Wouldn't it be nice if I could just name one marketing automation software as THE best marketing automation software for your business?
I get asked this question a lot, so I thought this might be a good time to finally write a post about this and help you decide for yourself.
Let's dive in.
Marketing Automation Software Is Like a Pair Shoes
At this point, there are dozens of marketing automation software catering to businesses of all sizes, from small mom and pop shops to large enterprises. One of my clients called it "marketing automation jungle." It's difficult to do research, as everyone looks like it can be a good option depending on the budget. It's overwhelming, especially for a non-marketing professional.
The questions you ask determine the answers that you get. So when you ask yourself "what's the best marketing automation software for my business?" you're already setting yourself up to be overwhelmed and stressed out.
The real question that you need to ask yourself is "what are my business/marketing needs?"
You won't go blindly buying a pair of shoes, there's a need in your life that dictates what shoes you need. If I ever decide to begin training for a marathon (a need), I will need proper running shoes. When you need running shoes that's a very different need from dress shoes for a wedding, or flip flops to hit the beach.
When you need shoes, you won't ask "what's the best shoes for me?" but instead you'll ask yourself "why do I need shoes?" or even a bit more specific and external "what's the best shoes for marathon training?"
You will look at different shoes, try some on, walk around to see how they feel on YOUR feet, and maybe try a pair that's a size bigger because it feels a bit too tight. Once you find that perfect fit, you buy them.
Everyone's feet are different, so you must find a pair of shoes that fits YOUR feet.
You don't buy shoes first and try to squeeze your feet into them, you buy shoes that fit your feet.
You don't buy marketing automation software first and try to squeeze your business into it, you buy marketing automation software that fits your business needs.
Do you see the difference? When you flip it, you go from ambiguous to clarity in a split second. Clarity drives action, and when you know what your business needs you'll be able to quickly reconcile a list of your needs with features/benefits of marketing automation software to see which one fits your needs the best.
Your Business, Your Needs
Every business is different. Their target market might be different, their internal operations are different, their sales process is different, their size is different, it's a completely different beast.
That's why you need to figure out what your needs are, so you don't get enchanted by the Sirens call (aka marketing and sales) to shipwreck on their rocky coast. HubSpot's Siren call is one of the strongest out there, yet many small businesses end up shipwrecked.
HubSpot is a great platform, but it's not right for everyone. You will crash and burn if you buy HubSpot without ensuring proper fit first. Over the last few years, I've worked with dozens of small businesses that shipwrecked on HubSpot's rocky coast not because HubSpot was bad but because it was not the right fit for them. They were wearing size 14 on their size 8 feet.
Create a list of requirements that will meet your business needs. For example:
- If you're an ecommerce business, you will need integration with your ecommerce platform. Moreover, you will need a platform that will help you recover abandoned shopping carts.
- If you already use a CRM like Salesforce, then you can't buy CRM-based marketing automation software. And, your platform must integrate with your CRM.
- If you already have a website and a blog, then you don't need a platform that offers CMS/blogging.
- If you're using Unbounce, LeadPages or some other landing page builder than you don't need a platform that offers landing page builder.
- If you're using Hootsuite or some other social media management platform, then you don't need a platform that offers social media management features.
- Some marketing automation platforms charge additional fees for API access and/or third party integration, can you handle that? Do you need it?
- If you're a medical professional and must comply with HIPAA, you need to take that in consideration if your leads submit personally identifiable information and ensure you find HIPAA compliant platform to put Business Associate agreement in place. I bet you never thought of that.
The True Cost of Marketing Automation
Depending where you are in your business, it is possible that you might not even need marketing automation yet. You simply need something to get your leads now!
Majority of clients I've worked with that left HubSpot, for example, focused too much on the direct cost without considering the real cost.
Marketing automation does not improve the quality of your marketing, it improves efficiency of your marketing. The direct cost is simply the fee you're paying your marketing automation vendor every month or annually simply to have access to it. They don't care if you use it or not. You can buy it, let it sit there for a year, and they won't lift a finger to do your job for you.
In many cases that's what happens, and the story I hear "I thought they will generate leads for me."
Some time ago I got an email from an anonymous user about marketing automation, and the last question was:
I’ll write, but I won't spend time thinking about about marketing task steps: Can I get a platform that tells me WHAT to write about, WHO to email, and WHICH tweets to write?
It would be nice if someone did our thinking for us, but unless you pay a marketing agency to do all marketing work for you nobody will think about your business but you. Frankly, nobody gives a shit about your business but you. When your budget is tight, elbow grease is the only option if you're trying to build and run a profitable business.
There are no shortcuts. You either pay or get your hands dirty!
That's the real cost. Everything else you have to do to make your marketing automation software pay for itself. You need to produce content, it's your marketing automation's lifeline.
If you can't handle real cost, the direct cost will become a burden and you will blame marketing automation software for not doing its job when it was your fault really.
When you fit your business into marketing automation platform, you'll end up with the biggest line item for real cost: picking the wrong platform. One of my clients summed it up nicely:
I donated my arm and leg to be able to pay for HubSpot's coaching in hopes to increase my traffic. As a beginner to the online marketing and web developing world, I had to learn quite a lot, from basics to advanced material. If my responsibilities as a business owner only revolved around website and online marketing, I'd be on cloud nine. But for someone that didn't have a lot of experience, I couldn't devote all the time necessary to really take advantage of my investment, unfortunately. And when it was all said and done, I had a good website, but not a GREAT website, and a flat lined lead to customer generator.
I don't want to scare you away from marketing automation, I want to scare you into the right decision for your business.
Marketing automation will make you life easier, improve your marketing efficiency, and give you the tools necessary to grow your lead generation.
To Sum It Up
Start your marketing automation search with your business needs. Don't window shop and pick the prettiest and shiniest of them all. Pick one that gets the job done for your business!
Make sure you understand that besides the direct cost of marketing automation (vendor fees), there's the real cost of spending your time getting work done, paying someone to do work for you, paying for additional stuff, etc. If you're on a tight budget, put more elbow grease into your marketing. If you're not willing to make sacrifices to grow your business, well your business failure is on you my friend.
So the question was, what's the best marketing automation software for my business? Well, you tell me.