Choosing a Marketing Automation Platform, Part 2
POSTED : December 12, 2013
BY : PK

Now that you are sure your business needs to get into Marketing Automation, which platform do you choose? The sophistication level varies considerably, from pure email-campaign management through sophisticated platforms that monitor customer lifetime value. Choosing the best platform for where your business is now, and where it will be in a few years, will save you a lot of headaches. Here are our tips on choosing the best software platform for your needs.

Inventory your needs: Now and in the future

Spend some time thinking about your current state of lead collection, management and nurturing. How many contacts do you have? How many do you receive per month? What kinds of manual activities are you looking to automate? Once you have thought about the current state, consider the future. What are the projections for growth? What does that mean for your lead volume? What kinds of marketing activities would you like to do, but don’t currently have the resources to manage?

Maybe you don’t have tens of thousands of contacts now, but when you grow, will your automation platform be able to grow with you? If your growth is expected to be big, look for platforms with multiple tiers of service, so that you can add on tools when you need them.

Remember, you are a lead…to the marketing automation vendors

Marketing Automation companies are using their own technology to track you as you visit their webpages and walk through their sales cycle. Use this as a litmus test. How does the relationship feel? Do you feel pestered or pressured? Is the content served to you relevant to where you are in the research process? Are you being asked for too much information on a form? Keep in mind that these tools can all be customized, but be aware of the experience your customers are likely to have.

Use the RFP tools that each company provides to get a comprehensive list of features. Think hard about the value of each feature, and rank them in importance to your business. If a key feature is missing from one platform, your decision is that much simpler.

Ask your peers

Ask for references from each vendor, but also ask around at industry events. Your peers at other firms are struggling with the same questions and may be able to provide you with excellent advice on what it is like to work with each company.

Software-as-a-service is ultimately a service. Don’t forget to inquire about a vendor’s customer service reputation. A platform may have all the bells and whistles you want but fails to follow through with responsive customer service. Your peers who have already implemented these systems can tell you about their experiences with after-sales service.

Include IT in your discussions

Many Marketing Automation platforms tout their ease-of-use, and more and more marketers are making technology decisions without consulting their IT departments. It is always best, however, to know what sort of roadblocks might appear once you’ve signed the contract and are trying to deploy.

Conclusion

Many companies will start looking for a Marketing Automation vendor feeling confident about what they need. Once the research begins, however, the various combinations of features, price points and service contracts can become confusing. Preparing for the research phase is key. Before you look at the range of platforms, think about your business goals and prepare to be “nurtured” through the vendors’ own Marketing Automation engines. Once you have a sense for what features you want, be sure to consult with other customers and your IT department. Companies who prepare for the Marketing Automation decision will find the right platform for their needs.

Visit part 1 of our series to learn 3 things you should think through before implementing marketing automation.

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