Experts Speak: Must-Have Marketing Automation Features (Part II)

Website Magazine continues its marketing automation roundup by asking four more Internet professionals about the top-three must-have features.

To read Part I, click here, or to continue on to Part III of this series, click here.

Philip Alexander, CEO of Brandmuscle 

The three features prospective buyers should look for in a marketing automation solution are:

1. Ease of use: A recent survey by Regalix on B2B marketing automation tools found that 86 percent of respondents said that having a tool that is easy to use is the most important thing they look for when it comes to the decision process.

Marketing is a dynamic industry. Marketers need to consistently conceive, develop and launch new marketing campaigns every few weeks - sometimes days! Choosing a marketing automation solution that is easy to adopt and use allows marketers more time to invest in the creative side of their job.

2. Customizable/Flexible: Choose a marketing automation software that gives you the power and flexibility to quickly launch highly targeted campaigns across your multiple marketing channels. This will generate more revenue for your company with less manual effort by your staff. Look for a vendor that will tailor its solutions to meet your company's specific needs and will serve as a strategic partner in growing your business.

3. Stellar Customer Support: The importance of customer support should not be overlooked when choosing a marketing automation solution provider. Look for a vendor that offers robust technical support (fast, easily accessible, reliable), ongoing training and personalized one-on-one support, including strategic guidance (you want them to feel like a partner, right?).

There is no one-size-fits-all "best" marketing automation solution. The best choice is usually the solution that fits comfortably inside your company's culture, helps fulfill your current business objectives while being flexible enough to meet your company's needs as it grows, and, of course, it should be easy for the team to use.

Keith Lee, TechAdvisor with TechnologyAdvice

We have done extensive research on dozens of marketing automation platforms and have worked with businesses trying to find the right platform for them. Through these relationships and experiences, the three most common features demanded by businesses are:

1) Live support - learning a new application and customizing it to maximize its potential for your business is difficult and takes time. Clients need access to tech support channels that will not hinder their implementation and growth within the platform.

2) Social media management tools - many small businesses especially are in the earlier stages of adopting social media platforms and developing a strategy for their brand in these spaces, so they need access to the tools necessary to grow their social communities and reach. Making these simple to use and simple to track and analyze is key.

3) Customizable lead tracking/segmentation - while the idea of how to build relationships and find leads is somewhat fundamental in approach, everyone has their own way of tracking, segmenting and scoring these leads. Automation platforms must be customizable enough to allow each business to organize their pipelines, but not so complex that the customizable features are overwhelming and counterproductive.

Vin Turk, Co-Founder and SVP of Audience Dev of Madison Logic

Marketing Automation systems can help your marketing and sales organizations work together as a team toward your corporate revenue goals. Madison Logic has had five years of working with clients on their lead generation programs and recommends the following:

1) Our best advice is to set realistic expectations for your system. Although this isn't a feature you can find, it's an important task as 90 percent of your contacts that you import will be dormant - either they are not in market currently or they are no longer interested in your offerings. Understanding this limitation will allow you to set reasonable expectation from the sales and executive teams.

2) Make sure your system has a robust lead scoring technique that allows you full access to setting scoring not only on demographic data sets but intent and action data points. As we move further and further down the buyer journey before a client calls a sales person, you need systems that show when a prospect is in-market and showing intent. This is especially important considering that Forrester says 70 percent of the buying process is already finished before consumers connect with a live salesperson.

3) Make sure your system has a lead nurturing component that takes into account the fact that 1 in 10 contacts have only one interaction so you can have multi-channel outreach to these contacts. Use your system to activate them and assess them by providing informational content to reactivate them with your brand.

Having these components at your disposal will allow you to create successful campaigns from lead generation through nurturing to sales completion.

Bertrand Guignat, Vice-President of Marketing at Objectif Lune

Marketing automation solutions are useful to create, nurture and convert leads to opportunities and ultimately customers. But what happens next? Most systems are unable to pursue the nurturing cycle beyond that. Although it takes much less effort to upsell and cross-sell to existing customers than to acquire new ones, when it comes to marketing automation and the technology behind it, it is not always the case because customer data is trapped in rigid data systems. When selecting a marketing automation solution, it is important to look into what happens after a customer is acquired. Will you be able to continue to communicate with them automatically and with personalized info? Can your customer data be actioned to better target communications? The answer to those questions should be "yes."

Read Part I  of this marketing automation series or continue on to Part III.