Marketing automation is becoming a key driver of digitalization. Because only with effective and tailor-made marketing and sales measures can digital customer journeys and complex decision-making processes in B2B be effectively supported and targeted controlled.
But what criteria must a marketing automation solution meet to meet these requirements?
B2B companies face a number of challenges: on the one hand, customers now expect a convenient and fast buying process that can take place entirely online if possible. On the other hand, multiple decision makers with very different preferences are usually involved in the B2B buying decision process, which adds complexity and can certainly drag on for months. This forces B2B companies to accompany their customers’ purchasing process over the long term and to involve several decision-makers and points of contact. Meanwhile, a marketing automation tool automatically collects (potential) customer profile and behavior data and makes it analyzable. This, in turn, enables B2B companies to personalize information and automatically and in a targeted manner deliver relevant content to the target group.
Spoiled for choice
Most importantly, the marketing automation solution (MA solution) can map all relevant marketing and sales processes and increase the quality and efficiency of measurements through automation. In this way, current customer communication requirements can be professionally managed, while ensuring future business security. That’s not the only reason the much-vaunted joint strategy of marketing and sales departments is essential. Before buying an MA tool, it is essential that everyone involved think about the criteria it must meet for the decision to be successful. But what aspects should companies consider here? What features should you take a closer look at? The following checklist reveals it.
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1. Suite compared to the best software
The first thing to do is to clarify which software strategy the company wants to pursue. Is he opting for a sequel or a best-of-breed approach? In a suite, all software comes from the same manufacturer. The individual components are bundled into a single package, and the interaction between them is generally seamless. However, suites are rather expensive and therefore not financially feasible for all mid-sized businesses. The best-of-breed approach, on the other hand, combines the best independent software solutions from different application areas into a powerful and highly specialized platform. Here, however, it is important to ensure a smooth data exchange between the different systems. The approach offers many advantages: from reduced costs to the greatest possible flexibility and optimal scalability to the possibility of maintaining existing systems in the company.
2. Privacy Compliance
When choosing the MA tool, hosting and server location are important criteria for data protection reasons. Because data outsourcing in the USA, for example, which does not offer an adequate level of protection under the GDPR, does not meet local data protection requirements. It is therefore advisable to only choose solutions where data processing takes place exclusively within the EU or the European Economic Area (EEA). It is even better if the marketing automation solution is hosted exclusively in TÜV-certified data centers according to ISO 27001. If data transfer cannot be implemented with the necessary protective measures, it is essential that additional precautions are taken to ensure that the data processing is nevertheless GDPR compliant.
3. Integration capability
The question of whether and how easily the MA solution can be integrated into existing systems is a critical aspect, especially for the most successful software strategy. After all, a seamless connection to existing systems is necessary in order, for example, to more accurately and quickly transfer qualified leads and other marketing results to the sales department. This especially makes sense when the amounts of data are particularly large, when different sources such as multiple branches need to be reconciled, or when the integration results in significant potential savings of resources. Although this means that the individual components do not come from a single manufacturer, the solution can be adapted to the company and thus offers much more flexibility.
So that the tool can also meet future needs, it is important not to neglect its scalability. That doesn’t mean companies should overload it with features they don’t need yet. However, it should be possible to easily add additional features and capabilities, allowing the system to adapt to future needs and requirements. Ideally, there is the possibility of a complete extension to a 360° customer data platform or a complete enterprise package.
5. Ease of use
User-friendliness is a must for any new software. Only those who can easily use a tool will also like to use it. If the complete solution comes from a single source, there is a high probability that all the elements fit together seamlessly and can be used intuitively. However, ease of use does not only apply to the user interface and functions. On the contrary, the software should offer additional support – for example in the form of models or best practice methods. Also useful: a help center where the user can quickly find answers to his questions, detailed information on the various functions or even suggested solutions for special applications using a keyword search .
In addition to standard functions for email marketing, lead management, profile and behavior-based tracking and KPI analysis and evaluation, the scope of an MA solution also includes those that are specially suitable for the business. To ensure that all use cases are considered without exception, a catalog of corresponding requirements should be created beforehand and compared with the range of functions of the tools in question.
Even if it doesn’t seem obvious, it is advisable to take a look at the provider’s customer support when evaluating the different tools. How is the support? Does the software manufacturer or possibly an implementation partner share the know-how with the users? It is essential that providers and users interact with each other at eye level – from first contact to service requests. In addition, the service provider must provide other options for the user to keep up to date with the current state of knowledge. This includes not only informative content on the website, for example in the blog or in the download area, but also online training, certification and our own learning platform.
Conclusion: know what is important
Anyone who checks all the criteria using the checklist is guaranteed to find the best marketing automation solution for their own needs. In addition, software comparisons, exchange with other experts or a guided demo version also help to make the right choice. If you proceed with caution, you can greatly reap the benefits of marketing automation and advanced digitalization in your own business.