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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.

Ask specifically about telephone support — when is it available and how much does it cost? It's wise to pick a platform that offers solid, easily accessible phone support. "You will need it," according to Long. 

8 more quick questions for marketing automation vendors:

  • What are the top three strengths of the platform versus competitors in the market?
  • What are the top three features existing customers ask for but aren't on the roadmap? And why aren't they?
  • What does the platform not do well?
  • How flexible are the platform's email and landing-page builders? Is HTML coding required?
  • What are the platform's limits on database size, email sent, forms and rules? How much does it cost to upgrade?
  • Is a full, free trial available? If so, what are the terms of use?
  • Is a contract required? If so, is the contract month-to-month or annual?
  • How secure is the system? How does the provider protect customer data?

9. Is it easy to add new users?

Ideally, you want the capability to freely add or remove users in your marketing automation systems as needed, says Bockler. Some systems have restrictions that let you only remove users when their contracts are up for renewal.

10. How long does it take to implement the new system?

Depending on the size of the organization and the condition of the data, implementation should take two to four weeks, according to Littlefield. Anything more or less should raise red flags. Variables that influence implementation time include the number of data sources and silos, team engagement, and the sophistication of systems and workflows.

11. Can the system manage full customer lifecycles, or only leads and prospects? 

Marketing professionals must increasingly manage and determine entire customer lifecycles, or journeys, from unknown prospects to brand-loyal customers, Littlefield says. As such, it's important to ensure that marketing automation tools fit your specific needs. "Several marketing automation platforms focus solely on leads or prospects.

12. Does the platform support your mobile needs?

Mobile technology has never been more important to modern marketers, and it's crucial that you pick automation tools that meet your mobile requirements. "With more than 50 percent of responses coming from mobile, it's critical that email templates, landing pages and forms are supported," says Knudsen. "Ideally, getting a mobile responsive template shouldn't require additional resources."

 

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