Marketing automation is a must-have for startups to manage their marketing efforts. But, even though you may have heard that many startups are still struggling with the definition of marketing automation. What is features of marketing automation and why it is important for the startup in particular? Sometimes as a marketing consultant, I like to take a pause and get back to the basics.
What is marketing automation? It’s pretty simple and straight-forward. It is a platform or set of tools that help to organize and automate marketing activities with fewer efforts and sustainable results.
Reality scenario: You are developing a B2B solution and you found out that you don’t have enough budget for hiring marketing resources. The struggle goes on when you start marketing campaigns but you are not able to connect the dots and convert due to limited resources. Relying on automation can solve the problem.
The use of marketing automation: Corporates vs Startups
Corporates are more exposed to the marketing automation platforms due to the sales initiatives running by enterprise automation platforms and their partners. The partners are very active in presenting the benefits of automation to the big companies and as well as providing long-term support benefits. No wonder that in the past couple of years the majority of corporates and SMBs already integrated marketing automation.
In startups ecosystem, the marketing automation still doesn’t have a clear path. One of the major reasons is that startups cannot afford the cost of well-known platforms such as Adobe Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Eloqua, etc. Startups usually tend to integrate many of the free and affordable tools that perform one or two tasks and they end up with a lot of tools that are all over the place but not connected in terms of managing and measurements.
Startups and growth
Studies show that 74% of companies report that using marketing automation software saves them a significant amount of time. However, using marketing automation can help startups not only run marketing activities but can as well help the startups to have a sustainable marketing strategy and a clear roadmap for their growth plan.
The starting point: Free marketing automation platforms
Is there an affordable or free marketing automation tools for startups? The answer is yes. There are many platforms that have a free limited version as well open source platforms. The list of free marketing automation platforms includes:
- HubSpot Marketing [Limited free version]
- Mautic [Open Source]
- OpenEmm [Open Source]
- Zoho Campaigns [Limited free version]
- MailChimp [Limited free version]
- Drip for e-commerce [Limited free version]
- DailyStory [Free version for startups]
- SendinBlue Email [Limited free version]
- Albacross [Limited free version]
- Leadsius [Limited free version]
There are still many more platforms you can search for and try. But hold your horses and let’s first identify how you can select your marketing automation platform? If you decided to take advantage of a marketing automation platform, the following considerations can help you decide on the right platform for your business needs and goals.
1. Make sure it is affordable and sustainable
It’s important to choose a marketing automation platform that you can afford in the long term. Remeber that your marketing platform should be suitable for your business growth such as growth in contacts and email campaigns.
Affordability doesn’t mean only the subscription and integration fees. It is important to choose a platform that is easy to manage and you have the team that can use it effectively. Consider the management of the automation tool as one of your investment and make sure that any adaptation, money, and resources invested should come with its benefits.
2. Choose the most suitable platform for your startup
Review all the features available in the marketing platform and make the decision based on your business objectives and targeted segments. Here are some of the things marketing automation allows you to do more effectively:
- Email marketing and Segmentation
- Landing page creation and A/B testing
- Website personalization and CRO
- Cross-channel marketing campaigns
- Lead generation, lead nurturing and scoring
- Measuring campaigns and ROI
Create a checklist with the functions that will benefit your startup. Review each platform and choose the one that covers your needs. Remember always that there is no ultimate solution and each platform could have strong and weak sides.
3. Check the integration with other tools
In order to take full advantage of a marketing automation tool, make sure that you select the one that integrates with your marketing technology stack (website CMS, CRM database, and analytic tools).
It is critical decision to choose the suitable marketing automation tool that will facilitate your marketing activities effectively, and avoid inconvenient roadblocks along the way.
4. Focus on how it can improve the conversion rates
You have to know that the marketing automation should not end at lead generation, as it can also enhance the conversion and sales funnels of your startup. Evaluating your marketing tech stack should be mainly focused on the business KPIs of your startup.
The selected platform should increase the ability to nurture and manage the leads with the most efficient tactics. Study how the automation solution can be integrated with the sales resources for identifying the Most Qualified Leads (MQLs) and dynamically aligned with marketing efforts.
5. Look for intelligence and variety of tactics
The purpose of marketing software is to make you a smarter marketer and move your marketing initiatives to a whole new level. How well does your platform enable you to understand your consumer journey? That’s a very important question to consider. It might take few rounds of testing and pilot campaigns in order to choose the right marketing automation platform but it will pay back.
Startups are more of easy movers and they don’t have the heavy layers of corporates. This gives the startups the ability to implement new process and shift their marketing strategy using the technology. As a startup, you can afford changing platforms and adaptation of technology, so test, test, test.
Don’t leave any stone unturned when it comes to software selection
In conclusion: The strength of marketing automation tools relies on enabling easy and automated tasks to generate and convert leads so the small teams can focus on the more important parts of growing the startup.
Finally, the more thorough you are during the MarTech selection process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The key is to look for a platform that can not only meet the needs of your startup but that can also advance your marketing strategy and customer acquisition. Growth and technology are always deep down in the DNA of each startup and they have the ability to move faster towards the marketing intelligence. Aim carefully and move faster with technology.
Yasser Ahmad is an independent marketing analytics consultant & digital marketing consultant with 14 years of experience. Specialized in MarTech, AdTech, Marketing Automation, Performance Marketing and Growth Hacking. Providing marketing consulting services in several markets including the Middle East, MENA region and APAC.