The search for a marketing automation vendor can seem overwhelming. After all, the marketing automation platform you choose needs to fit with where your business is in its lifecycle, where you want your business to go, and how your business´s capabilities and resources across all areas help you line up the former with the latter.
Add technology into the mix—and the dazzling array of available features and solutions—and it’s enough to make any investment in marketing automation seem daunting.
But remember: the best solution is not always the most expensive, or the one with the most features. It’s the one that fits YOUR needs best.
If you´re looking for a place to start, we think it’s worth taking a look at the Marketo eBook “Sweeter Than Suite: Choose Your Own Marketing Automation Platform”. This is a short but concise dive into how marketing automation platforms have evolved and covers the types of marketing automation platforms from stack solutions to best-of-breed solutions, as well as the shift towards application programming interfaces (API) and software-as-a-service. It also gives helpful insight into the decision-making process a business should consider when looking at marketing automation vendors.
We think this publication really hits the nail on the head—and would stress that, in each of the features listed in the eBook, you should keep an eye out for:
- Functionality—how do these features make it easier for YOUR company to accomplish its tasks and goals, on a day-to-day basis and across all areas?
- Longevity—are these features a good fit now, and will they be a good fit five months or five years from now?
So, what do you need to look for in a marketing automation vendor?
1. Repeatable, streamlined processes
Look for software that cuts down on process repetition. You will want capabilities to clone programs and processes, edit program parameters, automatically update content and assets (landing pages, lists, campaigns, emails), and auto-populate fields.
2. Scalable, responsive systems
Ensure that the platform you choose includes systems that can be tailored to nurture your leads through their buying journey, allowing you to segment and respond to leads as they go through the sales funnel. Remember, this isn’t a short-term investment—you want a platform that will go the distance in your business’s life cycle.
3. Lots of resources from the start
Check that your vendor offers email and landing page templates, program examples, updated and comprehensive best practices, and access to industry leader expertise. These resources should be easy to access—that goes without saying!
4. Responsive email programs
Your chosen marketing automation vendor should respond to your own growth and patterns, detecting them and providing you with effective shortcuts based on your past processes and preferences.
5. A forward-thinking view of technology
Any strong contender on your marketing automation vendor shortlist absolutely MUST have an eye on future technology trends—and on how technology developments can be deployed to nurture and strengthen your relationship with your leads. Look beyond real-time personalisation on email and social media platforms and ensure that your chosen vendor allows you to put your online and mobile content where your customer wants to see it, when they want to see it, and at the right stage in their buying journey.
6. A supportive community
Don´t go it alone. Your marketing automation solution should have inbuilt access to a network of ideas, experts, and integrated solutions from a user community and partners. Check whether this is part of the integral cost of the platform package and clarify how these support networks work with your marketing automation vendor.
7. Strong reporting and analytics tools
The powerful data and analytics tools that your marketing automation platform provides should be easy to access and use by everyone in your organisation. These tools should also be flexible enough to be configured to individual user needs (showing each user what they need to see, when they need to see it) so you and your team can spend less time digging for data and more time analysing and fine-tuning your campaigns.
Beyond these seven key points, your chosen platform needs to integrate seamlessly into your current systems and platforms (CRM, social media management platforms) and adapt to changes in technology and best practice—both across the industry and as they relate to your business strategy.
In other words, the best solution needs to be easy to implement, easy to use, and easy to adapt and fine-tune as your company grows.
What might not be so easy? Picking the right solution for your needs from the array of vendors out there.