How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Solution for Agency

Learning how to choose the right marketing automation solution for your agency can be a challenge. A good platform will help your agency be more effective, but a great platform can do much more – increase efficiency, improve intelligence, expand your reach, enable targeted real-time action, and most of all, create a key competitive advantage for your agency in a crowded marketplace.

How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Solution for Agency
How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Solution for Agency

This article covers:

  • The process of identifying your specific business needs
  • The fundamentals of marketing automation
  • How to prioritize unique considerations
  • Everything you must have in a successful marketing automation vendor partnership

Content Summary

In Search of the Perfect Solution
The Top 5 Marketing Automation Benefits for Agencies
Step 1: Identify Your Business Needs
Marketing Automation Must-Haves
Step 2: Prioritize Additional Considerations
Step 3: Create Your Own Checklist of Essential Marketing Automation Vendor Features
The Bottom Line

In Search of the Perfect Solution

Finding the right marketing automation solution for your agency can be challenging. There are a lot of options, and different platforms will be a better fit based on the needs and structure of your organization.

Generally speaking, though, a good marketing automation solution will help your agency be more effective. A great platform, on the other hand, can do much more…

  • Track relevant behaviors
  • Deliver personalized journeys
  • Drive engagement with your programs, products, and services
  • Increase efficiencies throughout your organization
  • Improve marketing and sales alignment
  • Expand awareness and extend your reach
  • Enable targeted real-time action

Most of all, the right marketing automation software will help you establish and maximize key competitive advantages for your agency in a crowded marketplace.

If you’re considering marketing automation, you’re likely committed to improving your clients’ marketing programs. Maybe you’ve been running standard email programs, and your clients are ready for more intuitive campaigns. Perhaps you want to prove the value of your work to your clients, so you need better analysis and reporting to demonstrate results. Or maybe you’re moving to the next level of omnichannel marketing and need a solution that can automate, accelerate, and streamline the process.

Whatever your motivation, it’s important to consider your business needs before you begin. Review your processes, and look for the capabilities that will support them today — and in the future as you grow your agency and scale your clients’ campaigns.

Evaluating marketing automation systems isn’t as simple as comparing apples to apples. Some provide every feature you’ll ever need (and a few you’ll never use). Others deliver a more modular approach, letting you add features and services as your needs expand. Some are relatively user-friendly, while others are more complex — requiring considerable resources, training, and time to get up to speed and maintain.

Before we look at some of the core competencies, options, and must-haves you should consider when seeking a marketing automation solution, let’s quickly examine the primary benefits of these powerful platforms.

The Top 5 Marketing Automation Benefits for Agencies

  1. Prove the return on investment (ROI) your agency delivers to clients
  2. Differentiate your services in a crowded market
  3. Shorten the time it takes to create and execute client programs
  4. Handle more projects and clients with less staff
  5. Become a strategic, tech focused partner for every client

Step 1: Identify Your Business Needs

Before you start looking for a vendor, take the time to evaluate and define your unique business needs so that you can look for capabilities that support those needs and associated processes.

  • Take a look at your existing marketing tools, and identify which of them could be replaced with a comprehensive marketing automation platform.
  • Examine your current project list and identify the programs that could be made more effective and efficient with the help of marketing automation.
  • Audit your existing staff resources and budget for implementing marketing automation, and determine if you’ll need additional help.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to begin the selection process.

Your business needs might focus on specific types of marketing programs that drive revenue or provide desirable data to your clients — such as website behavior tracking, lead scoring, or SMS marketing. For example, you might need more sophisticated infrastructure, such as a database that makes it easier to segment your contacts and deliver more personalized programs.

In many cases, marketing automation can replace and consolidate existing tools that you’re already using — such as email marketing, social media management, dynamic web forms, and even account based marketing. So it’s important that you weigh your needs against each platform’s capabilities to make the best decision for your business.

“My advice to other marketers who are considering marketing automation is to first take time to understand and identify your needs and the problems you’re trying to solve. Get a firm understanding of what you’re trying to accomplish. From there, look for a solution that addresses those needs.

I also suggest reaching out to peers in your industry or in marketing who have implemented these programs. Getting their feedback and advice as I was going through the process was really helpful.” – BRANDEE JOHNSON, SENIOR MARKETING MANAGER (LEGO EDUCATION NORTH AMERICA).

Marketing Automation Must-Haves

As an agency marketer, you need automated solutions that will evolve and expand as your needs (and your clients’ expectations) continue to evolve. Here are a few marketing automation fundamentals that need to support your clients’ businesses and help you grow your agency.

