What To Ask Before Investing In Your First Marketing Automation Platform
Picking the right marketing automation platform can feel overwhelming. Here are a few key points to ponder during your evaluation.
- Are the key features you need included?Don’t pay more for features you aren’t going to use. Know what you really need, and make sure the platform you select delivers on those.
- How long is the contract?Ask if you have to sign a quarterly, annual or other long-term contract. You should be able to cancel at any point if you don’t feel like the platform is the right fit for your business.
- What are the payment terms?You shouldn’t have to take out a mortgage to get started. Some vendors require full payment upfront – tying up valuable marketing dollars that could otherwise be spent on execution. Look for a provider that offers month-to-month billing and no long-term contract.
- Are you looking at both the price and the total cost of ownership?Don’t be enticed by lower tiers that limit functionality. You’ll want the full power of marketing automation once you get started, and third-party add-ons for specific features add to the total cost. Also, pay attention to the limits. If a lower tier has limits on contacts and sending, think of how often you’ll have overages, especially if your business is in a growth phase.
- What’s the word on the street?There are several great sites where you can go to hear what actual users are saying about the various platforms on the market. These independent review sites, like TrustRadius, MarTech, Capterra and others, allow you to get insights that professional reviewers just don’t have.
- Is it an “open” or “closed” platform?An open system allows you to use any CRM, content management system, blogging tool, landing page builder, forms builder, etc. Be wary of a closed system – it can cost you more in the long run – especially if you decide to leave.
- Are there integrations available to work with the tools you already use?Look for a platform with its own ‘ecosystem’ of providers that it integrates with – either natively, through plug-and-play, or using a provider like Zapier or PieSync. This will allow you to seamlessly extend the power of your investment and lower the total cost of ownership.
- Do the built-in analytics meet your business needs?Choose a solution that provides clear, concise reports that show the end-to-end ROI you’re looking for on your marketing and sales efforts. Ask to see a sample and shop it around internally to make sure it’s going to be impactful.
- Can you get up and running quickly?Look at the interface. Is it user-friendly? Is there contextual help (e.g. videos, virtual tours, articles) available in case you get stuck? An intuitive platform will save you countless hours both upfront and long-term.
- Is there quality support, both initially and ongoing?Some providers hide fees here, so beware. Does the vendor provide comprehensive on-boarding to give your team confidence in using the platform? If so, what’s the cost? Is ongoing support unlimited and free, or are there caps and additional costs? And ask if you get a dedicated person you can call when support can’t help.
- Should you work with an agency or manage this in-house?While many platforms are user-friendly, there’s legwork involved in setting up a marketing automation program that produces results. And ongoing efforts are needed to maintain and update your campaigns, add new ones, and produce regular reports. If you can’t allocate someone in-house to lead the charge, consider using a marketing agency that specializes in these services. Ask the marketing automation vendor if they have a network of agency professionals that can help you achieve your goals.
- What’s the long-term outlook for the platform?There have been some notable acquisitions in the marketing automation space recently. Be sure you are signing up with a vendor that is committed to your long-term success and is investing in platform innovation, support, and other services.