Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Step-by-Step Guide to Selecting the Right Marketing Automation System - Part 2

Yesterday' post described the first three steps in Raab Associates' vendor selection process: defining requirements, researching options, and testing vendors against scenarios. This post lists the four steps needed to complete the task. As before, there's a worksheet for each step that can be a model for your own, more detailed version. And remember, the complete set is available for free in our Vendor Selection Workbook in the Resource Library at the Raab Guide Web site.

4. Talk To References

This is an often-overlooked source of insight. The question isn’t whether the references are happy, but whether your situations are similar enough that you’re likely to be happy as well. Find out whether the reference is using the system functions you care about, how long they took to get started, the amount of training and process change required, what problems they had, and how the vendor responded.

IssueQuestions to ask
System fit vs. my needsWhat kinds of programs do you run with the system?

How many programs do you run each month?

How many people at your company use the system?
System reliabilityHow often has the system been unavailable?

What kinds of bugs have you run into?
Ease of useHow much training did you need to use the system?

What kinds of tasks need outside help to accomplish?

How long does it take to set up different kinds of programs?
Vendor supportHow well does the vendor respond when you ask for help?

How quickly do problems get solved?

Does the vendor ever offer assistance before you ask?

What help does the vendor provide with email deliverability?
CostDid you negotiate any special pricing?

Did you pay extra for implementation and on-going support?

Were there any unexpected costs after you started?

5. Consider A Trial

Nearly all marketing automation vendors will let you try their system for a limited period. Trials are a great way to learn what it’s really like to use a system, but only if they are managed effectively. This means you need to invest in training and then set up and execute actual projects. As with scenario demonstrations, you may still rely on the vendor to handle some of the more demanding aspects of the project, but, again, make sure you see how hard it will eventually be to do them for yourself.

What you can learn from a trialHow hard it is to install the system

How hard it is to set up a campaign

How hard it is to make changes and reuse materials

What features are available or missing (if you test them)

Quality of training classes and materials (if you try them)
What you can’t learn from a trialHow the system handles large volumes of data, users, etc.

Results from complex or long-running campaigns

Accuracy of scoring and reports

Quality of customer service and support

Quality of vendor partners (agencies, integrators, etc.)

6. Make A Decision

Don’t let the selection process drag on. Selection is a means to an end, not a goal in itself. Unless you have very specialized needs, there are probably several marketing automation systems that will meet your requirements. Look at your key criteria and assess how well each vendor matches them – bearing in mind that a system can be too powerful as well as too simple. Once you’ve found one that you are confident will be sufficient, go ahead and buy it. Then you can start on what’s really important: better marketing results.

Selection criteriaKey factorsVendor Fit
Too Little AppropriateToo Much
FunctionsOutbound email

Landing page and forms

Web behavior tracking

Lead scoring

Multi-step campaigns

Sales integration

Reporting and analysis

UsabilityEasy to learn

Efficient to use

TechnologyEasy installation


CostDirect (software and support)

Indirect (staff, training, services)


Expansion costs

VendorStaff resources

Product plans

Financial stability

Invest In Deployment

Marketing automation systems allow major improvements in marketing results. But those improvements require more than just a new system. If you don’t already have a formal description of the stages that prospects move through to become buyers, build one and instrument your systems to measure it. Use the stages as a framework to plan, design and develop a balanced set of marketing programs. Invest in the staff training and content to execute those programs successfully. Document and improve internal marketing processes. Work closely with sales to define lead scoring rules, hand-off mechanisms and service levels, and ways to capture results. Build measurement systems and use them to hold marketers at every level of the department responsible for results they control. Bring in outside resources, such as agencies and consultants, when you lack the internal expertise or time to do the work in-house.

Balanced set of marketing programsDefine lead lifecycle (buying process and buyer roles)

Map existing programs to process stages and identify gaps

Prioritize new programs to close gaps

Execute programs and measure results

Refine programs with versions for different segments
Track leads through stages in the buying process

Import revenue from sales systems

Link revenue to lead source (acquisition programs)

Measure incremental impact (nurture programs)

Project future revenue from current lead inventory
Process managementDefine processes to execute marketing programs

Identify tasks and responsibilities within each process

Define measures to capture task performance

Assess existing processes and possible improvements

Monitor execution, test improvements, check results, repeat
Sales alignmentIdentify key contacts between sales and marketing

Agree on process for lead qualification, transfer to sales

Agree on measures for lead quality, revenue attribution

Deploy agreed processes, monitor results, review regularly
Staff trainingDefine skills needed to deploy new system

Assess existing staff skills and identify gaps

Plan initial training to close gaps

Plan on-going training to maintain and expand skills

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