Do we ever get caught up in a tidal wave of technology and believe we need (need! Need!) more sophisticated software, better data management, faster response times, smarter optimization...etc?
Yes, there's a tidal wave of technology, but the question of need is unanswered. As fast as business moves, as platforms change, as trends come in and out, the need for management of time and data is as strong as ever. Of course we are pressured into thinking we need more than we do. Today let's focus on marketing automation.
Does Your Business Need Marketing Automation?
A few assessment questions:
- Is your business e-commerce?
- Do you manage an extensive e-mail database?
- Do you use e-mail, newsletters, blogs or texts to regularly touch base with customers?
- Are you regularly updating more three social media platforms?
If the answer is yes to any or all of these, a marketing automation package would likely make your day-to-day easier. The question becomes how sophisticated, and specifically what does your software need to accomplish.
What Types of Marketing Automation Software Are There?
Marketing automation software has been around since the 1980s, when mail-merges were crucial to sending large quantity mailings. Today the idea of "real time" changes the landscape of marketing automation. Instead of names, addresses and phone numbers, there's an avalanche of data to manage. Where once only large firms hired in-house database and software engineers to build a sophisticated data management system, now even small businesses can access sophisticated though less customized software.
You're a statistic in many marketing automation software systems already. Think about when you visit any online retailer. Visit once and just browse, and the next time, the web site reminds you what you last viewed. Their ads begin to show up in your Facebook feed, and if you register, you begin receiving emails and information on products that may interest you. What else does marketing automation do?
- Organize, save and analyze data
- Schedule content release for social media campaigns
- Maintain a consistent message and appearance among all lines of client interaction
- Personalize what might otherwise feel like (and is) a mass communication
- Improve efficiency through streamlined, integrated data management
How to Choose a Marketing Automation Program
First determine your needs. Do you need your software to manage social media? Are you looking to capture leads and turn leads into customers? Do you want to be consistently listed in online directories? Quantifying pay-per-click advertising data, launching a new e-mail marketing program, tabulating SEO results? Depending on your needs, look towards a sophisticated system that can do most or all of these, or seek a software program that targets one or two.
Next, turn to the internet! A popular online resource is this g2Crowd Buyer's Guide where you can compare over 26 different software platforms and read user reviews.
Researching made slightly easier, reading reviews of various software allows you to compare functionality and pricing. Talk to other businesses in your industry about what types of software they use to manage data and marketing activities.
Finally, budget your investment. Some automation software and/or apps offer a free trial and then jump anywhere from $9.99 to $14.99 all the way to $295 a month, or more if you decide to construct your own custom platform. Costs for upgrading or launching a new software program can get hefty, considering the implementation and training that may be necessary. Financing options can help with cash flow issues and help get your software up and running quickly.
As you touch base with more leads online or develop an e-commerce site, struggle to manage your online presence in a variety of social media platforms, or want to gain insight into your customer's experiences through surveys, marketing automation might be your answer to efficiency and better business. You might say you need it!