According to Jeff Pedowitz, CEO of the Pedowitz Group, here are 5 major things to consider when evaluating a Marketing Automation Platform:
1. Business Objectives – What are your main goals? Do you want to send out more email effectively? Do you want to integrate disparate systems? Is resource and budgetary planning important? How many channels do you plan to use? Are you trying to drive more leads … more qualified leads? Do you need more help in cross-sell/up-sell? Whatever it is, make sure that you clarify with your team what you are looking for not just for today, but in the next 24 months. Fortunately, most vendors out there are on demand and have flexible contracts – but once you seriously commit to a platform, it does get harder to switch over time.
2. Cost – Most marketing organizations are not familiar with buying technology, but they are very familiar with buying services. This will be a new type of purchase for many, and your budget will play a big role in determining what you can implement. Like most things, you get what you pay for. Solutions are available from under $1,000 to over $10,000 per month. Depth of functionality increases as you move up the food chain. Depending upon what you are looking for, you can find the right vendor at the right price. Software licenses are not the only price consideration. Evaluate start-up costs such as deployment, implementation, training, integration and system migration. There can also be ongoing costs for customer support, training, and additional modules. Again, consider all of these variables in your budgetary process.
3. Vendor Rating – There are at least 15 vendors in this space, with more jumping in every month. Some vendors have been around a long time, and have hundreds of customers in their stable and are financially secure. Other vendors are exciting and new, but unproven. Your appetite for risk will play a big part in your decision. Also look at the vendors support network. Do they have partners and affiliates that can help you with best practices and value-added services? Are there regular user groups and online forums where you can network and share with other customers? Is the vendor accessible? Are they continuously updating and refining their product to meet the demands of the market? What do the analysts think about them? Ask yourself these questions when making your purchase decision.
4. Usability – How easy is it to implement and use the product? As marketers, we are constantly on the move and seriously multi-tasking. We need systems that can support the way we work, not for us to support the software. You should be able to try before you buy and decide for yourself whether or not you can use it in your daily work routine.
5. Results – Ultimately, it comes down to financial results, and the KPI’s you choose to evaluate the success of your decision. A marketing automation system should help you get a better lead to customer conversion rate, higher transaction price, shorter sales cycle, and an increased opportunity to close rate. The vendor you choose should have demonstrated success in this area with multiple customers, especially in your industry. If they have a hard time demonstrating value, then you will too, so tread carefully.