Choosing a marketing automation vendor can be challenging. Whether you are jumping into marketing automation for the first time, or are re-evaluating your current system, it can be a difficult and daunting task – especially with how many options are out there these days. Marketing Automation Selection Criteria can help.
The vendor you choose will have an enormous impact on not only your Marketing Department and marketing efforts, but could easily touch other areas as well such as Sales, Customer Service and IT. It is important to consider these other groups when evaluating various vendors, as they may have requirements, obstacles and questions that should be taken into consideration.
To help make the evaluation process a little easier and more effective, here is a recommended process to follow:
- Document all of your requirements.
Before you begin, put together a list of all requirements you need. It is helpful to also rank or rate these requirements in such a way where you can make executive decisions if no vendors meet all of your requirements. Which ones are flexible, and which ones are non-negotiable? You should be able to answer these questions should they arise.
When documenting your requirements, again make sure to include other departments that may be impacted by the software. Be careful, though, of how many individuals you include in the process. A 2014 survey conducted by marketing automation review company, Software Advice, found that having too many “cooks in the kitchen” leads to dissatisfaction in the software selection process.
- Determine the short list of vendors to evaluate.
Once you have documented your requirements, it’s time to decide which vendors to look at. There are a ton of marketing automation software companies on the market today – from the large, enterprise solutions to smaller, home-grown solutions.
Preliminary research, using company websites, industry blog posts and customer reviews will help determine which vendors to evaluate. Keep the list short, though, evaluating enough options to see what is out there, but not so many that you are bogged down with demos, comparisons and sales calls.
- Conduct thorough evaluations of each vendor.
Take your list of vendors, contact each one and start your evaluations. When evaluating the different programs, make sure to ask questions related to your list of requirements and deep-dive into areas that are of the most importance. It is crucial for you to understand how their software will address your needs, solve any pain points, and impact your processes and procedures.
As stated earlier, keep your evaluation team to a minimum as well to avoid bringing too many individuals into the process. In their survey, Software Advice found that 71% of buyers involved end-users in the process, which their research found to be an extremely ineffective tactic. They found that “While it’s necessary to understand how the software will be used day-to-day, involving end-users could take the project in the wrong direction. End users won’t have the context of knowing the whole scope of the project; for example, they are unlikely to weigh important factors such as integration and project budget.”
- Rank the vendors according to your requirements.
After evaluations have been completed, it’s time to break out your requirements list again and rank each of the vendors you looked at. This exercise should give you a clear picture of which vendors can meet all of your requirements, and which ones fall short (and in what areas).
Another useful exercise at this stage is to take a look at customer reviews, and see what others are saying about the software, implementation, customer support and other key factors. Just as customer review sites are important when making personal purchases, Software Advice found that it is the same when companies are evaluating software purchases.
- Perform your due diligence.
Finally, once you have selected a vendor make sure to perform your due diligence and fully check them out. Have legal review all agreements, get executive-level sign-off, and make sure to check vendor references. Software Advice also found that buyers who did not check vendor references were 5.2x more likely to be extremely dissatisfied with their purchase than those who did check references.
So while the process can be a daunting one, it is important to properly review marketing automation companies when choosing a new (or replacement) software. Following the steps outlined above will certainly help make the process an easier one, and if you are looking for more detail behind each of these steps, feel free to download Revenue Architects’ Objective Solution Selection (OS2) for Marketing Automation eBook. The OS2 Marketing Automation Selection eBook will guide you through this 5-step process, help define your decision criteria and understand the factors in the selection process. Download your copy here.