Thursday, February 03, 2011

B2B Marfketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool: What’s Inside and Why

Summary: Our new B2B Marketing Automation Vendor Selection Tool (VEST) has been carefully crafted to help marketers at every step of the selection process. I think it’s worth walking through the main components to explain why they’re there.

Here's a screen-by-screen look at the components of the VEST. For more information or to order, please click here.


What It Is: This is basic information for people who are just starting to explore marketing automation. It includes a general introduction suggesting how to use the VEST and then provides explanations of what marketing automation means and why it’s important, an overview of the state of the industry, advice on running a selection project, and details on the vendor scoring.

Why It’s There: Many buyers are new to marketing automation. They need a coherent explanation of what it is, why it matters, how it fits into the larger scheme of marketing technology, and how to go about selecting a tool. I think the industry veterans will also find these materials interesting, but they’re really aimed at bringing the newbies up to speed.

Sector Charts

What It Is: This is the vendor landscape chart that users love and analysts are apparently obligated to produce. It uses our vendor scores to plot the relative positions of products in terms of how well they fit buyer needs. This lets us place “leaders” in the upper right quadrant. There are four versions: one each based on weights for small, mid-size and large businesses, plus a custom chart with the user’s own weights. Sliders make it easy adjust the weights assigned to broad categories within product and vendor fit.

Why It’s There: The chart makes it easy for each user to identify the most likely candidates, quickly reducing the consideration set to something manageable. More important, having alternative sets of weights, allowing custom weights, and making easy to adjust category weights all encourage buyers to recognize that there’s no "one true leader" and therefore to think about what weights are really relevant to their own needs.

Vendor Profiles

What It Is: This gives concise descriptions of the strengths, weaknesses, market position, and most suitable clients for each vendor. These are accompanied by charts displaying key factoids, such as the number of clients, number of employees and year founded; the position of the vendor in each of the three sector charts; and the relative strength of specific categories within the product and vendor fit scores.

Why It’s There: Now that buyers have tentatively identified their best candidates, they can look here to get a better sense of the products. The descriptions are based on Raab Associates’ detailed product research, and thus highlight information not captured in the numeric scores. For the first time in the VEST, this section introduces the category details within the score totals. This provides the next level of detail and lets buyers to see how vendor strengths actually line up with their priorities.

Item Detail

What It Is: This shows the nearly 200 specific items used in scoring the vendors. It provides the detailed definitions used in rating each item for each vendor (typically on a scale of 0 to 2) and shows the weights assigned to each item in the small, mid-size and large scoring schemes. It also gives users another opportunity to view and adjust the category weights.

Why It’s There: This introduces the actual items used in the scoring, encouraging them to look even deeper below the surface. The definitions include explanations of when and why each item matters, helping to further the users’ understanding of important-but-subtle product differences. Showing the variation of weights for the same item in the different scoring schemes implicitly encourages users to consider what weight makes the most sense for them.

Compare Vendors

What It Is: This lets users select any three vendors and compare them side-by-side. Screens start with a summary view that shows the product and vendor fit totals and the sum of both raw and weighted values for the categories. Users can then drill into each category to see the item-level ratings and weighted scores for all three vendors.

Why It’s There: This lets users drill into the vendor details at the finest possible level, seeing exactly what is driving the category scores and exactly how the vendors differ. Showing the sum of the raw values along with the weighted values graphically illustrates the impact of the category weights on the summary scores, encouraging users to ensure that the category weights reflect their own priorities. By this point in the process, users should understand which items they care about most.

Custom Weights

What It Is: This lets users set the item and category weights they’ll use in their custom scoring. They can apply the standard small, mid-size or large weights as a starting point. They can also save their weights as a scenario to use in another session. They can save any number of those scenarios.

Why It’s There: This lets users create their own custom scores, based by now on a deep understanding of their own needs and the information embedded within the VEST. Custom scoring won’t make the selection decision for anyone, but it will facilitate comparisons between vendors and highlight key items to research in detail.

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