Marketing automation sounds like the panacea to cure all our ABM woes; technology that helps to automate manual, repetitive tasks, intelligently nurture leads through the buying cycle and determine exactly when sales should follow up. And yet it turns out that marketing automation takes a lot more work than its name suggests and realistically you only get out of it what you put in.
But the range of technologies, functionality and systems available mean that often even knowing what to ask before you select a vendor is a minefield. Below are our top eight things to consider before you select your marketing automation platform.
- How well does the technology integrate with your CRM system?
This is crucial. If you can’t make this integration work properly, the whole system breaks down. Leads need to be bi-directional with information flowing from the CRM system to the marketing automation tool to drive the right campaigns to the right people. Then from the automation tool back to the CRM system to provide sales with the insight to intelligently follow up with the right leads, at the right time.
- Who is using the tool?
If you just have a general marketing team without any automation specialists then an intuitive system that helps you create campaigns easily will be required. If you have specialists on board then you could opt for a more advanced system with greater functionality and reporting mechanisms. Also consider how much training time you might need to get your team fully skilled up in how it works and making full use of the functions available.
- What data do you need to plug in initially (and what’s the quality of your data like?)
Every data automation platform is only as good as the data that’s input at the start – an obvious point but one that many organisations forget to address before they make a purchase. How clean is your data and is it organised in the right way to make input and onboarding a smooth process? Consider what data is required to get the most from the platform, and make sure you update everything before you start.
- What functionality do you need?
No doubt you know what you want the outcome to be from your platform, but it’s worth considering exactly what functions you expect from it. Do you need simple things such as templates for content creation and easy campaign management? What about more advanced features such as real-time web personalisation or automated lead scoring and nurture tracks that can be tailored specifically for each campaign? Consider what functions you actually need – you don’t want something too basic for your needs, but neither do you want to pay extra for functionality you won’t use.
- What stages of the buyer journey does the system cover?
Some marketing automation platforms are point specific – focusing mainly on email for example, and not on other channels that that would aid lead acquisition initiatives. If you need to cover the entire buyer journey, from unknown lead to brand advocate and repeat buyer, then ensure the platform has the functionality to enable you to nurture and target effectively throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
- How easy is it to create workflows and triggers?
Once your data is in the system you’ll have to think about what triggers and workflows you need for each campaign. Multiple workflows will be required for each campaign so you can respond to customer behaviour. Make sure these are simple to create and that the journey changes upon triggers from customer behaviour to ensure each customer remains on the track that is most applicable for them.
- What reporting and analytics capabilities do you need (and are they flexible?)
Consider your KPI metrics and ensure the reports and analytics offered by the tool give you insight into whether you’ve hit them or not. Are you focused on driving pipeline or revenues? Open rates or MQLs? Also consider who is going to be viewing the reports – it will help you prove your investment cases and overall campaign success if reports are easy to create and simple to read.
- How much vendor support will you require?
How much support are you going to need? Do your team have the skills in house and even so, updates will need managing and understanding to ensure you get the full benefits of all the features. Check with your vendor to ensure there are no extra fees for an onboarding process, and how long/short that processes usually is. Ask if your vendor has a training scheme – most platforms have some sort of certification programme which can help teams get up to speed quickly. These range from classroom-based sessions, to online learning modules which range in cost and complexity. Also it’s worth checking whether you have a limited length of support time, or if there are caps and additional charges.