Five Steps to Selecting a Marketing Automation Platform

How One Agency Purchased a System and What They Learned

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At the beginning of the year, we decided to invest in a marketing automation platform to tie our front-end sales engine together with our overall marketing efforts. Purchasing a marketing automation system will help our business development efforts focus on things like identifying new leads and moving existing leads from the top of the marketing funnel along a path to become sales-ready. It will also let us score prospects based on their interaction with emails, website visits and other content. We can then cultivate these prospects by using nurturing efforts through social channels and emails, driving users from initial engagement, through a sales meeting, and hopefully a contract.

As we began our purchase process, we realized that we needed to take into account not only our needs for today, but our needs for tomorrow. We needed to ensure that we could grow with our platform choice, and this is something all agencies should take into consideration as they evaluate their own needs.

Here are some steps you may want to take as you review marketing automation platforms:

Step 1: Establish your goals or objectives for the purchase.

  • Are you looking to drive better alignment between sales and marketing?
  • Do you need to improve the quality of leads you're currently getting?
  • Are you looking to drive better conversions and revenue?

Step 2: Measure your platform requirements.

  • Develop both a technical and non-technical check sheet of requirements to compare the different marketing platforms.
  • Do your homework -- read what the analysts, experts and industry influencers have to say about the platforms you're considering.
  • Narrow your list to a manageable selection based on your requirements and industry feedback.
  • Have each vendor give you a presentation and most definitely get a demo.

Step 3: Test the platforms against a real-world marketing scenario.

  • Develop one or two marketing plays that you execute on each platform. The sales teams of each vendor will highlight all of their platform's strengths, but will underplay their weaknesses. Executing the test plays will quickly allow you to see where each platform has strengths and weaknesses.
  • If there are areas where the platforms are underperforming, or lack a specific capability, establish if that capability will be available in the future.

Step 4: Develop a short list and ask broader questions.

  • Once you've completed your real-world scenario and tabulated the results, narrow the choice to a handful of platforms.
  • Put together a pros and cons sheet for each platform.
  • Establish your must-haves from the pros and cons list.

(Our pros and cons list was fairly challenging as we found that each platform was missing a core technical requirement. By asking questions, we learned that some platform vendors were in the process of developing a key feature that we wanted for the next version of their platform, which helped keep them in the consideration set.)

Step 5: Make your final selection.

  • Narrow your choice to two or three platforms.
  • Ask your final questions regarding your requirements.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for features that are only available in a higher-priced tier. You'll be surprised what you'll get once a vendor knows they are in the final round and are close to a sale.
  • Begin the larger question around financials and how their platform can fit your budget.
  • Make your final purchase.

Finding a marketing automation platform that fits everything your organization is looking for can be a challenge. So, be sure to do your research, consult with your team so you're all aligned, and you'll be sure to land on a platform that will help achieve the goals you are looking to accomplish.

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