  • Asset creation — such as email messages, landing pages, and dynamic web forms
  • The ability to leverage creative assets and templates across accounts
  • Easy campaign creation, management, and optimization
  • Website visitor tracking to better understand digital behaviors
  • MarTech Integrations (CRM, webinar platforms, and social media)
  • Lead generation, lead scoring, and lead management capabilities
  • Automated lead nurturing and customer marketing programs
  • Scheduling and deployment of multiple campaigns for multiple users
  • Campaign tracking, analytics, and reporting that delivers critical metrics

Of course, the right marketing automation solution for your agency should also support the programs you plan to implement in the future, which may include the ability to:

  • Create and maintain lists dynamically
  • Build and deliver personalized emails with conditional logic and dynamic content
  • Support coordinated messaging and campaigns across multiple social media platforms
  • Execute SMS marketing capabilities for prospects and customers alike

Regardless of how easy a marketing automation platform is to use, you’ll need to learn how to get the most out of your investment. As you get comfortable with the basic features, you’ll begin to explore more advanced options for more integrated programs. Make sure the vendor has a strong support team and a partner mindset to provide helpful ongoing training and support.

Also check to see if the vendor has won any awards or accolades. These demonstrate market awareness, competency, and industry leadership.

Lastly, follow this link to view the Marketing Automation Buyer’s Checklist to get specific tips on evaluating potential vendors and a handy checklist to help you choose the best marketing automation partner for your agency.

Now let’s take a look at the 3 main steps you should follow to choose the right marketing automation solution for your agency!

Step 2: Prioritize Additional Considerations

It’s essential to find a vendor who can also be a strategic partner, working with you to deliver the best possible experience for your clients. Here are just a few areas to think about when searching for a solution.

Cultural Fit: When you partner with clients, cultural fit and company size are critical considerations. Are your goals aligned? Will you be a valued customer or an anonymous source of revenue? This is especially important if you will be presenting marketing automation as a part of your skillset. If something goes wrong with that vendor, it’s your reputation that’s on the line. You want a vendor that’s committed to continual improvement in its feature set and capabilities. Digital marketing isn’t static; you could quickly outgrow a vendor that’s not adapting rapidly enough.

Pricing and Profitability: Many agencies operate with very tight margins, making pricing and profitability an extremely important consideration. With some marketing automation vendors, your clients are required to buy their own instance before you can manage their system on their behalf. This potentially could make your agency less essential, as your clients might decide to manage the system themselves. A better (and more profitable) model is to sell your campaign management services while you manage the needs of all your clients together on your own marketing automation platform. Go for a monthly pricing plan rather than locking into an annual contract. That way you can scale your marketing automation solution according to your changing needs.

Agency-Specific User Interface: To really get the information you need (real-time campaign data, on-demand reports, user-permission settings, and so on), you need to make sure the solution provides a dashboard that’s optimized for an agency. These accurate, high-level views make managing the day-to-day operations so much easier. The right marketing automation solution should make it possible for agencies to leverage an economy of scale, so the more volume you buy, the more your costs go down. That way, you can make your services more affordable or improve your profit margins (or both).

As far as the technology itself, you should look for features like…

Single sign-on. Access all client accounts from a single log-in, including the ability to create and edit client campaigns immediately.

Account manager control. Assign or remove your account managers from client accounts as needed.

Flexible accounts and contacts. Whether you’re onboarding or removing clients, you need the ability to rearrange, reallocate, and modify the number of active contacts in real-time. You’ll also want to provision agency-specific contacts for business development.

Shared marketing content and assets. Save time, effort, and money by leveraging and sharing assets from past campaigns with your client accounts — including templates, imagery, and messaging.

Step 3: Create Your Own Checklist of Essential Marketing Automation Vendor Features

By now, you probably have a short list of vendors for consideration. Your list of essential traits in a business partner might well look something like this:

  • Support for helping you win business with sales tools, product demonstrations to prospective clients, and more
  • A culture that inspires sharing industry best practices and advice
  • Dependable, friendly, responsive, timely, and knowledgeable tech support
  • The technical and business expertise to support you as your clients achieve success and their needs grow
  • Flexible terms to allow you to manage the ups and downs of your business
  • Proactive communication on evolving tools or new features

The total cost of an automated marketing system can’t be accurately calculated until enough time has passed so that return on investment can be measured against acquisition and maintenance costs. But there are still many cost-related factors to consider before you buy.

For example, you’ll want to weigh whether a yearly contract (usually lower cost) or a subscription model (usually more flexible) is right for you. You’ll want to calculate the cost of add-on capabilities, administrative costs, and support contracts. You’ll also need to understand the need for consultants and in-house training, as well as how much this additional education might cost.

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the best marketing automation solution is usually the platform that fits most comfortably inside your organization’s culture, helps you fulfill your current objectives while being scalable enough to meet your organization’s needs as it grows, and is easy for your team to use.

If you’ve gone through the exercises in this guide, the choice should be getting clearer. The time you spend assessing your business needs and evaluating vendors will reap major benefits in the time you save once you’ve got the right marketing automation solution for your agency in place. The best part? You’ll be confident in your ability to deliver unique, personalized automated marketing campaigns for your clients, which will lead to more sales and more revenue with less manual labor and fewer resources — an outcome that benefits everyone!

To learn more about Act-On and how our agency partners use our platform to plan, execute, and optimize personalized marketing campaigns for their clients, please click here to speak with one of our marketing automation experts.

Or, if you’re not quite ready to speak with anyone just yet, follow this link to take our Interactive Product Tour — where you can choose your adventure to learn how Act-On can help with your specific needs and pain points.

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