When it comes to marketing, there is no shortage of tools and methods available. From email to social media to search engine optimization, the pathways a company can take to make sure that people know about their products are endless. As those businesses grow, however, the tasks necessary to spread that message can become more and more repetitive. This is where marketing automation steps in.

 
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Marketing automation software was created to make those repetitive tasks easier to handle. Rather than hiring more workers to do jobs that requires time but very little talent, business leaders can rely on marketing automation software tools to handle those tasks. Better still, the tasks can be performed with a minimum of human supervision, freeing up employees and company resources to manage more complicated work.

Research shows that an average of 49% of companies are currently using marketing automation. The number is even higher among business-to-business (B2B) companies, with 55% adopting the technology. While marketing automation is showing significant success, however, the platform still has a long way to go. Companies who have adopted the technology are still unsure how best to utilize automation tools, meaning that while they’re seeing success, they could be seeing even more. Among B2B marketers who are using a marketing automation platform, 85% believe that they’re not using their tools to their full potential.

A top marketing automation software suite will help companies to market their products and services through highly personalized content. This process includes gathering contact information to build mailing lists, as well as managing communications with customers and determining how and when emails and other outreach should be sent. Automation software can track customer movement around the website and use their activity to predict products and services they may be interested in.

Over time, these customer interactions — via website visits, emails, app usage, social media activity, and so on — will produce a wealth of data that companies can analyze and use to gain even more insight about their audience. This insight will allow them to create even more relevant and personalized messaging over their website, social media, mobile communications, targeted advertisements, and emails.

While there are dozens of marketing automation software tools available, it’s important to be selective about which tool you choose for your company. Each company has its own specific needs, and in order to find the best marketing automation software solution for your organization, you’ll want to make sure that the tools you are using work best with your own existing processes, marketing goals, and available resources. As you decide which tools works best for you, consider the following questions:

What benefit are you hoping to gain from automation, and does the tool you are considering supply that benefit? Does the tool offer email automation? Can you use it to build a mailing list? Can it integrate with social media? Does it provide data collection and analytical tools? Before you start looking, make a list of the features that your company needs. Keep those needs in mind as you consider a variety of options.

If your company is searching for automation software, then there’s a good chance you have already built up systems, frameworks, and methods to streamline your business. How big of an impact will there be when you implement an automation suite? How much time will it take for you to put everything into place? Will there be significant downtime for your business while you put everything in place? Will you need to buy new hardware in order to keep up with the software’s demands, or does it rely on cloud technologies to allow the work to be done off-site by the service provider?

Every new tool you implement has a learning curve associated with it. Until your employees learn how to use the new tool, you won’t be able to operate at full efficiency, and if it takes too much work, they may simply figure out the little bit that they need to get by, and then coast from there. Meanwhile, extensive training can bring high costs.

When you implement a new marketing automation tool, how flexible will it be? Can it scale along with your company, or is it only effective for a small customer list? What different types of marketing does it work with? If your marketing strategy changes, will it be able to handle those changes, or is it relatively static in its uses?

When considering the benefits of marketing automation software, the more important question to ask is whether the tool is worth the cost that comes with it. You may find a tool that is expensive, but if it doesn’t bring your company any value, then the money you spend on it is a waste. On the other hand, if you find an effective tool that costs significantly more than certain other options, but that also brings in greater value, the overall ROI may make up for the higher investment costs.

 
An instructional tool kit for SMB marketers.

Marketing automation is more than just a passing trend — it’s going to be at the heart of marketing for years to come. The companies that have begun using it have already seen significant success, with 91% of the most successful users considering marketing automation to be “very important.” Soon, other companies will follow suit and find the same success. They can use these tools to build relationships with customers, to advance their reputations, and to keep those customers coming back. Marketing automation brings marketing into the future, and in the process, gives marketers the ability to effectively manage the various marketing channels of today.

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