If you’re shopping around for marketing automation software, it (hopefully) indicates that you’ve already got a pretty good handle on what marketing automation means and how it can help your business. You know that to keep up with the pace of digital marketing, automation has become a nearly necessary business tool.

Now it’s time to take the next step in finding the right marketing automation software for your business. If you’ve already started your search, then you no doubt quickly discovered that there are thousands of marketing automation solutions on offer, with various focal points, target markets, and different bells and whistles. Selecting the perfect one for your company’s needs can be overwhelming, to say the least.

But no worries! You’ve landed in the right place. Let’s go over a few key points that will help narrow down the options when researching tools and get you on the path to finding the right marketing automation platform tailored for your business.

What to consider when choosing marketing automation software

Assess your needs

The most important question that any software up for consideration needs to answer is “will it help me execute my goals?” Put plainly, can this software do everything you need it to?

To answer that question you’ll need to know what you’re trying to accomplish with marketing automation. Is the goal to create email series that are triggered based on user activity? Or is the goal to trigger email marketing based off of social media activity? Are you hoping to build out dynamic landing pages that sales can use across multiple buyer personas? Because of the robust capabilities, these platforms offer up a lot of tools. Unfortunately, if your business isn’t going to use all of the features provided then there’s no point in going with a service that’s not right for your needs.

Understanding your company’s priorities, preferences, and goals when it comes to automation is step one. This is the time to figure out not only what your marketing automation needs are now, but also what the wish list looks like for the near (and more distant) future. Getting set up with a system can be a long and somewhat labor-intensive task, so you’re not going to want to switch platforms every couple of years. When choosing a marketing automation tool you are looking for a long-term partner, not a short-term fix. By planning now for longer-term goals you can identify a software platform that can grow along with your business.

Once it’s clear what you will need the software to do, it becomes easier to knock contenders off your list. Besides making sure that the software can handle the basic needs of your business, there are a few more features that should absolutely be considered.

User interface

The actual usability of a platform can sometimes get overlooked by decision makers, but it’s a major player in how effective your marketing automation software will end up being. The goal should be for your marketing (and potentially sales) teams to live within this platform. Of course, you’ll need the teams to buy in for that to happen successfully. If employees are left to figure out a new system and have a hard time transitioning, it will take a long time for the software to be adopted effectively.

When reviewing potential marketing automation software options, it is a good idea to allow the teams who will be working in them to provide their valuable input, as well. Having general input from the team can help catch any issues that may have been overlooked. As a bonus, getting the teams excited from the get-go by giving them a say will also help with the transition.

Features and native integration

The right marketing automation software will streamline processes and hopefully eliminate the need for some marketing tools, but not all. The reality is that a marketing automation tool will be part of the marketing technology stack but will not replace it entirely. That means that any service that is being considered should absolutely integrate with every tool that will be kept. Making sure that integration between these tools is as easy as installing a plugin will also help ensure there are no surprises when it comes time to set everything up. This is a good point to research as some tools offer integration through an API which may require the assistance of a developer or the assistance of the onboarding team.

Customer support

When jumping into an unfamiliar piece of technology, you’ll want to have reliable, friendly and accessible support to help answer questions, educate, and tackle any issues. Especially in the early days of transitioning to a new automation software, being able to rely on an easily accessible customer support team will help your marketing and sales teams feel confident that they can get up and running smoothly.

Being able to ask questions directly as your teams are working through set-up, onboarding, transferring data, and daily tasks will help minimize any down time or hiccups. It’s a good idea to ask how customer questions are handled, what their customer support hours are, and even if a dedicated account representative is offered with the service. It’s also good to ask upfront about the onboarding process. Getting started with marketing automation requires some setup and understanding which parts will need to be handled by your in-house teams vs which parts can be offloaded onto the software provider could be make or break decisions.

Educational resources and training tools

Any legitimate marketing automation software provider will provide some kind of training center, educational tools, and/or tutorials to help new users get their questions answered. When reviewing these resources it’s a good idea to pay attention to how recently they’ve been added to or updated, as well as whether the tutorials are basic or advanced, and if lessons are offered in multiple formats such as text and video. This is another great opportunity to get your team’s input and buy-in. Having them review the available educational resources can provide valuable feedback on whether they’re actually helpful. It also gives the team another opportunity to get excited about the new tool. Sometimes training tools are hidden until you have an active account so be sure to ask your sales representative if you don’t see it on the site.

Picking a winning marketing automation software

When it comes down to it, the most important question you can ask yourself during research is “will this software do everything I need it to do?” Being crystal clear on the goals for the automation software will make your research process much easier. Brainstorming with the teams that will be using the marketing automation platform is a perfect way to start aligning those goals and create buy-in. Don’t hesitate to reach out to a sales member and talk to them about your goals, too! They know the systems inside and out and can help you understand which features you absolutely need and which ones are more of a ‘maybe’ for your business.

Once you have looked at a couple options, a great way to help narrow down your choices is to compare and contrast. A simple spreadsheet listing all your ‘must-haves’ can be a quick and easy way to compare the services at a glance. Plus, it’s an easy way to keep all your notes in one place when it comes time to pull the trigger.

Our best advice? Don’t be shy. Request a demo! Nothing does a better job of introducing you to the software and its features than a personalized, virtual tour. A demo will also give you the opportunity to ask questions, see specific use cases related to your business, and learn about features in detail.

Although digging through marketing automation providers might seem overwhelming, being clear on your business needs, goals, and budget will help make the list more manageable and the decision easier to make. Remember, you’re at the start of major revenue growth for your business  — it’s time to get excited!

Kim Anchors