6 Questions Before Choosing A Marketing Automation Platform

 In Demand Generation Best Practices, Eloqua, Email Marketing, Lead Management, Lead Scoring, Marketing Analytics, Marketing Automation, Marketo, Sales & Marketing Alignment, Social Media

More and more organizations are coming to the realization that a marketing automation solution is vital to improved customer engagement, lead conversion and sales and marketing alignment. The adoption rate of marketing technology is expected to increase 50% by 2015 (Source: SiriusDecisions). The good news is that today’s plethora of marketing automation platforms make it more manageable to drive engagement throughout the buying cycle and to measure marketing performance. So, how do you select a solution that best suits your needs?  Here are the top questions you should be asking before settling on the right vendor and platform.

1. Am I ready for Marketing Automation? Before selecting a platform, it’s critical to ensure you are ready to support a platform that will provide tremendous benefit, but also requires significant resources. Marketing Automation resource requirements include:

  • Content aligned to your key customer buying agendas, target audiences and products at each stage of the buying cycle to enable lead nurturing
  • Sales and marketing alignment on lead taxonomy
  • Well defined lead management processes
  • People – internal MAP specialist(s) to manage and support it; external partners, like Demand Spring, to implement it and support ongoing advanced functionality roll-out

2. How big am I? The marketing automation vendor world is pretty well segmented by organization size. Smaller organizations with a relatively small marketing database most often consider vendors like HubSpot, Salesforce Pardot, Infusionsoft, Silverpop and Marketo’s Spark offering. Mid- and large-sized companies usually consider Marketo, Oracle Eloqua, Teradata (Aprimo) and IBM Unica (which is mostly used by B2C companies). These solutions offer more robust scalability and the functionality and integration that larger organizations require.

3. What functionality do I require? Understanding the functionality you will use now and in the future will obviously criticality guide your choice of vendor. While most vendors all offer critical functionality such as lead nurturing, lead scoring, email marketing, landing page and registration forms, marketing database, and analytics, there are a lot of nuances in terms of ease of use, scalability and comprehensiveness of functionality in these areas. Working with a partner like Demand Spring, who has certified experts for many of these platforms, to help you match your needs with the right platform during the evaluation period is highly recommended.

4. How important is integration and the vendor ecosystem to us? This should be a really critical consideration for most. You need to consider integration with your CRM, Web Content Management System, MRM platform, social media channels, etc. Most organizations we talk with are using Salesforce CRM. While many people might assume that Exact Target and Pardot have the best level of Salesforce integration now that they are part of that organization, the reality is that Marketo is the only MAP that provides a native sync to SFDC across all objects and no defined limits. It’s built on the Force.com platform, so it integrates perfectly with the new Salesforce 1 platform rolled out at Dreamforce this year. Eloqua integration with Salesforce is also strong.

Your evaluation should also include an exploration of the APIs of each platform and the rich set of applications within each vendor’s ecosystem. Marketo has the largest 3rd party app environment, with over 150 partners in Launchpoint. Eloqua has over 100 in AppCloud. Apps add tremendous functionality and extend the value of your platform significantly. Examples include appending data to forms (e.g. DemandBase and ReachForce), initiating lead nurturing campaigns from display ads on 3rd party sites (Bizo) and from videos on your site or 3rd party sites (Vidyard), reconciling actual marketing expenses with budgeted expenses and pulling in ROI against discrete campaigns (Allocadia, which is actually fully OEM-ed in Marketo Financial Management and available as a 3rd party app for Eloqua).

5. How do we validate our selection? As with any significant enterprise application purchase, check references. Not just the ones the vendor has given you, but find other customers as well, read blogs and articles on online, and talk to analysts and marketing automation services vendors which support multiple platforms. Support, services, price flexibility, account management and of course functionality and scalability are all things to probe on. Keep in mind that the vendor landscape is changing, so for platforms like Eloqua and Pardot, it’s important to find out the recent experiences of customers who are now working with Oracle and Salesforce.

6. Who will manage my new system? This is a fundamental question that doesn’t always receive the attention it deserves. It might certainly be cost-effective to run your system on your own. This is especially true if you have strong in-house expertise. If not, then outsourcing to an expert is a viable option. A third choice is to have a third party service provider be an outsourced agency, where you are leveraging their instance, rather than purchasing your own. Understanding the pros and cons of each option will help you make a more informed choice when it comes to selecting a vendor.

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