But it can also be a little overwhelming at times getting to grips with the next ‘big thing’ in digital marketing. Email, search, affiliate, retargeting, social media, multichannel… arghh! So we can sympathize with those of you who can’t quite get your head around marketing automation, the latest marketing ‘buzz word’.

Before we start, think about this. Marketing automation has actually been around for decades. Remember the days of ‘mail merge’ where MS Word allowed us to insert personalization on our direct mail letters and envelopes? The only difference now is the ability to do automation in real-time, using the vast amount of data we have collected about our customers (and prospects) via various digital channels.

So we’re here to help you make sense of marketing automation to ultimately assist you with choosing the right supplier. But before you can even think about selecting your ideal partner, let’s go back to basics and get a better understanding of what marketing automation actually is.

Put as simply as possible, marketing automation is all about more leads, better leads, more customers, less time! Drilling down a little deeper, marketing automation allows both B2B and B2C marketers – via technology – to reach their target audiences more effectively via multiple channels, automating repetitive tasks, increasing efficiency and reducing human error.

Marketing automation has traditionally been associated with large corporates with even larger marketing budgets. Not so anymore, people! Mid-size companies are also tucking into a piece of the marketing automation pie thanks to the introduction of more user-friendly packages (dotmailer, anyone?) that can be managed by smaller teams at a better price point for both B2B and B2C marketers. And now it’s trickling down to even smaller businesses where one man bands can really stretch their limited marketing budgets.

So, once you’ve decided to take your first steps into the glorious world of marketing automation, what next? Here we have compiled a list of tips, questions and ideas to help you make a decision about your automation partner.

  • What do you want to achieve?

First thing to remember is you can’t automate processes which haven’t been defined yet.

Before you look to invest in a tool to solve a problem, make sure you create a process to solve that problem. Your process needs to be unified so you need to decide what matters to you as a business then find a platform that will support you. Bring key stakeholders together to establish your goals.

  • How will you manage the buying process internally?

How quickly do you want to be up and running? Who will manage the implementation of marketing automation within your business? Do you have a C-level ‘corporate sponsor’ supporting you? What skills are needed on your team to move forward? Have you thought about your own internal siloes which could prove to be barriers to successful implementation?

  • What are your requirements for a supplier?

What will it cost? How will you track performance? Can they cater for your specific needs (B2B vs B2C)? How will you associate leads and opportunities with the automated campaign? How will success be measured? Think about choosing a supplier who enables easy growth and additional sophistication over time.

  • Make a shortlist & arrange to meet the suppliers

Think about the capabilities you have, those you would like to have, and those you can’t live without. Rather than buying multiple automation tools, think about whether your supplier will suit each department. Using one platform will unify your company and help maintain a consistent tone-of-voice. Ask the suppliers on your shortlist about their integrations with Ecommerce platforms (e.g. Magento) or CRM systems such as Salesforce or MS Dynamics.

  • Make a decision

Obviously you want the technology to be right. But you also want to like the company you are selecting. Think about the personality fit of the people you met from your shortlisted suppliers and how you would interact with them on a day to day basis. Make sure you choose a supplier who can provide ongoing support and who have an easy onboarding process.

  • Review, analyze, and optimize

How well marketing automation will work for you largely depends on how well the user manages it. It takes time for automation to build up to its full potential, so ensure you are continually reviewing, analyzing and optimizing.

Yep we can all get involved so there really is no excuse now. Break it up into bite size pieces, start slowly, and with some help from us lovely lot here at dotmailer, you could be well on your way to marketing automation.

If you want to learn more about dotmailer’s marketing automation solutions, you can watch our webinar or take a look at our marketing automation whitepaper.

We hope to join you on your marketing automation journey soon.