I hate to be such a whiner, but I see it too often. The IT guys get to determine which marketing tools that are chosen. And of course, they try to the best of their abilities to select the right tools seen from their point of view.


So, what’s important if you are in IT?

  •   Performance
  •   Uptime
  •   Security
  •   Integrations

Basically, IT wants Marketing to choose a tool that doesn’t take up too much of the time, they have for solving their tasks who are mainly dictated by the CIO/CFO – and who can blame them?

I’m not saying that the above-stated criteria aren’t important – but I believe that Marketing should be in the driver’s seat when choosing marketing tools. Otherwise, the IT requirements will make up all the requirements and Marketing may very well end up with a system, which performs very well, integrates well with Microsoft Dynamics but doesn’t really solve the Marketing issue. Does that sound familiar?

But which criteria should we then look at instead?

Working at a Marketing Automation company naturally I get to see many RFPs (Request For Proposal) – and naturally they aren’t all bad. And again – it’s not like the IT requirements above aren’t important – they should, however, only be one part of the equation.

I find, that customers get a better experience, if they also consider the following overall criteria:

Usage

How well does the system solve the Marketing task? Once it’s up and running and data is integrated – how is a normal day at the office? How easy is it to configure a simple newsletter and a complex customer journey? The first task is probably carried out many times – and the latter is carried out less frequently, but on the other hand, it is an area that should be worked with continuously.

Make sure you spend enough time on the demo part – since any vendor (well… most vendors) can make a flawless demo lasting an hour. However, one hour of smoking mirrors and pre-cooked flows and integrations, isn’t enough for you to decide on a tool you’ll be using day in and day out. Insist on seeing a demo based on your specific data – insist on doing at least a 2-hour demo where your specific use cases are looked at.

Because once the contract is signed – many vendors leave you in the hands of support systems manned by developer type people with little understanding of marketing. And the things that looked easy to begin with may not be so easy after all.

Services

Even though software is important it rarely does the trick alone. You need to talk to real people who can actually help you. So it makes sense to investigate which kind of service and support you can expect to get, once the contract is signed.

In general you’ll be needing 3 kinds of service:

 

  1. Creative and conceptual sparring
  2. Production of content, flows and campaigns
  3. Setup of integrations
  4. User interface related support

Creative and conceptual sparring and production

If this is the first time you or your colleagues are working with marketing automation, then chances are you’ll benefit greatly from entering with an agency or similar that can help you define which goals and solutions you should pursue within this field. What are the overall business concept and creative concept you’ll be working with? If you are a retailer, this could involve defining a loyalty program including the naming, benefits, rewards, looks, tone of voice etc. If your marketing automation efforts are more closely related to your product – i.e. Insurance, Single brand company, Digital Startup, Publishing, Fitness etc., then it may still make sense to give the program some kind of name to brand it internally.

When selecting the right platform for your organization you should ask yourself:

 

  • Can we do this stuff by ourselves or do we need a kickstart?
  • Does the organisation behind the software provide these services?
  • Are there any (even many?) good agencies that can help us with this?

Production of content, flows and campaigns

Having determined the strategy and concepts you then need to make this come to life in actual assets. Creatives need to be developed, articles and conversion copy (i.e. the contents of email) need to be written, HTML templates need to be built, flows need to be set up. Although we are talking automation – this is hard work and doesn’t happen by itself.

This is where you should ask yourself:

  • Can we do this ourselves or do we need to hire or train?
  • How hard is it to learn?
  • What are the training options from the vendor?
  • Does the organisation behind the software provide these services?
  • Are there any – or even many – good agencies that can help us with this?

Setup of integrations

In order for any Marketing Automation system to give full value for money, you’ll need to integrate to other platforms in the ecosystem. These could be your website / e-commerce, your CRM, your ERP or similar.

Ask your vendor to prove to you:

  • How easy/hard is it to integrate to the systems you have in your ecosystem?
  • Do they offer any services in regards to this? i.e. can they help you define a data model?
  • Can they help you to do Data Management – possibly transforming some of your obscure internal data into nice and tidy data, that marketing will be able to comprehend?
  • Do the agencies and partners you work with feel confident they can do this data management and integration for you?

User interface related support

After having launched your automation programme – then it’s back to normal. Oh – except it’s a new kind of normal. New features and flows need to be built, hypotheses tested, existing flows optimized and trimmed, new campaigns launched etc. In this daily routine, it’s extremely important to be able to get competent support exactly when you need it and for what you are doing. Of course, knowledge bases and articles online are good to have – but there is nothing like having a clever guy or girl on the phone who can ask you the right questions and help you achieve exactly what it is you were after. Don’t spend ages waiting for email based ticket systems or expensive support services charging you by the hour – you’ll end up frustrated and poor as a church mouse.

So ask your vendor:

  • Is it possible to get direct support given the size of your specific contract/license? Is there any prerequisite for getting access to support?/li>
  • Which channels are available for getting support? Email/web (ok), Chat (better), Phone (best)?
  • Who is manning your support and what are their prerequisites for being there?
  • Is there any extra charge for getting support?

Conclusion

No, IT should not be driving the choice of Marketing Automation platform – but they are of course an important stakeholder in this since they will most likely be doing some of the integrations. But just don’t let it draw attention away from the big picture …

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