There are so many marketing automation systems out there… and many of them define themselves as marketing automation with a varying degree of actual features that support it. Still, we watch as many companies make huge mistakes in either spending far too much money, far too much time or buying the wrong solution altogether.
Specific to marketing technology, we always ask a few questions in the vendor selection process:
- What is the opportunity you see that's not being taken advantage of? Is it nurturing leads? Scoring leads to increase sales efficiency? Helping upsell or retain current clients? Or is it just reducing the workload of your team and automating some of the manual processes that you're currently deploying.
- What timeline do you have to implement and see results? How quickly do you need to be up and running to see a return on your investment? What's the break-even point to declare success?
- What resources do you need to implement and manage the system? This is a huge one! Do you need to do persona research? Do you need to develop customer journeys from scratch? Do you need to even develop your own responsive email templates? Will the productized integrations work or do you have to get additional development to achieve the results you need?
- What data do you need to get started and how are you going to effectively move and update customer journey data as behavior, purchase, and other data gets updated? The wrong system and you'll find your resources dried up just trying to transform and load data between systems.
- What investment can you make? It's not just licensing the platform, it's messaging costs, service, and support, content development, integration and development costs, as well as implementation, maintenance, testing and optimization costs.
As a rule of thumb, we ask our clients to map out their customers' journeys:
- Acquisition – For each product and each source of leads, what's the journey that a prospect takes to become a customer? Include traditional resources, referral resources, and online resources. You'll be able to see which processes are the most efficient, drive the most revenue, and cost the least amount of money. You may wish to use marketing automation to increase the volume of the best or automate the process for the most inefficient but profitable journeys.
- Retention – For each product, what's the journey that a customer takes to stay or return as a customer? Marketing automation systems can be amazing tools to increase retention. You can deploy onboarding campaigns, training campaigns, trigger campaigns based on usage, and much more. Don't underestimate how much these platforms can assist you in keeping great customers.
- Upsell – How can you increase the value of customers to your brand? Are there additional products or opportunities? You'd be surprised at how many customers you have that are spending money with competitors because they didn't even realize what you have to offer!
Within each journey, now map out:
- Personnel and Costs – What are the costs of your sales and marketing staffs to acquire each qualified lead and each customer?
- System and Costs – What are the systems where data is collected along the way?
- Opportunity and Revenue – What's the target growth for each journey and how much additional revenue can be attained through automating and optimizing those journeys? You may even want to estimate these – 1%, 5%, 10%, etcetera just to visualize the revenue opportunity. That can provide you the budget justification to do the implementation.
You may wish to research other companies in your industry and review use cases from some marketing automation vendors. Remember this, though, marketing automation platforms don't publish the disastrous implementations – only the amazing ones! Take the numbers with a grain of salt as you work to find the right platform.
In other words, before you ever buy the platform, you should have all of your strategies laid out and ready to implement! Much like building a house… you have to have the blueprints before you decide the tools, the builders, and the supplies! When you successfully map our your strategies, you can evaluate each marketing automation platform against that strategy to identify the platforms where you'll likely be successful. We see more failures with companies who buy the platform and try to shift their processes to accommodate the shortcomings of the platform. You want the platform that's least disruptive and most accommodating to your resources, processes, talent, time, and subsequent return on investment.
We'd highly recommend skipping asking your platform for references and just go online to find customers. As with the use cases, references are often hand-picked and the most successful customers. You want to reach and interview the average customer to see what level of service, support, strategies, integration, and innovation your marketing automation platform is providing them. Be cognizant that you're going to hear some horror stories – every marketing automation platform has them. Compare your resources and objectives to each of your references to judge whether or not it may predict your success or failure.
We had one client integrate and implement a six-digit platform based solely on their analyst quadrant. When the platform was ready to launch they had no strategy, no content, and no means of measuring the success of the actual campaigns! They thought for sure they'd have some sample campaigns in the platform that they could easily update and send… nope. The platform launched as an empty shell.
The engagement with the platform didn't have any strategic resources, either, just customer support to in using the platform. The company had to go out and get persona research done for their customers, hire consultants to help develop the customer journeys, and then work with consultants to maintain and improve the campaigns. They were astonished that the cost to develop and execute the first campaigns overshadowed the entire technology implementation.