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12 questions to ask marketing automation vendors (before you buy)

James A. Martin | Jan. 21, 2016
Thanks to the increasing number of marketing automation tools available today, picking the right platform is a challenge for even the savviest organizations. These 12 inquiries can help you cover all of the bases before you invest in new marketing tech.

marketing automation gears

Marketo. Eloqua. HubSpot. Pardot. Act-On. With so many marketing automation platforms and services available today, how can you determine which products best fit your needs?

It all starts with research, of course, such as checking out reviews and product comparisons on G2 Crowd, TrustRadius, Capterra or Software Insider. Next up, talk to marketing colleagues about the platforms they use. It's also a great idea to create lists of goals needs, and necessary tools.

Most of all, you need to ask marketing automation software providers lots of questions, and then ask those same questions of each individual vendor, so it's easy to make "apples-to-apples" comparisons. 

These 12 questions, contributed by marketing professionals and other experts, can help you prepare the proper queries beforehand and form frameworks for evaluating marketing technology providers.

1. What about CRM integration? Does the information flow both ways?

Ideally, marketing automation platforms will integrate with Salesforce or another CRM platform, according to Adam Bockler, communications manager at Float. Ask about the specific CRM features available in the platform itself to determine if they're suitable. "Not everyone needs Salesforce, especially if you're a smaller company that needs to be focused more on selling the work and tracking deals than on creating incredibly detailed reports," Bockler says.

"A seamless integration between the CRM platform that the sales team is using and the marketing automation solution is essential and becomes increasingly important as the teams grow, and communication becomes more challenging," says Billy Cripe, CMO of Field Nation.

2. Any additional integration?

In addition to CRM, ask about the other tools and services that integrate with marketing automation platforms, and know which services are necessities. For example, HubSpot integrates with GoToWebinar, SurveyMonkey, Shopify, WordPress, Zapier and many others.

"Have a list of your must-have tools ready to go when talking integrations with providers, and check off each one they have," Bockler suggests. "If they don't have it, ask them if it's on their roadmap."

3. How does data flow in and out of the marketing automation system?

You will likely need to combine data that resides in the marketing automation platform with data from other systems, such as those dedicated to CRM, SEO, content management systems (CMS) and ERP. The goal is to form "a holistic picture and drive decision-making," according to Tom Berger, vice president of digital marketing at Progress. "The data should be easily accessible via application program interfaces (APIs) or scheduled exports in common formats." 

 

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