I recently ran across a staggering statistic: less than 10% of businesses are using a marketing automation solution.

How can this be? What are businesses using to not only create and send email templates to their marketing lists, but also tie in nurture marketing, web forms, landing pages, web tracking, social sharing, campaign management, and more? Could it be that even successful marketers still don’t see the value in a well-executed process? Did they not want to deliver more ready-to-close deals to sales while staying top of mind for not-quite-ready prospects through targeted content? How could they not want to unify their brand voice through an omni-channel presence delivered out of one system, not an endless list of sites?

(While you read, can you feel my pulse quickening as I sink into utter despair?! #MarketingNerd)

So, let’s talk. Marketing automation is so much more than a collection of email templates and marketing lists; it’s time to address what to look for during solution selection. One note: though I am certainly not without opinion on the subject, the purpose of this article is not to sway you to a particular platform but instead arm you with a series of questions to consider as you move forward. This article also assumes that you plan to use marketing automation in tandem with a CRM platform, and not as a standalone database.

Email Templates

I know I’ve said marketing automation is not JUST about email templates – but it’s certainly a key aspect. Is it important to you that the solution you are looking at comes with pre-made layouts that allow you to simply drop in images and content? Buyer beware: even some of the big dogs in this field do not offer this feature, anticipating users will either build all emails from scratch or clone existing templates for re-use. If you don’t have a wiz of a graphic designer and/or HTML savant in house, make sure you and your team are comfortable with the editor options.

Another question to ask in the demo process – are there testing limitations? You’ll want to test, re-test, and then test again any outgoing email campaigns and some vendors place restrictive limits on numbers or frequency of such. Testing is so important that I wrote an entire blog that stemmed from lack of adequate testing.

Lead Scoring

How well does your marketing department work with sales? The exchange of information between the two should be (but rarely is) seamless. Lead scoring is a simple but incredibly useful tool to better source leads to the correct team. Most platforms allow you to customize your lead scores based on how your clients and prospects interact with you online. For example, leads that come from social media channels can be sent directly to the inside sales team for follow up, or even assigned to a specific rep. Meanwhile, if a known prospect or customer (as opposed to an anonymous site visitor) hits a certain threshold by visiting a specific page, their account manager could be notified. Lead scoring can help you ensure marketing lists are better segmented for more targeted marketing and can separate qualified leads from those that may need more nurturing efforts. What options are available to you for lead scoring and how easily is it viewed by sales within your CRM?

Web Forms, Landing Pages, and Surveys

I’m not a developer, but I play one at work – all thanks to marketing automation. These tools allow you to quickly capture information about your prospects and communicate in a value-added way. Does the tool you’re considering allow easy set up and production of live forms, surveys, and landing page, without any knowledge of HTML? How easy is it to map forms to CRM to ensure leads are pulled in seamlessly and scored correctly?

Hint: if it’s causing you more work, it cannot be considered an automation. Be sure the solution you select is working for you.

Nurture Marketing

Ah, the elusive drip campaign. I quivered at your very mention in years past and now simply cannot imagine marketing without you. In short, nurture marketing/drip campaigns support conditional logic and branching scenarios that move leads automatically through a sales cycle, while notifying internal teams or representatives at customizable intervals. Let’s illustrate by example.

Phoebe hits up Company ABC’s website to inquire about their Phalanges. She decides not to purchase at the time, but having filled out the contact form, Company ABC now has a valuable way to interact with Phoebe (as long as she’d like to remain on their email list, of course). Chandler in Web Sales received Phoebe’s inquiry, because the form she filled out was scored to send an alert to his department email queue. After speaking with her and learning of her decision to hold off on purchasing, Chandler moved Phoebe into a nurture cycle. She received specific, targeted content based on the kind of Phalanges she’d indicated an interest in. Chandler occupied no further time chasing Phoebe for a sale until one day, Phoebe clicked on a link for the Phalanges liquidation sale in an email she received. When she clicked, Chandler was notified. He contacted Phoebe and had a relevant conversation that resulted in the sale of Phalanges.

This functionality also works well with existing customers, perhaps those who need ongoing education around a product or service, or who may be primed for an upgrade or upsell at a later date.

Does the solution you are considering support any form of nurture marketing? Are you able to use rules to route the sales path and notify the correct person or team based on actions prospects (or customers) may take within the nurture cycle? 

Social Channel Capabilities

Many marketing automation platforms are now developing capabilities across the various social channels. Not only can you now use these tools to post as your company’s page, but several allow you to share content on behalf of team members when given permission. Did you know that you can now track various keywords, hashtags, trending topics, or discussion threads?  It’s now a possibility to find prospects this way via social media, or perhaps quell a customer service concern before it becomes a PR nightmare. Because these concepts, and the technology that supports them, are relatively new to the marketplace, this is perhaps the category in which I have noticed the largest disparity in offerings. If this is important to you, you’ll be able to quickly disqualify a handful of options not yet offering social engagement.

Campaign Management

Track the success of campaigns and live events by delivering analytics that justify costs and support from start to finish. Are you able to report on customer acquisition, tying each lead to a source or campaign? What about housing digital assets, marketing plans, budgets, analytics, team and individual assignments in one accessible area? A solution with the right level of campaign management can ensure process supports overall marketing efforts.


This category is, admittedly, a catch-all. As indicated at the beginning, these suggestions are already aimed at businesses who have (or are considering) a CRM. While some marketing automation solutions are native to specific platforms and come with out of the box functionalities, others can be configured based on the specific needs of the business. Take a moment to consider any additional vendors or resources you use on a regular basis such as GoTo Webinar or EventBrite. Can these be integrated so that registrations flow easily into your system?

Also important: discuss with your company’s website developer to ensure they’ll be able to help you integrate the chosen solution so that forms, landing pages, surveys, lead scoring, and web analytics will all function properly. We’ve all heard the disastrous tale of the business whose Contact Us form didn’t function properly, causing leads to float away into the ether.

On Tuesday, 8/18 we are offering a webinar that will specifically review options for Marketing for Microsoft Dynamics CRM. Click here to register – it’s free! If you have any questions about C5 Insight or this blog entry, please Contact Us.