Signing a contract

3 Things to Know Before Signing With a Marketing Automation Provider

  |  June 5, 2014   |  Comments

Considering these three things before deciding on a marketing automation provider can help you make a more informed decision.

If you're thinking about a marketing automation provider, it's important to proceed with caution: typically the contracts will lock you in for a least one year. Having worked with a few different providers in recent years, I've learned some valuable lessons along the way. Here are three things I wish someone in marketing had told me before we signed with our first marketing automation provider.

1. Anticipate Your Future Needs

It sounds obvious, but anticipating your future needs can be a tough one for some companies -- especially when you're growing quickly. Many marking automation contracts are based on the number of people at your company who will need access to the software and/or the number of customers/prospects in your CRM database - which isn't necessarily the same number you currently have. In other words, knowing where you'll be in six months or a year is critical.

At Chango, we were able to negotiate a clause in our contract that allowed us to give access to more salespeople without our provider increasing its price. But we hadn't anticipated just how quickly our current pool of prospects would grow. After one particular initiative, our leads doubled, and we were suddenly up to the next pricing band with our marketing automation provider. It was a good problem to have, but it was still a problem.

2. Determine the Level of Service That's Right for You

At Chango, we've worked with two different providers over the last three years. The first had few features but came with great service. The other provider offered more features but poor service.

I knew I'd miss the level of service I'd grown accustomed to, but my team convinced me to switch to the second provider so that they could automate more tasks. Going with less service works best when you have talented demand generation marketers who can take advantage of all the great features in an advanced platform. If your team is not up to speed, you'll have to pay as much as $400 an hour to hire external resources to help out.

If you're just starting and can't hire a demand generation expert internally, it's not necessarily a bad thing to go with a solution that has fewer bells and whistles but a better user interface and a service team that's responsive to your needs. Take note of how much help you can get from tier two and three support specialists - those are the folks who are likely specialized in progressive profiling or any other advanced feature.

3. Remove All the Fluff From Your Buying Decisions

The marketing automation space is crowded and also very aggressive. That means you've got to be vigilant when assessing not just features and pricing but also the company's overall reputation in the marketplace. Be prepared to challenge your vendor. When marketing automation salespeople tell you they've figured out attribution, ask plenty of questions. Alas, there's a good chance you'll discover their expertise begins and ends with click-based attribution.

Finally, remember that when vendors list all of their marketing partners, you want them to be very clear on what being a partner means to them. I've found that in many cases, the partners they're listing are not actually integrated into their marketing platform, which means their partnership - whatever it consists of - can't tell you much about their software.

Follow these three tips and you should end up with a marketing automation provider that meets your needs. If you don't, at least there's always next year...

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Ben Plomion

Ben is Vice President of Marketing at Chango, where he heads up all marketing and communications initiatives. Prior to joining Chango, Ben worked with GE Capital for four years to establish and lead the digital media practice. This led to the development of GE Capital's digital value proposition and its execution worldwide.

Ben graduated from GE's Experienced Commercial Leadership program after completing his MBA at McGill University. Before GE, Ben held a variety of marketing and business development roles in the e-payments industry, while working at Gemalto in London.

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