest ROI (email marketing, of course). Look for a clean, modern interface that is designed for marketers rather than a coding team.
- FAQs instead of training. What type of training is available? Do you have access to live training or just an online FAQ? Scouring websites for an answer can be discouraging and certainly doesn’t move your marketing forward. Ask about live training and certification courses that can help you master the platform.
- Slow response times. What is the average response time to support questions, and is it sufficient to meet the needs of your team?
- Black hole for feature requests. How does the provider respond to feature requests? Do you get an actual response or does the request drop into a queue that the engineers may never see?
- Unclear path forward. What if the tool works but you’re not getting the results you expected? Who is available to help you? Many call centers (trust me on this) hire customer service agents for voice quality and customer service skills, with the idea that they can learn marketing as they go. (That usually doesn’t work.) Ask about the qualifications of the support team, as well as access to higher level support. In an optimal scenario, the platform is supported by experienced marketers and backed by a full-service digital marketing agency that can help with email assessments and strategy.
Marketing Automation Will Make Our Marketing More Effective
If marketing results are your priority, look for an automated marketing platform that offers A/B testing, email previews, analytics, personalization and customization. A savvy marketer should be able to create automated workflows that are highly personalized to the reader without an enormous level of effort. Does the platform allow for one-to-many messaging, or one-to-one?
Factors that impede effectiveness:
- Limited testing. If you’re not testing, you’re not trying. Does the platform offer A/B (or more) testing? Are you able to define the criteria for “winning”? Will the platform automatically send the “winning” email to the remainder of the group?
- Tiered feature sets. Does your team have access to all of the features on the platform, or are the critical features accessible only in a “Premium” tier?
- Inconsistent delivery rates. A great message doesn’t matter if it doesn’t get through. The platform should
- Include (at no extra charge) the ability to preview emails in a variety of email clients, such as Gmail and Outlook.
- Enforce authentication protocols to ensure high delivery and compliance?
- Offer dedicated IPs.
A Marketing Automation Platform Will Elevate Our Brand
Any digital marketing automation platform should be flexible enough to accommodate your brand standards, while still being easy to use.
Avoid Brand Killers, such as:
- Copycat designs. It’s not hard to spot an email from a budget email service provider. While the colors may be different, the templates are limited and not overly customizable. Look for a platform that offers robust design capabilities that do not require coding knowledge. Examples include drag-and-drop design; a variety of design formats; the ability to modify to meet brand standards; and links to social platforms. You may even look at the ability to customize icons and other design elements, such as call-to-action buttons.
Personalized emails deliver 6x higher transaction rates, but 70% of brands fail to use them, according to Marketingland.com.
- Limited Personalization. Personalization needs to go beyond including a first name in the subject line. To get to true one-to-one marketing, look for a platform that allows deeper personalization.
- Segmentation and queries. On a platform that offers queries, you can create groups based on behaviors, key dates, geography and other attributes, and tailor the message accordingly.
- Variable Content and Custom Fields. Are you able to link a specific content to a custom field, so that your message is targeted to a unique customer attribute? For example, you may want to send a “sale” alert to a large list, but tailor your message based on the customer’s last purchase. With content blocks and custom fields, you can personalize the message on a large-scale send.
- Does the workflow allow you to tailor your message based on logical decisions? For example, will your follow-up email vary, depending on whether the recipient did or did not open the first email?
- Alternate endings for surveys. Do you have the ability to send different messages based on how a person responded to your survey? For example, you may want to send a “please tell your friends” note to someone who provides a high user satisfaction rating, while a low score receives a “We’ll fix it” message.
And Finally… What Are Users Saying?
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