A Strategic Look at Selecting a Marketing Automation Vendor

Astadia provides deeper guidance on how to select a marketing automation vendor on their company blog.  In this post they are advocating to look beyond functionality and think about how marketing automation fits from an overall strategic standpoint.  Full disclosure: Astadia consults on a variety of SaaS solutions like Salesforce.com, Eloqua, and Xactly but this is still good stuff to think about.

  • Can the vendor guide the conversation about strategic objectives & process? The process and end objectives are, in effect, the strategic plan. This is much bigger than getting the next campaign done. The vendor should be able to conduct a credible business process review, and show how they will use that analysis to develop your roadmap for execution, and tie it all back to your success metrics.  They should also be able to articulate how they’ll help you manage change in the face of resistance, unyielding project deadlines, and finite budgets.
  • What functionality do we really need to support these objectives? All other things being equal, ease of use is important.  But if a system does not deliver the core functionality you need to do the job, then ease of use is a moot point.
  • What is the vendor’s expertise with data cleansing? Garbage in, garbage out.  If your data is not cleaned, standardized, prepped for segmentation, etc, (meaning you’ll be unable to target effectively) then all your work is for naught.  What’s often overlooked in scoring and marketing automation is that the marketer often needs data from more than just the CRM system.  For example, important data for identifying high value customers may reside in financial systems, or contract renewal data may reside in customer service systems, and so on.  Find out your partner’s expertise in guiding the discussion on where all your data lives, and in integrating all of it into a contact database worthy of supporting your campaign efforts.
  • Can your partner grow with you? We all have peak times in marketing (gotta get out these campaigns fast!) and resource issues (vacations, employee turnover, etc).  Can your vendor supply an extra pair of arms and legs to get projects done? Or do they want to put together a plan and then vanish when your system is up and running?  Look for vendors who can roll up their sleeves and do the work, providing agency services “on call” when the situation warrants.
  • How do we know the vendor will be focused on our success metrics? It is easy in a campaign-by-campaign environment to focus on completion, not on success.  Carefully defining where are you now vs. where you want to be is crucial if you are automating your marketing processes. Automating a broken process will simply cause you to lose money faster and more efficiently.
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