There are over 300 marketing automation platforms to choose from, so you better know your stuff, otherwise you’ll end up wasting money that could be used to grow your startup in other ways.
Online marketing can get complex, and marketing automation tools will help simplify things – when you choose the right tool, that is. Choose the wrong tool, and you’ll end up with more frustration than you started with, as well as unnecessary expense.
This article aims to guide you into a foundation of understanding, and it’s recommended that before making your final choice, you create a marketing strategy first, and then based on that, research the tools that will help implement your plans.
What are marketing automation platforms?
Online marketing revolves around email
Online marketing revolves around email. The reason for this, is a trust element, because 55% of what makes up a first impression is what we see. In online marketing however, you can’t see who you’re dealing with, so it makes it that much harder to trust a website – aka the online business’es “building”.
And so, using email, online marketers attempt to build trust and credibility over time, so that people on their lists will eventually choose to buy from them.
All marketing automation platforms revolve around email marketing.
The 3 grades of platforms
All marketing automation software can be categorized into three grades:-
- At the very basic level, are the email marketing software tools like MailChimp. Usually, a startup would begin on this basic level.
- Midgrade sits entry-level marketing automation platforms like GetResponse. Once a small business owner realizes how tools on this grade can help save time and boost marketing efforts, they move up to using these tools.
- At the top, at the most sophisticated level, are the Big Boys like HubSpot. These tools include the functionality of midgrade tools but in addition, boast CRM and sales teams functions that small businesses would not usually require.
Major differences between the 3 grades
The first major difference between the three levels of tools, is price. The most basic level tools can be acquired for free (with very limited function), and are between $9 and $20 per month.
The midgrade tools like GetResponse, cost between $45 and $129 per month.
Finally, the Big Boys cost in the region of $199 to $895 per month.
The next big difference between the platforms, is functionality:
- Basic grade: these tools usually offer all email marketing functions, including autoresponders and analytics.
- Midgrade: the tools on this level vary greatly in what they offer; but more on that later. Generally, on this grade are platforms that offer email marketing functions including autoresponders and analytics, as well as a few more advanced analytics and reporting functions. In good tools, there will be landing page builders and other helpful marketing tools like surveys or webinar hosting.
- Highest grade: these platforms offer everything midgrade platforms offer, as well as other related, advanced functions. In addition, larger companies can manage sales teams and their CRM programs.
How to choose between the platforms
Planning for growth
Startups could start with the basic grade email marketing tools, but you would need to consider your long-term marketing strategy. All email marketing campaigns usually need landing pages and with basic tools, that is not included, which means that you would still need to pay for an external landing page builder, or pay for a guru to create pages for you.
If you start online marketing by using a basic tool, and want to grow your business in a year or so, you would need to move all your lists to a midgrade tool, or use a few different tools to accomplish what a midgrade tool would do. When you add up the costs, it makes sense to just start your online marketing efforts using a midgrade tool.
An idea that is cost effective for startups, would be to start with GetResponse’es email marketing package for $15 per month, and then in time, add services like the landing page builder, webinars, surveys, workflow planners, etc. This would allow the package you choose to grow as your business grows.
Midgrade platform differences
Before choosing any tool, do your homework, because it needs to fit your marketing strategy. Although every midgrade marketing automation platform offers email marketing, analytics and landing page builders, they all offer extras that some businesses would need while others wouldn’t.
For instance, ConstantContact allows the non-profit organization to collect donations and manage events, which the other tools don’t cater for. GetResponse on the other hand, is the only midgrade tool that offers webinar hosting and shopping cart abandonment intelligence. So you can see that the tool you choose needs to fit your plans.
- First create your marketing plan, so that you know what kind of tool will be the best fit.
- Understand that although all marketing automation tools revolve around email, they each offer very different functions.
- Startups should choose a midgrade tool to start with; this avoids later frustration.
- Pricing and function are the two major differences between the levels of available platforms.