11 things to consider when evaluating Marketing Automation

With all the hype swirling around about Marketing Automation it is easy to get caught in the buzz, or think you are missing out. The fact is… you are.

I am a big advocate of using marketing automation as a tool to support marketing programs like management of demand generation campaigns, improving quality of leads to sales, email blasts, lead nurturing, lead scoring and analytics. Now, Marketing Automation won’t do this alone, it is a larger part of the overall marketing program – but it is one that needs great emphasis and attention.

No longer are B2B marketers just judged on awareness and throwing any lead over the fence and then passing the buck to sales. Today’s marketer needs to demonstrate a greater impact on the pipeline and produce quantifiable ROI. While we still need to make the flashy brochure, be at the right shows, launch targeted webcasts, produce high quality websites, launch social media campaigns, give attention to SEO and SEM, etc… we are being asked to do even more every day.

Marketing Automation tools make this a much easier task. As someone who has used many and recently went through the process of  selecting a new vendor after working with a different platform many years I thought I might share a list of some of the important questions to be thinking about while evaluating vendors and their unique technologies. Some of these will be obvious to some, but I am hoping this might spur a few “a-ha” moments to those of you looking at the multitude of tools available to you today.

11 Things to Consider:

1)    Will you be able to dedicate a full time person to managing this tool? (some tools require a more technical person to administer, while they can be quite powerful be aware of the additional investment)

2)    Do you have the in-house talent to design templates, or will you need to outsource? (some tools make it easier to quickly design landing pages and emails, but note they can only do so much without the proper touch of an experienced design professional)

3)    How accessible do you want this data for your sales team? (some technologies allow almost full visibility with their enhanced CRM integration, but often times at an additional financial cost)

4)    How many licenses will you need? (consider the point above, also,  what level will sales need, what about product management and other teams that send large volumes of emails)

5)    What CRM system are you using? Are you using a CRM system? (many of these tools are best used with a specific CRM system, make sure you make clear up front what tool you are using)

6)    Will you want to host the forms/landing pages on your site, through the automation tool or your CRM? (this is important when considering flow to sales/CRM and ease of form creation)

7)    What other technologies beyond CRM are you using, will they integrate? (pretty straight-forward)

8)    Will they give relevant references? (what customers switched to them from another vendor you are looking at, what other companies are in your industry, your size, your place in the cycle when launching)

9)    How robust a tool do you really need? (will you be using this just as an email blast tool, how many emails will you be sending, will you be scoring leads, will you be creating multi-threaded nurturing campaigns, will you use landing pages, will you integrate your PPC program, do you need advanced integration into CRM, etc)

10)    Is the vendor innovating? (is this a tool with buzz for all the right reasons, do the references look forward to what is coming next or is this a company resting on name recognition)

11)    Have you evaluated enough vendors? (sure, you might fall in love at first site, this happened a couple times in the evaluation process for me – but I wanted to throw you a list of names I evaluated to consider – these cover all ends of the spectrum in terms of price and robustness of the tool: Aprimo, Eloqua, Exact TargetGenius, Marketo, MarketBright and Silverpop)

This is just a launching pad for the questions that came up in the process, please feel free to add your own in the comment section below.

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