3 questions to ask when shopping for a marketing automation platform

Three questions to ask when shopping for a marketing automation platform

Shopping for a marketing automation platform is no simple task.

It’s like deciding where to go eat when you’re really craving a burger. Would McDonald’s be better than nothing? Probably. But you’d be irresponsible and foolish not to at least consider some other (more satisfying) options.

So before you go diving headfirst into the coolest-looking platform you can Google, consider these three questions.

[RELATED: Marketing automation defined]

1. What existing systems do I need to integrate?

Marketing automation is complicated enough on its own. Incorporating it into the vast amount of other tools your business is already using can convolute things even further. Before you invest, take stock of what you’re using right now and what your marketing automation software will need to communicate with.

Are you using HubSpot as your CRM? You might want to start looking at their marketing automation services before you consider a more agnostic tool like Infusionsoft, SharpSpring or the Oracle Marketing Cloud.

Some tools are built to work with a specific CRM and some are not. Make sure you know how you want it to interact with your existing systems and be ready to implement accordingly.

2. What does my internal team look like?

Marketing automation seems like a magic solution. But it takes a lot more than a monthly subscription fee to solve your marketing woes.

In our configuration and implementation process, we realized very early on that it takes comprehensive configuration, near-perfect alignment between sales and marketing and a BUNCH of content. Without the right team in place, you could be doomed to fail.

In his Content Marketing Institute piece “Marketing Automation: Batteries Not Included,” Brandpoint president Scott Severson outlines the ideal marketing automation crew:

A CRM admin

This is the person who helps configure the platform for your business. While it can be an internal resource, we highly recommend finding a professional trained in your chosen platform (there are plenty for each).

A marketing automation specialist

This is your internal resource charged with managing and optimizing your marketing automation on a day-to-day basis. If your CRM admin is outsourced, your marketing automation specialist will work closely with him or her to get an up-close look at the process.

A sales leader

The sales leader establishes important protocols and standards for database quality and lead-scoring strategy. This person is in charge of training the sales team on how to use the platform itself and how to use those insights to make their job easier.

A marketing leader

The marketing leader is in charge of both establishing success metrics and makes sure the interactions the sales people have with their clients aligns with the marketing initiatives and that they fit in with the broader marketing strategy.

A content developer

This is a sneaky one because most organizations don’t quite understand how much content it takes to make marketing automation move. There are emails to draft, blogs to write, infographics to design and e-books and case studies to prepare. Having at least one internal content developer (or working with a seasoned content marketing agency) is imperative to success.

These are all important pieces of the puzzle and the right marketing automation platform may have resources to help you put them together. Each of the major platforms has a host of configuration and implementation partners. We can’t recommend working with a partner like this highly enough. We worked with the Redpath Consulting Agency, a Minneapolis-based Salesforce and Pardot configuration and implementation agency. They helped us to identify these key roles internally, served as our CRM admin during the process and helped us optimize the platform a lot more quickly than we could have on our own.

3. How much can I spend?

Sometimes, it simply comes down to dollars and cents.

Before investing in a marketing automation platform, think about how your marketing dollars and resources are already allocated. More specifically, think ahead about the internal resources you have in place to make the platform worth it.

Do you have an in-house content developer? Do you have a dedicated CRM admin or marketing automation specialist on staff? The answers to these questions may dictate how much you can actually spend on the marketing automation software itself. The Oracle Marketing Cloud might have everything you want in a marketing automation tool. But if you’re missing some of these key internal resources, a whopping $2,000 a month for the basic package alone might put it out of reach.

Also, keep in mind that a low monthly rate might not be the whole story. While some platforms may seem to have a significantly lower cost per month, “when you add up mandatory upfront costs for training and implementation, and other…’add-ons,'” according to Circle Studios, “the price goes up considerably.”

Be honest, be reasonable and make sure you’re leaving room in the budget for all the other things it takes to make the program work.

Try before you buy

After you’ve taken stock of what you need from a marketing automation platform, go try one out. Most offer a free-trial period to take them for a spin. If you test several, make sure take advantage of as many resources as your free trial allows and take notes to make sure you’re keeping track of what works and what doesn’t.

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