This post originally appeared on neilpatel.com
You could get a marketing automation tool and try to figure it out yourself.
Or you could get a marketing automation company to do everything.
Look, marketing automation gets crazy complicated.
Lead routing, lead tracking, campaign measurement, all the emails and landing pages, lead nurturing, dozens of segmentation lists, it goes on and on.
Not to mention a deep integration with your CRM which has to work flawlessly.
Your entire marketing program depends on getting marketing automation right.
The best sales teams already work with top Salesforce partners to get everything set up from the beginning.
It’s about time that marketing teams followed their example.
Don’t just look for a marketing automation tool, find a marketing automation company (agency) that can help you with everything.
The 5 Best Marketing Automation Companies
Some of us in that marketing automation companies are:
- Neil Patel Digital – Best for Content Marketing Automation
- LeadMD – Best for Tech Stack Integration
- CS2 Marketing – Best for On-call Marketing Operations
- Bluewolf – Best for Salesforce Automation
- Perkuto – Best for Marketo Automation
Let’s dive into each.
#1 Neil Patel Digital – Best for Content Marketing Automation
If there’s one digital advertising channel that cuts across all others, including automation, it has to be content marketing.
I’m not here to remind you that content is king. You already know!
Even with marketing automation, content marketing drives everything. You need the right content in the right emails to keep leads moving down the funnel.
Tons of billion dollar startups have built their sales and marketing process around content. And it works beautifully.
And it’s an area my team at Neil Patel Digital shines the brightest.
We’ve rolled out content programs for the entire sales cycle across many Fortune 500 brands.
I truly believe we’re one of the best companies at content, period.
If you’d like content marketing and marketing automation working together seamlessly, we should chat.
#2 LeadMD – Best for Tech Stack Integration
Marketing automation frees you (and relevant people on your team) from mundane tasks.
For example, say someone signs up to download a whitepaper on your landing page.
They fill out the form fields, your CRM collects this data, creates tags based on the info provided, and segments them into relevant email lists.
That email sequence could include 180 days or branching email logic based on their actions and sales stage.
For this to work well, you’ll need tight integrations between your:
- Marketing automation tool
- CRM tool
- Landing page tool
- Software trials and accounts
- Ecommerce accounts
- Subscription settings
- Customer support tools
- Deduplication tools
And dozens of small tools that impact your users.
If that sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.
These systems get extremely complicated very quickly.
You’ll need a team that knows how to get everything working together. One broken link in the chain could dump thousands of leads by accident, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’ve seen it happen countless times.
LeadMD specializes in setting up these types of integrations:
LeadMD is the go-to marketing automation company for integrating your tech stack.
If you feel really good about the rest of your marketing strategy and just need help with getting all the infrastructure working correctly, reach out to them.
#3 CS2 Marketing – Best for On-call Marketing Operations
Once you get your marketing automation fully implemented, that’s not the end.
New marketing operations projects come up all the time.
A hot new campaign needs to get added to your automation. Sales wants to tweak the lead scoring or MQL definition. IT changes one of your tools and you need to re-implement that part of the stack.
Lots of projects (large and small) will come up.
One option is to hire a full-time marketing operations person. That’ll easily cost $100K fully loaded with benefits, taxes, and marketing rate compensation.
Or you can find a marketing automation company that specializes in scaling up and down as you need them.
That’s exactly what Cs2 Marketing does.
First, you can sign up for a contract to get ongoing consulting. This is super valuable to make sure you’re not accidentally lighting your whole marketing stack on fire.
Then, when you have a project some up, they have a whole team that can execute it for you.
This is perfect for mid-size companies that need to keep every dollar focused on customer acquisition for as long as possible.
#4 Bluewolf – Best for Salesforce Automation
I’m going to say something controversial.
Oftentimes, how your marketing automation tool integrates with Salesforce is more important than the marketing tool itself.
After all, your business lives and dies on your CRM, which is usually Salesforce.
One way to get everything working right is to work backwards. Get your CRM dialed, then force your marketing automation tool to work the same way.
So before jumping into a deep marketing automation tool implementation, consider getting a top CRM agency to help with Salesforce.
For this, check out Bluewolf.
Bluewolf is an IBM company, and that alone speaks volumes about this agency’s reputation. They mostly serve enterprise brands and are prepared to handle anything that you can throw at them.
Bluewolf is also global. They have about 24 offices spread across different continents.
#5 Perkuto – Best for Marketo Automation
Marketo is a one powerful tool. If you’re already using it and want to go really deep with your implementation, check out Perkuto:
You could say that Perkuto is THE top-most Marketo expert, having achieved the “Marketo Engage” status and works with a team of over 50 marketing automation strategists and hardcore engineers.
If it can be done in Marketro, Perkuto can make it happen.
I’d definitely reach out to them if you have a Marketo implementation that’s gone haywire and you need serious expertise to fix it all. In those cases, you want a top expert to get you back on track. They’re worth every penny.
5 Characteristics That Make a Great Marketing Automation Company
When looking at marketing automation companies, what should you prioritize?
What are the red flags?
What signs tell you that someone is one of the best?
I start by looking for these characteristics.
1. ROI Before Tech
Some engineers and infrastructure folks love tech for tech’s sake.
