Email Marketing Automation – what should you look for in a system?

For most small businesses an email marketing system that provides broadcast capability meets their marketing and customer contact requirements in the email area.

However, for slightly larger businesses, or those who can justify investment of resources into a more sophisticated email marketing campaigns, it is worthwhile considering an email marketing automation system.

As a rough guide, businesses with more than 10,000 email contacts and /or sending (or planning to send) 10,000 email a month could gain a benefit from looking at email marketing automation.

What to look for in an email marketing automation system

If you’re new to email marketing automation and unsure of what you should be looking for and evaluating, consider how important the features and functions in the following areas are to you and your business.

Then consider what the potential benefits could be, and evaluate email marketing automation systems to see how they meet your needs and could deliver benefits to your business.
Overall, the most common features that you’ll find when evaluating email marketing automation vendors are listed here:

  • List Management: The ability to easily segment your database of leads and contacts and target them with focused campaigns and marketing programs .
  • Email Marketing: It’s pretty obvious that you want to send emails, but if you need more than batch broadcast and simple sequential campaigns, either immediately of in the foreseeable future, and need conditional actions based on recipient activity, then you need a powerful platform to achieve that.
  • CRM Integration: This really helps to align Marketing and Sales – bi-directional CRM integration allows for CRM data to be easily swapped back and forth, so hot leads plus history can be passed to sales, and contacts that aren’t ready to buy yet can be passed back into nurture campaigns.
  • Web Analytics: Incorporation of web activity data into the marketing and sales picture, allows you to segment, score, and qualify prospects based on their website-viewing habits, and have more effective 1:1 conversations.
  • Lead Nurturing: Automates the process of qualifying leads and increases upsell-rate by keeping current customers engaged.
  • Lead Scoring: Quality metrics applied to each Lead and Prospect, relative to that of others in your database.
  • Reporting: An essential feature for any email marketing system, so you can tune your marketing initiatives based on real intelligence to help you refine and improve responses and results.

The list above is a broad overview of the essential elements to achieve a successful closed-loop, precision marketing process. Every vendor in the email marketing automation space will have their own response to these individual functional areas.

Additional criteria to consider

The following criteria should also be considered as they can have a big influence on project success.

  • ease of system set-up
  • ease of use
  • ease of setting up individual email campaigns
  • training needed
  • documentation and online help
  • support-desk responses
  • multi-channel capability (eg. post, SMS, Social Media)
  • multi-media capability (eg. text, images, audio, video)

Cost is also important to most businesses, but offset by many factors, so this could be a final criteria between short-listed systems.

And cost isn’t just what you pay out to use the system, but also the time it takes to run and manage the email marketing automation system, to create campaigns, set-up rules, monitor results and so on. You might consider a budget for a marketing person for 2 days a week to run your email marketing automation.

Evaluate carefully in order to choose the one that’s right for you. Also bear in mind that systems in this category of email marketing automation are being updated and enhanced on a regular basis, so choose a supplier based on their focus, specialisations and track record and their product, not just a set of product features available today in isolation.

If you would like to discuss any aspects raised by this article please drop me an email.

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