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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.

4. How flexible is the reporting module? Can you export custom reports?

Weak reporting is still the Achilles heel of many otherwise great platforms, according to Micky Long, vice president and practice director of lead nurturing at Arketi Group, so it's important for organizations to drill down into tools' reporting features.

5. How does the platform measure success?

"Tracking, reporting, ROI — these are terms that weren't significant to marketers for a long time," says Lauren Littlefield, president of Field Public Relations. "It was easy to run radio and billboard ads, then hope for the best when the end-of-year revenue numbers became final. Now, through marketing technology, marketers and company leadership alike can analyze where their marketing is effective and where it isn't."

Littlefield says quality marketing automation platforms have flexible, customizable dashboards and reports that help to measure campaign success at a variety of different, granular levels. Organizations should ask marketing automation providers about success metrics and make sure they support the metrics that are most important.

6. What about migrating from the old system to the new one? 

If you plan to migrate from a rival marketing automation platform, it's importance to ask about the migration plan, according to David Chao, vice president of marketing and product strategy at ReadyTalk. "Listen for references that a migration from your current platform has been done before," he says. "The right provider will want to dig into your specific setup to assure a successful migration."

It's important to get a solid understanding of the resources required to migrate or update your system, says Gwen Knudsen, director of demand generation at LiveHive. "Understand whether you'll need to pay for additional resources or use some of your own, which may require you to pause other programs. You may also need to pull in reps from your IT department, sales operations, and marketing department. Get their input before making a decision to make sure it fits within their department goals."

7. What's the true cost of using the system? 

Hidden fees and costs associated with overages, training and implementation can greatly impact the overall price of a platform, according to Littlefield. "Be sure to understand every potential cost for your organization and how these possibilities affect the competitive aspect of pricing as you're vetting multiple vendors."

8. What about marketing automation support?

As with any service, a personal touch from a marketing automation software provider is important— but unfortunately isn't always available. "It's been typical for different managers to take over my account," says Float's Bockler. For example, his contact at a marketing automation software provider left the company, and then Bockler received a "generic email address" to use if he had questions or issues.

 

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