Sales and marketing automation tools are supposed to help small businesses get and keep new customers without hiring a huge sales and marketing team.  These days, however, there seem to be more sales and marketing tools than there are people who know how to choose and use them.  Ok, that’s a slight exaggeration but not by much.

Anita Campbell, CEO and publisher of Small Business Trends shares her insights on how overwhelmed and confused small business owners can choose the right sales and marketing tools for their business.

What are sales and marketing automation tools

Sales and marketing automation platforms typically start from a foundation of email marketing and grow to include CRM features, or they start with a CRM feature and build out the email marketing and automation features.  So, if you generate new business from direct sales, then you want a platform that is stronger in CRM rather than email marketing and if you generate most of your leads online, then you want a platform that is stronger in email marketing and automation than CRM.

8 Simple steps for choosing sales and marketing tools

Before you choose sales and marketing tools, it’s best to go through a solid thinking process.

  1. Think about how you get your customers.  Do you use direct sales or do you generate leads online?  If you use direct sales to get new customers, consider a platform with strong CRM features such as lead scoring.
  2. Map out your sales and marketing process.  Go through each step of how you generate leads, how you follow up with them and how you nurture them through your sales process.
  3. Go through your map and identify areas where automation will help save you time.  This can include things like automated emails, appointment setting, white paper downloads or anything that you or your sales team uses to move prospects through your sales funnel.
  4. Make a list of features that are important to you and prioritize those features.  Be as detailed as you can be about what you want the system to do.
  5. Create a test data set.  This is a good time to create your own test data set that you will use for any free trials that you’d use for your free trials.
  6. Head over to G2Crowd and search for tools with those features.G2 crowd sales and marketing automation tools
    This is just a place to start, you’ll have to do some searching and digging to see which ones meet your needs best.  Also look at Capterra.  These platforms (G2Crowd and Capterra) will help you narrow down your choices, but don’t stop there.
  7. Search Google for “Best sales and marketing automation tools” or search Google for phrases like “Hubspot vs Infusionsoft” for example.  This will bring up articles by experts and reviews that will help you further narrow down your search.  Look for platforms that offer a free trial and that have a pricing page. (Typically, platforms that do not have a pricing page are fairly expensive and are designed for enterprise organizations).  Hit small business publications like Smallbiztrends.com to see what others have written.  Here’s a great list article that might help, “The Really Big List of Sales and Marketing Tools“.  Small Business Trends also has a recommended section written by experts who have actually used a variety of these tools.
  8. Run one free trial at a time.  Most free trials run for 14 to 30 days.  That might seem like a lot, but these days fly by when you are busy running your business.  Choose one platform to test, ask for a demo, get the free trial and dedicate the time during that free trial to “live” off that software.  Use your test data set of prospects and customers to see if the platform meets your needs.

Sales and marketing tools are a great way to literally multiply yourself and automate a lot of the repetitive tasks that go into transforming prospects into customers.  Don’t make the mistake of rushing into a tool just to get a sales and marketing tool.  Instead, treat this as a serious project, follow the steps and you’ll get the perfect platform to run your sales and marketing.