Marketing automation achieves one very important thing: increased efficiency. With the responsibilities of managing complex campaigns, creating content and qualifying leads, many B2B marketers are turning to SaaS marketing automation applications to gain an edge. And it pays off—63% of companies outgrowing their competition use some form of marketing automation.
However, in order to choose the right software, marketers must recognize the crucial distinction between marketing automation tools (MATs) and platforms (MAPs). MATs often come in handy for automating or refining a particular process. MAPs, on the other hand, offer complete solutions that enable detailed management of a whole marketing ecosystem.
Which is better for your company, an automation tool or a platform? Let’s take a look at what each has to offer.
Marketing Automation Tools: Highly-Specialized Software for Specific Tasks
Sometimes, a company’s marketing team already has its procedures in full swing and only wants to improve one or two specific aspects of the strategy. In such cases, a MAT might be the right choice.
Tools come in many forms, and accomplish tasks that would consume more time if done manually, such as sending personalized emails to leads, scheduling social media posts or publishing landing pages. However, the strength of a MAT is often its greatest weakness for a growing company; A tool only focuses on one thing (a handful at most). This becomes a real challenge in complex B2B markets and evolving product and service environments for the following reasons:
- You may be forced to buy more software solutions. If, for example, you’re efficiently managing email signups to your blog newsletter with one tool but would like to add more sophisticated segmentation to your gated content, you’ll need a separate tool.
- Tools often lack compatibility with each other. The functions performed by any given automation tool may not overlap, with other aspects of your campaigns. The, stand-alone tools can easily silo your market intelligence and hinder a thorough view of leads. To remedy this, you might have to manually create databases of lead information to better understand your market, a potentially arduous task—or again, buy more tools.
- You’ll be less responsive throughout your sales funnel. By using tools that are focused completely on different outlets (for example, one tool for email and another that tracks website activity), it’s easy to miss opportunities to cross-promote content to prospects who are primarily engaged with just one medium.
Automation tools might best serve relatively young companies or established businesses that don’t have a mature digital marketing presence. Nonetheless, as your company grows, with multiple verticals, market segments and longer sales cycles coming into the picture, it will be hard to keep up with your market and maintain a competitive advantage with MATs.
Marketing Automation Platforms: Software That Shows the Way
For a growing company that needs a global view of their marketing processes, with the ability to “zoom in” and optimize any part of a campaign for maximum ROI and conversion potential, you’ll need a Platform.
MAPs give the B2B marketer a complete methodology to develop their marketing strategies. In doing so, they eliminate the need to manually synchronize the information stored within two or more tools. Platforms also come with accessibility advantages, as they allow your colleagues across departments, and even across locales, to oversee strategy.
The handling of complex product offerings and even more-complex lead acquisition and nurturing protocols demands a platform, not just a collection of tools. Here are some of the essential benefits of platforms:
- In-depth analytics capabilities. Because they handle more than one task effectively (such as collecting customer data and suggesting relevant content, or providing social listening and social metric measurement), platforms often have built-in analytics functions that provide much richer insights than tools can. For example, a good social media marketing platform will share the data generated from social media interactions, with other marketing platforms, to create a more complete picture of your audiences.
- Built-in A/B testing. Most platforms allow you to conduct A/B testing, which lets you create two different versions of marketing asset elements (such as your logo, web copy headlines or landing page design) and determine which changes most effectively bring in qualified leads and drive up conversions.
- More content ideas and curation opportunities. With the rich industry insights that a MAP yields, generating content ideas becomes easier. Moreover, through a platform’s monitoring capabilities, you’ll be able to run into industry influencers and well-informed prospects with their own social presence, allowing you to curate excellent content via blog and social posts. In one study, 85% of B2B marketers reported not using marketing automation platforms to their full potential; you can buck that trend by mining ideas with your platform and establishing authority through well-informed content.
- Better scalability. As your company grows, a great automation platform will grow with it. With the increasing B2B adoption of such solutions, marketers can rest assured that a high-quality platform will come with continual refinements, stellar customer service, dedicated onboarding help and integration with other platforms.
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An automation platform’s advantages far outweigh those of a mere tool. Perhaps the only caveat with platform choice is that one should carefully avoid jack-of-all-trades solutions. The most reliable platforms will focus on one aspect of marketing (for example, content creation, social media marketing or email) and will excel in helping you manage all the particulars.
Why a Social Media Marketing Platform Matters
Social media will only keep growing in importance among B2B marketing outlets.
One study revealed the 10 most-connected B2B brands’ efforts to build consumer relevance resulted in 31% greater revenue growth over a three-year period. That’s proof it will be more and more essential to create organic touchpoints with prospects. A great way to achieve this is to utilize a social media marketing platform.
Oktopost, for instance, streamlines many of the processes involved in a strong social outreach, allowing the B2B marketer to focus on building substantial market relationships, and scalable processes. Like any platform (and not tool), Oktopost also integrates seamlessly with other services, giving you a cohesive customer view and helping you refine the sales funnel in the most impactful ways possible.
Automation Tools vs. Platforms: Which Will You Choose?
As a B2B marketer, you’re tasked with finding the best solutions to achieve your company’s market presence and customer acquisition goals. Automation tools can help when there is no marketing game plan in place, and the marketer is trying to figure things out. A platform, on the other hand, will provide a bird’s eye view of your strategy along with the ability to tweak specific aspects.
Which of the two will best serve your company’s needs?