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What is marketing automation software, and why does it matter?

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Online businesses must differentiate themselves and connect with their customers in the face of intensifying competition, fragmenting media markets, rising customer expectations for service and delivery, and the proliferation of omnichannel commerce. The only way for emerging brands to keep up is to leverage high-quality software tools. Specifically, they should use analysis-centric marketing automation tools. Without these, businesses will not be able to maintain control over their customer sales conversion funnel, customer and marketing data, or the ever-growing number of touchpoints they must maintain with customers. 

What is marketing automation software?

Marketing automation software standardizes and simplifies marketing functions by reducing manual and repetitive tasks. These tools focus primarily on customer acquisition, conversion, and lifecycle management across a number of customer touchpoints including website, email, and social media. Outbound marketing vendors specialize in campaign management and acquiring customers to visit your website, while inbound marketing vendors help to automate the marketing tasks once a customer has visited your website. Modern marketing automation software is cloud-hosted and typically encompasses both inbound marketing and demand generation. Some companies will, however, employ different software vendors that specialize in one or the other.

What factors matter when selecting marketing automation software?

The most important criteria online brands and other modern businesses should consider when selecting marketing automation software include the quality and ease of implementing templates, reporting functionality, personalization tooling, testing modules, and integrations with critical systems.

  • Email template quality: Emails are at the core of marketing automation software. Templates help standardize how emails are created by allowing the sender of an email to format the email, embed rich media like photos, GIFs, and videos, and control which lists or groups are sent the email. This automation helps reduce manual processes and eliminates the need for users to have to code in HTML to obtain the desired email visuals. Differentiators here are mobile-first email designs and custom email audiences that adapt to changes in your business (such as new custom audiences being created via Facebook ad campaigns).
  • Reporting functionality: Your business operations generate an incredible amount of lead and customer data. You need a vendor that not only shows you your data, but also helps organize it into insights. Good marketing automation software puts critical data at your fingertips, such as past viewing and purchase behavior. It also offers the ability to segment email and other campaign data with custom attributes. Separately, the ability to define and monitor important marketing metrics like customer lifetime value (LTV) is critical in managing your marketing spend and allowing you to focus your efforts.
  • Personalization tooling: Personalization is a hot topic in marketing. It generally refers to making your marketing assets—including website and emails—specific and responsive to the customer that is interacting with them. Simple examples include welcoming a visitor to your website with their first name, assuming they enter your site from a specific email link. High-quality marketing automation software will allow you to adjust website items like checkout carts and also recommend other items based on site behavior and customer purchase history. 
  • Testing modules: Testing is vital to monitor the effectiveness of your campaigns and help inform future decisions. High-quality marketing automation software comes with embedded “A/B testing” tooling. These tools easily let you run experiments in terms of placement of items on website, changes in email copy, changes in time sent, etc. Testing functionality should be embedded within the marketing automation software and built into all of the different modules (such as personalization, email templates, etc.). 
  • Integrations: Online businesses today use a number of critical online software vendors. These include ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce; shipping platforms like Shippo; accounting software like QuickBooks and Xero; and advertising platforms like Google and Facebook. Each of these platforms both generates and ingests data that is relevant to customer lifecycle and business operations. The marketing automation software that you select should integrate—meaning send and receive data in an automatic, clean and easy way—to all of the other software vendors you use. The list of software vendors you use for critical functions is sometimes known as your “software stack.”

What tools are popular with ecommerce businesses?

The two most popular tools among Brex customers are MailChimp and Klaviyo. Other less popular options include Dotmailer and Bronto. MailChimp is used by many smaller ecommerce companies or those that are looking for a simple, inexpensive tool. However, Klaviyo outperforms MailChimp among most of the critical features described in this article including data and reporting, testing functionality, integrations and personalization features. Brex customers also get a 15% discount off Klaviyo software for the first 6 months. 

Regardless of which tools you use, if you want to build a sustainable growth engine for your business, you’ll need to invest in marketing automation early. The more integrated and analysis-centric the tool you select is the better positioned you’ll be in the long-run.

Photo credit: Kaleidico on Unsplash

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