3 marketing automation tools to get you ahead in 2018

3 marketing automation tools to get you ahead in 2018If you’re a marketer, then you’re probably suffering from a pretty severe case of exhaustion. And why wouldn’t you be, having to deal with email campaigns, social media management, content creation, website optimisation, data analysis, A/B testing, etc., etc., on a daily basis?

A marketing automation platform can therefore be a godsend for a busy marketer, as it effectively eliminates a lot of the repetitive, tedious and time-consuming tasks that make up a typical day. This frees the marketer to focus their time and energy on creative and strategic work (which, let’s face it, is much more fun), and also drastically reduces the possibility of human error. A marketing automation platform also allows marketing to be done at scale, so it can grow alongside your business.

Sounds pretty good, right?

Don’t spend 2018 being overwhelmed by marketing drudgery. Consider investing in a marketing automation tool – we think it’ll be worth it.

Here are the 3 marketing automation tools we think you should consider for 2018.

3 marketing automation tools to consider for 2018

1. MailChimp

Sure, email marketing isn’t anything new, but it remains as crucial than ever. According to the DMA Insight: Marketer email tracking study 2017, 95% of marketers said email marketing was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to their organisation – and that’s not surprising when you consider the average ROI for marketers was £30:£1.

Yet, despite how important this channel is to marketers, there’s still a gap between the results marketers want, and the results they actually manage to achieve, with 42% saying at best only ‘some’ of their emails are relevant to consumers. The verdict from consumers is even more damning, with 85% saying less than half the emails they receive are either interesting or relevant, according to the Consumer Email Tracker 2016.

Personalisation is no longer just about using people’s names in emails – it’s about delivering timely, relevant emails that deliver real value. This is where email automation comes in.

While MailChimp isn’t for every level of business out there, is one of the best email marketing tools on the market, and for good reason, as it is packed with features, but also highly user-friendly, intuitive and affordable. Their campaigns, for example, are organised by simple marketing goals, from “build your brand” to “bring people back”, so you can easily create campaigns that seamlessly cover the entire customer journey, ensuring customers receive the right message at the right time.

MailChimp can also assist with the design and execution of Interactive emails, or “mailable microsites”, which are predicted to be big in 2018. These allow users to interact with the email interface directly within their inbox (i.e. without being redirected via link to a website), effectively blowing open the possibilities of email – now you can include gifs, countdown timers, surveys or forms, rotational banners and more to make content more engaging.

While MailChimp is probably the most popular email marketing tool on the market, ActiveCampaign and Campaign Monitor deserve honourable mentions. Both reasonably priced tools allow you to segment users by data, and create behaviour-based email campaigns that deliver a highly personalised experience for customers.

While these are great tools and worth a mention, if you have a larger-sized business or you’re stepping into the enterprise area, the following two tools will be more up your alley.

2. HubSpot

According to a survey by Smart Insights, content marketing was the marketing activity that marketers thought would make the largest commercial impact for their businesses in 2018 – and HubSpot is all about content.

HubSpot is like the Swiss Army knife of inbound marketing, giving marketers tools to manage, score and nurture leads through each stage of the buyer journey, all in one beautifully designed platform.

hubspot inbound marketing automation

But too often, businesses are overly focused on the first three stages of the journey, to the detriment of that all-important final phase: delight. This is the phase that turns customers into happy customers and, eventually, brand advocates. And now HubSpot can help with that too.

HubSpot have announced this year that they are adding Conversations and Customer Hub to the HubSpot suite in 2018. These tools facilitate one-on-one conversations with customers that are fuelled by context and insights, and powered by automation. This means you can address simple queries at scale, while quickly escalating more complex issues so they can be dealt with efficiently, helping you to provide superior customer service.

3. Marketo

For the sixth year in a row, Marketo has been named a leader in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management report, and we think 2018 is going to be another bonanza year for them.

Billed as “engagement marketing software”, its platform covers email, mobile, social media, digital ads and websites, but our favourite feature is perhaps its powerful account-based marketing tool, helping marketers target high-value accounts. It has also recently added a whole slew of features, including Content AI, which uses artificial intelligence to deliver relevant content to customers, and ToutApp Templates, which aims to strengthen sales and marketing alignment by facilitating content sharing between the two departments.

But perhaps the biggest reason Marketo is worth considering is its recent alliance with Google. Marketo will soon be migrating its entire product infrastructure onto the Google Cloud Platform, which is expected to vastly improve the performance of the marketing automation platform. But the partnership will likely extend beyond well this, with Google bringing its expertise in advanced analytics and machine learning to the platform, and Google’s ad tech and Marketo’s martech capabilities becoming fused in a “madtech” convergence.

What to consider when choosing a marketing automation platform

A marketing automation platform can be a big investment, so before you get carried away by the prospect of all the nifty features, it is important to first ask yourself a few sobering questions to ascertain whether a product is right for you.

Some things worth asking yourself or your provider include:

  • What functionalities are an absolute must-have for my business? Sure, things like Content AI sound pretty cool – but do you really need it? Don’t make the mistake of paying for tools that won’t get any use.
  • Will it integrate with my CRM? Avoid headaches by making sure the answer is a resounding “yes”.
  • Is it easy to use? A platform may have all sorts of great features, but if it is not intuitive and user friendly, you may find you don’t get the full benefit of those features.
  • Do I have the resources for the platform? A marketing automation platform is not a “set-and-forget” piece of software. Even though it will take a lot of tedious day-to-day tasks off your hands, managing and maintaining one can still require significant resources. At the end of the day it’s a tool that’s driven by your processes. Make sure you’re not over-committing yourself.
  • What is the onboarding process like? Depending on your situation, some platforms may be easier to implement than others. Be sure to ask lots of questions to ensure the product is the right fit for your business. Get demos. Test the sales team to show you specific requirements you have and how the tool can support them.
  • What kind of support will I be given? The sales process itself can be a good indicator of what the support will be like. If they’re evasive or unclear about answering questions, that could be a red flag. It’s also worth asking others who have used the platform what their experience has been like.

A marketing automation tool can really kick your content marketing into high gear – assuming you’ve got the basics down first. Make sure you’ve got your content marketing strategy down pat with our ebook The Technology Marketer’s Guide to Stellar Content Marketing. Download it now.

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