Tips for Selecting the Right Marketing Automation
Marketing automation platforms allow companies to create one-to-one communication with all of their prospects, leads, customers, or clients. It expands on the power of a CRM, works with it, and can help connect marketing and sales. It’s also a complex and potentially expensive platform that your team will need to learn, so it’s important to take the time, learn about your options, and ask the right questions before signing on the line.
Know your database
Most marketing automation platforms are priced based on your database size. How many contact, lead, or client records do you have? This is a good time to start a data review – how many duplicates are in your database today? How clean is your data? Going through a data cleanse before adopting a marketing automation tool will help save you time and money and get you up and running faster.
Know your strategies
What channels are you using today or want to use in the future? What are your goals? How will you measure success?
These seem like obvious questions, but they are fundamental to ensuring that you make the right choice in any technology. Understanding what channels you use can help prioritize functionality. Knowing your goals and how you intend to measure them help know what sort of reporting you need.
Even things like B2B vs. B2C marketing are things to consider. There are some solutions out there built for account-based marketing (ABM), and there are others that are focused on reaching out to individuals.
Your database type and size, and your primary strategies are your keys to prioritizing functionality. What do you have to have? What would you like to have? What is something that you’d like to have but are not willing to pay extra for? Take those priorities to heart – color code them, create a matrix, whatever will help you to stick to the list.
Start with a wide net
If your company is brand new to marketing automation, don’t limit yourself. Based on your database and goals, there are - guaranteed - more than two options. Be open-minded, review anything you find or hear about. Sometimes there’s a single platform that will work for you, and sometimes you can find á la carte options for a suite of solutions.
The wide net will not last long; some options will be clearly too expensive, incomplete, or simply not a good fit. Narrowing it down to five or fewer options will be easier than it may seem.
Dig deep with your top choices
Don’t let your potential partners off easy. By the time you start seeing demos, you might be tempted by the shiny features that they highlight. They are designed to be selling points; they are designed to show the coolest, newest features. But unless those coolest, newest features are on your list of priorities, they are not enough to make a decision.
There is a long list of questions you should think about asking, and they will vary depending on your needs, but here’s a starting point:
1. What kind of integration do they have with your CRM? (Expect a delayed integration – anything from 3 to 10 minutes between syncs is normal.)
What information is shared and what is not?
Does the information sync both ways?
What kind of control do you have on the sync - winning values, what fields sync, etc.?
2. What kind of reports do they provide out-of-the-box? Can you create custom reports?
3. What other integrations do they offer? (Think webinar platforms, website metrics, blogs, etc.)
4. How does the platform handle your top channels? (Emails, content, social media, etc.)
Are all channels included in a basic license, or are they separate?
Does the platform provide an avenue into a new channel?
5. How does the platform help manage things like email deliverability and SEO (Search Engine Optimization)?
6. Do they have a customer community?
7. How do they provide support? Are there SLAs (Service Level Agreements)?
8. Do they provide training for administrators and/or users? Is it free or paid?
9. Can you customize the platform?
Can you create new fields or objects?
Can you control user profiles?
10. How often do they update their platform?
If you have many priorities, a complex matrix, or a strict budget, consider running a full RFP (Request for Proposal). Having all your top choices answer the same questions, based on your priorities, makes it far easier to have an apples-to-apples comparison and select the best option.
Finally, consider the business itself. Transitioning from one platform to another can be time consuming and difficult, so if possible, pick a partner that you want for the long haul.
You can learn a lot about a company when you negotiate with them. If you have a hard time negotiating price, don’t expect that to change when you’re a customer. If you go through the sales cycle with only one or two people, you are likely to have a single point of contact as a customer, rather than a tree of options.
Ask for references. Many companies are happy to connect you with a current customer with a similar business model to answer your questions.
Look at their blog – is their content in-line with current marketing trends? If they understand marketing and are providing great content, they understand what marketing automation needs to do.
Selecting any new business technology requires forethought, planning, and time. Marketing automation is no exception to that. The good news is that there are a lot of great options out there. If you take the time to understand and prep your database, list and prioritize your goals and needs, explore options, and then dig into your finalists, you won’t go wrong. And then the real work can begin.
Have you recently adopted marketing automation? How did you make your decision? Share your stories and questions in the comments below, on our Facebook page, or directly with me on Twitter @thesafinhold or on the Success Community.