With so many quality marketing automation platforms available, which is best for your organization?

In today’s B2B marketing world, selecting a marketing automation platform is a serious strategic investment. Marketing automation, paired with CRM, will become the backbone of your marketing program and power a significant chunk of communications and touch points for years to come. Marketing automation technology used right will be a lead and revenue driver for your organization. Marketing automation technology used poorly will be seen as an expensive line item in your annual marketing budget. An expensive line item your CFO will soon be cutting.

There’s a lot to consider when selecting a marketing automation platform. While we could go on for days about critical features and things to think about, here’s four key concepts to think about when selecting a marketing automation platform:

  1. Align technology features with your marketing roadmap

    Evaluating vendor A/B/C strictly on comparable features and capabilities doesn’t make a lot of sense. It tells part of a story at best, but lacks the context of your organization’s particular needs. We advise our clients to evaluate functionality against the features you require today, plus capabilities you’ll likely require in the next 2-3 years as your marketing program evolves. This will require a high level roadmap of the methods and tactics you plan on developing within your marketing program. In addition, it’s important to benchmark your marketing program needs against the roadmap of each vendor you consider. You might find some vendor’s product roadmaps align closer to your long term marketing program than others.

  2. Understanding your sales funnel

    When looking at your sales funnel, there are probably several distinct sections including Lead Generation, Qualified Opportunities, and even Customer Marketing. When evaluating marketing automation vendors, does the platform offer the functionality required to engage leads and customers? Can the technology adapt to your internal processes to support the day to day needs of Sales, Account Managers, and even Executives (reporting, measurement, etc.)?

  3. Integrations

    Generally speaking, marketing automation platforms don’t standalone in a marketers toolbox. More and more we’re seeing increasingly complex stacks of technologies being stitched together to support all aspects of marketing. When choosing your marketing automation platform, it’s important to identify the integrations you’ll require now and in the near future. For nearly everyone, it starts with CRM integration. From there, are there other technologies that require integration? Examples include: Content Management Systems, Event and Webinar software, Social Media Management, Analytics/BI Tools, or even a third party/custom app your organization has built.

  4. Partners

    Perhaps one of the more overlooked aspects of selecting your new marketing automation system is the implementation of the software. Today, many of these systems are highly customizable, and can be tailored to the industry and needs of your organization. Do you have talent and resources to design and implement marketing automation technology in-house? In a lot of cases, the expertise required comes externally in the form of certified partners. The good news is many of the top marketing automation vendors have deep pools of service partners to help with your implementation. When evaluating service partners, while that’s a whole topic in itself, it’s important to consider their experience with the technology, as well as their ability to truly understand your organization’s needs. A great service partner will help you maximize the results of your marketing automation platform.

  5. Bonus: Cost

    Of course cost matters, and with marketing automation technology, it’s important to understand all costs involved. In order to leverage your marketing automation platform to its fullest, here’s a list of cost areas you should be factoring into your decision making process:

    – Software/License cost – Usually a monthly cost directly tied to the number of contacts in the system. It’s important to factor the number of contacts in your database today, as well as the number you project to have in 2-3 years.
    – Setup and Implementation – Can you do this in-house or do you require an expert service partner to support your implementation? How long will it the implementation take, etc.
    – Day to day usage – Do you have dedicated resources internally to run the system or will you require an external partner to support it?