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15 Key Areas to Consider When Evaluating Marketing Automation Software

What to look for in Marketing Automation Software for your Association or Nonprofit

As with all application software searches, before you begin evaluating marketing technology vendors, you must evaluate your organization and existing process. In this article, I will share my thoughts on key elements to consider while selecting your “Best Marketing Automation Software” for your nonprofit.

Selecting the Best Marketing Automation Software for Nonprofits 

Now that you know you are a good candidate for Marketing Automation Software,  you may be ready to evaluate solutions and vendors. However, what should you consider?  Great Question. Here is my answer. Whether you are a nonprofit or for profit, I believe there are roughly 15 areas which should be considered today when evaluating marketing automation software. Here is a summary for your review below.


In my mind, a small team needs to be more efficient in order to be effective. And, being able to manage multiple tools from one dashboard is a key time-saving feature for most organizations including nonprofits. When we looked at options, I used questions such as the following: Does the system provide one platform to launch and manage email campaigns and other key channels of communication? Does the platform automate common functions?


A marketing automation software platform should be able to create and maintain lists dynamically. We had tons of lists curated over years of doing business. That said, it was important for the system to accommodate that need. Questions such as the following were relevant: Can the database manage multiple lists? Can it create list segments based on behavioral or other attributes? Can the database integrate with a CRM (Membership/Donor) system, sharing data back and forth seamlessly and dynamically in real-time?


Automating content management makes content easier to use, reuse, revise, and share; it also keeps it updated and in sync. I asked the following: Does the system have the capability to quickly and easily create, reuse or repurpose attractive, consistent, brand-compliant email, web forms and landing page templates, using only basic skills. Does the system have a way to control access to any piece of content in any library?


A marketing automation’s ability to streamline and enhance lead generation, management, and distribution is a key benefit. You should consider the following: Ability to auto-respond to website and other inbound inquiries. Ability to set SMS and email alerts for types of contact from specific individuals and companies.


One of marketing automation’s greatest virtues is automating programs that would be difficult or onerous to do by hand. No amount of hired resources could manually reach out and touch prospects at just the right time with just the right message without a good marketing automation software program. Look for these capabilities: Trigger marketing, in which some action by a lead (e.g. visiting a conference page or downloading a document) triggers a response email.


Lead scoring allows you to set numerical scores for characteristics and behaviors that indicate sales readiness. Scoring automatically analyzes which prospects (Donors/Members) are most desirable according to criteria you determine. Things to be mindful about: Can the platform score prospective members or donors based on both explicit (e.g., title, location, etc.) and implicit (behavioral attributes and actions) data?


Email remains the cornerstone of outbound strategy for most companies. A marketing automation platform’s email tool should include a robust set of capabilities, and integrate with other tools. Many companies begin with email and add other aspects of automation as their comfort level grows. Look for: Creative capabilities that facilitate fast campaign creation, easy to use email editor for professional appearance, and brand consistency.


Your marketing automation platform should support and augment your website, and provide real value in lead generation. For many membership software systems, a content management system is included so this become even more important to consider. Be sure you consider: Can the Marketing Automation Software integrate with my Content Management or does the Marketing platform require I use their own?


Does your Association run online training or courses online? If so, and you use webinars now or plan to in the future, look for a marketing automation platform that offers a full integration with a webinar provider. Items of Importance: The ability to schedule and run a webinar from the marketing automation platform.


There are very few nonprofits today not utilizing social media. While reviewing it’s important to know that some marketing automation platforms allow prospecting and coordinated messaging and campaigns across social platforms. As a nonprofit organization it’s important to have: Easy setup of multiple accounts and identities on Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, etc.


Look for reporting capabilities that can meet the needs of your department, your internal and external partners, and the CXO suite. Reporting delivers numerical results. Analytics helps show you what’s working, and can help you determine where to focus or what needs adjustment.


If it’s too complex or hard to use, a marketing automation system won’t get used. Superior usability is the result of building a platform from the ground up with ease of use as a key design principle; it reflects the vision and purpose of the vendor’s leadership. Things to look for: A clean, simple, intuitive dashboard.

13. SPEED.

Time is money; the ability of marketing automation to accelerate campaigns from concept to deployment is a key win. In addition, the ability to analyze prospect response and prioritize hot leads to business development in real-time will enhance membership close rates. Factors to consider include: Automation of tasks that are now done manually; how much time and labor will you save? Also, you may consider what more you might be able to achieve with no increase in staff.


A complex marketing automation system can take a significant amount of time to implement and integrate, and may involve significant IT department resources. Factors to consider include. The complexity of infrastructure deployment and administration. Will you need  a marketing agency to assist?


The more complicated a system is, the more likely that you’ll need extensive training and ongoing support. Factors to consider include: Training required for users to gain facility and actually launch campaigns – weeks vs. days vs. hours. Is this included? Big factor for us and likely you too!


The total cost of an automated marketing system can’t be accurately calculated until enough time has passed so that return on investment can be measured against acquisition and maintenance costs. That said, there are issues involved in the total cost of acquisition that can be calculated and weighed before purchase. Factors to consider include: Base-product pricing; purchase or subscription; controllable, predictable factors & length of contract(s).

Are these 15 areas important to you? That’s the big question, isn’t it? As with all software, there is no one-size-fits-all “best” marketing automation platform. And, I do not believe that Marketing Automation is not for everyone. The best marketing technology is usually the platform that fits comfortably inside your organization’s culture, helps you fulfill your current objectives while being scalable enough to meet your organization’s needs as it grows, and is easy for your team to use.

If you are considering Marketing Automation Software for your Membership Organization or Donor focused Nonprofit, please give us a call. Until then, keep SmartThoughts in mind.

Free Checklist to help find the Best Marketing Automation Software for nonprofits


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