How to Choose the Right Marketing Automation Platform for Your Business
Ready to get started with marketing automation? After you build your business case, you need to select a marketing automation platform to support your program. But in today’s crowded technology market, how do you know which one is right for your business?
Your Technology Selection Makes a Big Difference
While it’s true that the actual platform you choose is only one component of your entire marketing automation program, it is a big component. That’s because how you build that program and the skills your team needs to execute on your strategy will differ slightly based on which platform you implement.
Therefore, it’s important to give the technology selection process the attention it deserves because you don’t want to keep changing your platform. Doing so can not only drive up costs, but it can also decrease productivity and hinder your ability to operate at 100% as you manage the change.
As with any technology selection, you need to evaluate the available solutions in light of several factors, including your business objectives, current capability requirements, desired future state, and existing technology environment.
Seven Considerations to Include in Your Selection Process
In addition to the general considerations listed above, there are also several factors that are more specific to the marketing automation market that you’ll want to consider. We recommend evaluating the following seven factors:
- Costs: How much will the platform cost might seem like an obvious question to ask, but it’s an important one. And how you answer it is even more important. In some cases, platforms might have “hidden costs” (e.g. extra fees for certain activities or support). Ideally, you want a platform that doesn’t have any of these hidden costs, although if you do choose a platform that might impose extra fees, it’s critical that you’re aware of those fees (and what triggers them) upfront.
- Limits: Some marketing automation platforms impose limits on how many emails you can send or users you can have in the system (or charge extra fees for going over those limits). Similar to the cost consideration, you ideally want a platform that offers unlimited sends and users so that it can easily scale alongside your team.
- Support Options: The level of support your marketing automation platform provider offers is important, especially when it comes to troubleshooting issues in a timely fashion. As such, you should look for a provider that offers a package with phone support so that you can easily connect with their experts should you need to diagnose and solve a problem quickly or even just confirm the best way to do something in the system.
- Availability: System availability is key to ensuring you’ll have access when you need it and that everything will operate as expected. Be sure to review each provider’s commitment to availability (which should be spelled out in their Service Level Agreement). It also pays to look at historical data to see whether providers met (or even exceeded) their commitments in the past and to learn how they handled any downtime that did occur.
- Integrations: Your marketing automation platform shouldn’t operate in a vacuum. Therefore, it’s important to consider each platform’s integration landscape. The big thing here is the native CRM integration options, as integrating your marketing automation platform with your CRM system is an absolute must. Beyond that, you should also evaluate what other integration opportunities are available, such as those for social media marketing solutions, account-based marketing tools, etc. As part of these evaluations, consider not only what integration opportunities exist, but also what those integrations look like (e.g. What does it mean to have your social media management platform integrated with your marketing automation platform?).
- Broader Capabilities: There’s a lot that goes into a comprehensive marketing automation program, and as such you want to make sure that your platform has the broader capabilities you’ll need as your program matures. Top capabilities for which to look include website tracking, landing pages, campaign management, webinar and event management, and data management, to name a few. Of course, the integration opportunities available can also help extend the functionality of the platform as described above.
- Customer Feedback: Finally, take a look at what organizations that are using the platforms have to say about both the technology and the support offered by the providers. Beyond reviewing testimonials, it pays to talk directly to partners or people you meet at events to learn even more about their sentiment.
Don’t Leave Any Stone Unturned
At the end of the day, the more thorough you are during the technology selection process, the better off you’ll be in the long run. The key is to look for a platform that can not only meet the needs of your marketing automation program today, but that can also scale with your business to continue to meet your needs even as those needs change and grow.