How to assess marketing automation and social solutions

Businesses are looking at social technology as the holy grail of inbound marketing and lead generation.

There are many facets to these technologies that offer significant opportunities to capitalize on Web site traffic and lead generation.  A hot topic is social technology, which has changed the way companies interact, react and understand their customers.  Social technology software is segmented into monitoring/listening, collaboration, marketing automation and social tools.  These categorizations are sub-categories of social technology and not understanding what you are trying to achieve within your marketing efforts could be detrimental in selecting the wrong software.

Marketing automation has rapidly made significant improvements in this sector.  These improvements have caused companies to re-examine new ways to automate and streamline marketing tasks and workflows. Traditionally marketers and marketing teams could only drive campaigns, rate their success manually, partially being able to track success and failure of marketing efforts, not having the ability to nurture prospects and almost zero analytics on their campaigns.

Marketing automation tools provide companies the ability to execute inbound and outbound marketing strategies with greater visibility, more control throughout the process and a significant amount of analysis.  This collection of tools automates and streamlines the end to end marketing process and offers companies more visibility and flexibility to achieve its social business initiatives.

Upon review of the leading vendors in the marketing automation space the primary functionalities at a high level within these solutions are email marketing, landing pages, form creation, reporting and analytics, lead scoring and nurturing. Many vendors have feature sets that focus on specific business problems that differentiate their solutions.

For example, Hubspot is primarily an inbound marketing solution that is used to attract prospects or visitors to your Web site, convert prospects and help close business. Whereas solutions like Eloqua provide outbound marketing functionality that target prospects through campaigns and nurtures them through the sales cycle. While these solutions provide the functionality to automate your marketing engine the major challenges come from the organizational side.

A few organizational hiccups to mention are bad data quality, not enough or inadequate content, poor marketing processes and lack of skilled staff to execute any of these functions. We have seen many organizations jump at social technology tools and not be successful in adoption and utilization. The case of IT failure in this respect is mainly due to the lack of understanding on how these solutions are categorized, how they integrate and what functionalities were available from these solutions.

Organizations should consider the following trends in this space, more marketing automation tools with tighter integration to CRM tools and bringing more CRM functionality under the marketing umbrella. For example, Pardot and Pardot was a marketing automation that was acquired by Salesforce and is now integrated into the CRM tool to round out the social functionality.  The full CRM functionality of SFDC has been added to the marketing automation tool, which greatly adds a social component to these solutions.

Other major trends that organizations need to consider when evaluating social marketing automation software is to realize their audience.  Your audience can be distributed over many networks and different platforms; mobile devices will greatly be incorporated into social interactions towards organizations. Understanding the initiatives your organization wants to execute is imperative in selecting the right software and avoiding IT failure.

Organizations should prioritize whether they require more marketing automation, social business, analytics, listening/monitoring, collaboration and/or unified communications requirements or any combination of the above.  These categories have started to merge creating a grey area for organizations to focus on what functionality they require.  Creating a specific outline as to the types of functionalities required will help ease the RFI/RFP and BRG phases of the project.

Keean Persaud
Keean Persaud
As Managing Director of Eval-Source Keean has over 16 years of enterprise software experience and is a driving component for making Eval-Source a leading consulting, analyst firm for enterprise software. Keean is responsible for the execution of Eval-Source’s company strategies as well as delivering management consulting services and providing thought leadership to industry. Eval-Source has changed the way companies acquire technology and continues to innovate in the process of technology procurement, strategy and advisory services and system optimization.

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