Once you have decided that your organization needs a marketing automation solution — or needs to change or upgrade its existing solution — the next step is to explore vendors and their offerings.
Our new report, “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide” is now available for free download.
If you already have a marketing automation solution, make a list of all the capabilities you currently have (i.e., email campaign sending), those you would like to have (i.e., predictive scoring or recommendations) and those you can’t live without (i.e., plug-and-play CRM integration).
Research vendors using that list to see which ones can meet your needs. Then send them the list of what you need and set a timeframe for them to reply. Also, decide whether you need to engage in a formal RFI/RFP process.
Before deciding on a vendor, check out its online community and review sites, and speak with one or two customer references, preferably someone in a business like yours. The vendor should be able to supply you with references, but you should also ask around in professional discussion forums or at in-person conferences and networking events.
Here are the basic questions to ask of each vendor.
- How easy is the platform to use?
- Does the vendor seem to understand our business and our marketing needs?
- Are they showing us our “must-have” features?
- If we ask a specific question, can they demonstrate the answer on the demo call?
Those questions are table stakes. Dig deeper with questions like the following.
- How easy is it to integrate this software into my organization?
- What is the onboarding process?
- How long does implementation take?
- What kind of support and training are included in the base price?
- What does your partner and developer community look like?
- How do I maximize adoption in my organization?
- Will we have a dedicated account rep available to us?
- Do current customers utilize the full functionality?
- What new features are you focusing on for the coming year?
- Can we do a test run for a few days on our own (i.e., a free trial)?
- How do you protect and secure customer data? Do you have a roadmap for what you would do in the event of a hack?
Don’t hesitate to ask for a demonstration of the specific capabilities that you have identified as must-haves. Consider requesting product demos showing basic tasks and demonstrating core reports such as:
- Create and edit a new email from scratch.
- Import and segment data.
- Base data management, cleansing and enrichment options.
- Create and edit a new landing page from scratch.
- Execute a simple campaign with an email, mailing list and landing page.
- See a report showing email opens, clickthroughs and landing page conversions.
- See a report showing web traffic and/or specific leads from an email campaign.
- ROI dashboards and reports at the organization and campaign levels.
- Campaign attribution options and capabilities.
This is an ongoing relationship; it’s important to feel that your questions are being answered.
For much more detail about choosing a B2B MAP vendor, download the latest edition of our free report, “B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide.”
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Marketing automation: A snapshot
Why we care.. For today’s marketers, automation platforms are often the center of the marketing stack. They aren’t shiny new technologies, but rather dependable stalwarts that marketers can rely upon to help them stand out in a crowded inbox and on the web amidst a deluge of content.
How they’ve changed. To help marketers win the attention battle, marketing automation vendors have expanded from dependence on static email campaigns to offering dynamic content deployment for email, landing pages, mobile and social. They’ve also incorporated features that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence for functions such as lead scoring, in addition to investing in the user interface and scalability.
About the author
Pamela Parker is Research Director at Third Door Media’s Content Studio, where she produces MarTech Intelligence Reports and other in-depth content for digital marketers in conjunction with Search Engine Land and MarTech. Prior to taking on this role at TDM, she served as Content Manager, Senior Editor and Executive Features Editor. Parker is a well-respected authority on digital marketing, having reported and written on the subject since its beginning. She’s a former managing editor of ClickZ and has also worked on the business side helping independent publishers monetize their sites at Federated Media Publishing. Parker earned a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University.