Major software purchases are one of the most complex, time-consuming, and expensive processes that any company makes. Marketing automation is no different; with a growing landscape of vendors and new capabilities, choosing a platform is no simple task.
The important question is how to decide which platform is best suited for your company’s needs. Your search should be exhaustive. But before you start gathering Gartner Magic Quadrants, white papers, and attending live demos and requesting quotes, keep on reading for the five critical questions to ask first.
1. Think About The Future You
Think about your strategy; what are you hoping to accomplish with marketing automation?
The answer should come from the features you need today and the features you will need in the future (let’s say 3-5 years). It’s impossible to know what the MarTech landscape will look like but try to future proof yourself as much as possible. While individual features can be upgraded at a later date, some cannot– with very costly consequences. However, realize that there is a maturity model in marketing automation; there is a learning process, and rushing through may decrease the capabilities you acquire.
2. Think Features and Capabilities not Dollars
Odds are, price will be the first aspect that you (and your CEO) look at; software purchases are still viewed as costs instead ROI drivers. Granted, marketing automation isn’t cheap, but price should not be the most important aspect to look at. Instead, look at the features that you require and capabilities that each vendor offers– and the cost of not having them. Remember, your choice will impact the way you market to your customers. Think ahead to 12 months (to renewal date): how will your CEO react if you’ve been paying for an underperforming platform that was chosen based on a lower price?
3. Marketing Automation = Sales Automation
While marketing automation is primarily used by marketers, it will greatly impact sales as well. Marketing automation can be described as a bridge between sales and marketing, increasing interaction, productivity, and profitability. It is important for marketing and sales to come together to use marketing automation to improve lead routing as leads progress from “known” to “MQL” to “opportunity-won.” Consider the processes currently in place, and if marketing automation will act as a catalyst or an inhibitor.
4. Who Are Your Customers
For any company, one of the most important pieces of information is about your customer: who they are, where they are, what they buy, etc. Is your marketing B2B or B2C? While most marketing automation platforms can be used for both, some platforms excel in one over the other. For example:
- You sell clothing on a transactional website – you require email blast and website analytics.
- You sell software with a complex sales process – you require revenue cycle modeling and lead lifecycle programs.
Almost every vendor distinguishes themselves as primarily for B2B or B2C marketing, so research how you can best align platform capabilities with your marketing strategy.
5. Think About Add-Ons
Your marketing automation platform is a foundational stone. Now consider the other pieces that attach to it– your CRM and the rest of your tech stack. Most major marketing platforms come with out-of-the-box API integrations, but others do not. Be wary of how the other tools in your MarTech stack will integrate with your automation platform, limiting the potential for bottlenecks and broken connections. A well-oiled MarTech stack is made up of tools working together. Be sure to give developer resources and repositories a solid look through, ensuring that you have a full idea of what you are getting yourself into.
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