Once you have decided to bring on a marketing automation tool or upgrade your current tool, it's time to start collecting the information you need to make a decision. If you're new to marketing automation, the process ahead of you can seem overwhelming. Indeed, the decision to choose a provider should not be taken lightly. You don't want to end up in a situation where the solution falls short and you need to start looking for another provider within a year. As you map out your plan, below are five steps that I recommend you include in your process, along with some resources I have found helpful.
Do your research…online. After all, in the marketing automation industry, content is king and a wealth of information can be found online. Here are a few trusted sites that I have found to be useful: Focus.com, MarketSherpa.com, ClickZ.com (the section you're reading now), and B2BMarketingPost.com. These sources provide best practices, webinars, vendor overviews, and tips. Additionally, most marketing automation providers have white papers and best practices for you to read - but, you're unlikely to get a truly objective review of their tool on their website.
Distribute a request for proposal (RFP). A formal RFP can be a pain for the end buyer and the sales rep tasked with providing answers. However, I do believe it's crucial to outline the areas you're evaluating each vendor on (i.e., email capabilities, CRM integration, lead scoring, data management, etc.) and list out the questions you have around each area. In the end, an RFP will provide a framework for communicating with others in your organization and help you ensure you have covered all important questions during the evaluation. I found it helpful to ask each marketing automation provider for a list of questions they commonly get in an evaluation. They may also have this information on their website. Otherwise, the Raab Guide has 150+ questions that you should consider asking. Before you finalize the RFP, share it with other internal stakeholders to make sure you're collecting all the right information.
Schedule demos. Ask to see the tool in action. A live demo will help you understand the workflow process and the ease of use. Scoring this area may come down to personal preference, however, it will also be important to understand what your organization is used to and if a particular marketing automation tool will require change management.
Tap your network. Do others in your organization have experience within the marketing automation space? What about your LinkedIn contacts? For honest opinions, these folks are invaluable. So don't be afraid to reach out and start asking questions about their experiences.
Speak to references. Ask the marketing automation providers to send you references. This is especially helpful if your network is light on experience in the space. It should also give you a good understanding of how happy their customers (or at least those willing to be a reference) actually are.
These five steps should help you collect the information you need to make a smart decision on what marketing automation tool is right for your organization. I'm happy to hear if there are other best practices that should be considered in the evaluation process. What has been most helpful to you?
Stacie is senior director of marcom and PR at Kenshoo, a digital marketing technology company backed by Sequoia Capital, Arts Alliance, and Tenaya Capital. Kenshoo powers nearly half of the Fortune 50 and all 10 top global ad agency networks.
Prior to joining Kenshoo, Stacie worked as director of client strategy and development at Resolution Media, an Omnicom Media Group Company. In this role, she was responsible for overseeing the growth of key accounts, in addition to leading Resolution Media's account management practice. During her tenure, Stacie led relationships with brands like Bank of America, Gatorade, Norwegian Cruise Line, Restaurant.com, Sirius XM, and State Farm, while working with partner agencies to ensure all search programs are integrated into the overall marketing mix. Prior to Resolution Media, Stacie worked as an account manager at Nielsen Claritas. There she was responsible for managing and growing relationships with key clients, such as Sprint, US Cellular, Alltel Wireless, and Charter Communications.
Stacie graduated from the University of Wisconsin - Madison with a degree in Marketing. When she's off the clock, Stacie enjoys yoga, rooting for Wisconsin football teams, and exploring her new state, Colorado.