Authored by Guest Blogger, Eric Lebowitz
There’s no denying the emphasis that’s placed on marketing automation today. But things aren’t exactly as they seem: research shows that only 51 percent of companies currently use the technology, with 58 percent planning to adopt it in the future.
So, while marketing automation tools are enjoying considerable growth, nearly half of businesses still have not implemented a platform. If your organization is still considering whether to invest in automation technology, you may be trying to find answers to several critical questions, such as:
- Is now the right time to invest in marketing automation?
- What kind of platform should I buy?
- Am I going to be able to learn to use the technology effectively?
- Will I get the ROI I need to justify the purchase?
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to answer these questions simply by looking at your specific business model and challenges. So, let’s get to it!
Is Now the Right Time/What Kind of Platform?
These questions are grouped together because you need to look at similar factors to determine the answer. For most organizations, some kind of automation platform is usually a sound investment. If you do any email blasting to customers and prospects—and almost all organizations do—a platform that allows you to schedule and automate email sends, use pre-configured templates and track open and click rates will provide you some value by saving you time and giving you greater insight into your marketing efforts through analytics.
The same principle applies to social media. If you’re interested in automating just a single marketing channel, the barrier to entry from both a cost and effort perspective is fairly low.
So the question then becomes, how do you choose a platform? If you’re looking to do more than automate a single channel, you probably want to explore more full-featured solutions. For example, if you employ a sales team, a platform like HubSpot that provides lead scoring, customizable contact fields, website analytics and automated lead notifications may make sense. These platforms typically offer a number of other features as well, such as social media integration, analytics and dashboards, a content management system (CMS), SEO tools, email automation with branching logic, landing pages and forms, and even Web hosting.
Full-featured platforms are of course more expensive, but most do offer a basic package that provides less functionality at a lower cost if you’re looking for a way to test the waters. At the end of the day, the most important thing to keep in mind is whether you have reached a point where scaling with legacy technology is no longer possible. Tracking dozens of leads a week in a spreadsheet or manually sending alerts to your sales team each time a new prospect hits your website simply isn’t sustainable. Automation not only makes scaling possible, but instant and natural.
Am I Going to Be Able to Learn the Technology?
In a word, yes. Obviously, some people will pick up the technology more quickly than others; however, being intimidated by it—while a completely understandable feeling—can hold an organization back from increasing efficiency.
Most platforms offer some kind of onboarding program during which users can receive training on the tool’s core functionalities. If you are still struggling with aspects of the platform after the onboarding period is over, you can procure services from a marketing automation consultant certified with your particular solution.
Additionally, it’s important to remember that you don’t have to know how to use every feature in the platform right away to get value out of it. Start with a few applications that are core to your business and expand your knowledge over time.
Will I Get the ROI Necessary to Justify the Expenditure?
Obviously, if I didn’t believe in marketing automation, I wouldn’t spend the time to write this blog post! But the truth is, this answer depends on you. Reaping an ROI many, many times your initial purchase is eminently achievable as long as you commit to using the tool.
The most common mistake I see with companies that newly invest in marketing automation is that they leave it on the shelf for a month, two months or more. Before they know it, they are nine months into a year-long contract and haven’t used the platform at all. It’s critical to dive right in and start experimenting with the tool immediately, even if it’s just to test features and complete small tasks. As your comfort level increases you’ll build momentum, and it won’t be long before you start seeing real value and tangible return.
Eric Lebowitz is an experienced digital marketer and demand generation expert. He is the co-founder of The Forward Marketer, a marketing firm and HubSpot certified partner that specializes in HubSpot marketing automation and training; SEO; social media, lead generation and management; and marketing strategy. Eric has worked with a number of Fortune 500 companies in industries including technology, retail, software development, real estate, finance, energy and nonprofits. He is also a die-hard Mets fan and golf lover.