Not all, but some do.
In marketing, that’s super dangerous.
You need a marketing automation implementation that generates real ROI. You spend $X. It needs to generate more than $X. That’s the whole point of marketing.
Otherwise, it’s just a waste of time.
When looking at marketing automation companies, they should have an extreme focus on driving ROI. It should be the lens that they filter every recommendation through.
Even better, they should talk about revenue growth and ROI naturally. You shouldn’t feel like you have to push them here.
2. Experience With Companies Bigger Than You
When working with any marketing automation company, make sure you’re not the biggest customer.
The last thing you want is for a vendor to patch your implementation together because it’s the first time they’re handled your complex use-case.
You don’t want the marketing automation company to learn on your dime. Your implementation will suffer. Tech debt will pile up and you’ll end up paying to fix it later.
Ask the company for case studies and a list of clients in a similar industry as you. Many of them should be larger. If not, treat it as a red flag.
3. Deep Experience With Your Marketing Tech Stack
In any marketing automation tool, there are dozens of different ways to set up any workflow or feature.
You don’t want it to just work, You want it set up so it has that perfect balance between scalability and flexibility.
That’s not easy to do.
To know what option is best, it takes a lot of trial and error with every tool. And experience across dozens of clients and implementations.
So even if a marketing automation company has a ton of experience, make sure they have experience with your marketing tech stack.
Otherwise, keep looking.
A marketing automation (and CRM) implementation is one area you do not want to cut corners.
We’re talking about foundational infrastructure that routes every lead of your business.
Any leaks means you’ll lose serious money.
And sense these systems get extremely complicated, it’s easy for stuff to fall through the cracks.
So when you’re shopping around with different companies, look at low prices as a red flag. The experienced folks will know their value and charge accordingly.
Spend the money to get your marketing automation set up correctly. It’ll instantly pay for itself.
5. A Desire to Coach
As you start talking with companies, the best ones will have an innate desire to coach you and your team.
Even if they handle 100% of the initial implementation, they know that your team needs to manage and operate it all.
Communicating best practices, guiding your team, and empathetic coaching will make sure that your implementation stays clean for years to come.
On any given call, you should feel like you’re learning. That’s a good sign they’ll continue to coach your team throughout the entire implementation.
What to Expect from a Great Marketing Automation Company
Once you start to reach out to marketing automation companies, expect to go through these steps.
1. Filling out the contact form
Since marketing automation projects are major rollouts, expect an in-depth sales process before getting started.
The marketing automation also needs to do a deep dive on your needs before being able to come up with even a general price range.
Look for the contact form of their website and use that to get started.
2. The discovery call
After filing out the contact form, you should receive a reply pretty quickly.
Any great team will be crazy responsive to any new prospects. Expect a reply within 24 hours.
If you don’t get a reply, that might be a sign that you’re a poor fit for that company. For example, the companies that specialize in enterprise clients will probably ignore smaller startups that need a basic implementation for a marketing team of 2-3 people. It’s just too small for them. In these cases, they typically don’t respond at all.
So if you don’t get a response and you’re a smaller company, look for folks that feature clients on their site that are closer to your size.
Once you get a reply, you’ll usually get asked to jump on a discovery call. There won’t be much pitching on this call. Instead, the marketing automation company will want to learn as much about you as possible. They’ll ask you things like:
- Your marketing tech stack
- Company size
- Key stakeholders
- Hard requirements for the project
I recommend that you sit down and come up with clear answers to these items before the discovery call. That will keep the process moving quickly.
The clearer you can be with the partner, the more likely they’ll be able to deliver what you want.
3. The Proposal
Depending on the complexity of your implementation, you might have several calls to scope out the full project.
Once everything has been clarified, expect to get a proposal that breaks down the full cost, timelines, and deliverables of the project.
If you wince at the price, it’s probably in the right range. Implementation fees for CRMs and marketing automation tools are pretty high.
One other thing, really double and triple check all the requirements with your team. Look for holes and items that you missed in the spec. Changing requirements later will get really difficult. Best to get any changes added to the proposal now.
Also ask the company how they handle mid-project scope changes in the event that it happens. Usually, they’ll have an hourly rate that they charge for any additional work.
4. Sign and get started
Once you’re ready, sign the proposals and get the project going.
After everything is signed, the marketing automation company usually takes the lead. As long as you’re responsive on your side, things usually stay moving without you having to push on them.
The initial process usually starts with:
- Introductions to the whole implementation team
- A kick-off call
- Scheduling for regular check-ins
- Calls with internal experts to go through all details
Are the Top Marketing Automation Companies Worth it?
I believe so.
Any serious marketing team will need a fully operational marketing automation tool.
And marketing automation tools have gotten so complicated that it’s unwise to muddle through them yourself.
You want an experienced team to roll out your tool the right way. It costs a lot more upfront but it’ll save you a ton of money in the long run.
I was speaking to a VP of Marketing the other day. He worked at a top-tier marketing team, managing hundreds of thousands of leads. He turned to me and said “You know, the other day, we discovered 100,000 leads that got lost in our marketing automation tool. They were just sitting there. For like a year.”
That’s nuts! Think of all the lost revenue.
And it happens all the time.
Look around, reach out to a few experts in this space, and get it done right.