One of the initiatives I work on with our clients here at Convince & Convert is marketing automation vendor selection. Based on our experience in this space, here is the process we use to choose the best marketing automation platform for your business.
This is the first in a three-part series delving into the process for selection and preparation for CRM + Marketing Automation implementation.
Let’s start with the basics and define what marketing automation and CRM is.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) usually refers to the database of record for prospects and/or customers. They come in many varieties and specialized versions, so we use the term generically.
Marketing Automation (MA) refers to the suite of tools and capabilities that allow for automated, triggered events including email, text messaging, variable content, lead scoring, conditional logic rules, communication workflows, etc. These two sets of capabilities, (CRM + MA) can reside in one all-encompassing platform or two (or more) systems that exchange data bi-directionally. There is no one-size-fits all solution. That’s part of the challenge in selecting the best systems(s) for your specific needs.
The combination of a CRM system or database of record and a process to automate marketing messages enables you to communicate based on individuals’ attributes, reactions, engagement and channel preferences. That a long way of saying, “Speak with individuals as individuals in ways that are most relevant to each of them.”
There is a key principle that everyone in the decision-making process needs to be aware of. It’s analogous to the four pillars holding up the roof to the whole CRM + Marketing Automation process. It looks like this:
Management has to be clear and committed to all four pillars to achieve success.
Four Pillars of Nurture Success
Take a close look at that. If you remove, or even short-change any one of those pillars, the whole marketing automation is doomed to a sub-optimal outcome. This is to become the lifeblood of most organizations’ sales funnel and revenue. This is not the place to cut corners. Management has to be clear and committed to all four pillars to achieve success.
I can write a whole post just on data, and that’s super important. I’ll hold off on that for the second installment in this series.
The most important thing to remember when undertaking a CRM + MA upgrade is probably what not to do.
For those who have some sort of system and tools cobbled together, where does one begin to consolidate and improve the whole process?
First, let’s agree we are talking about improving the whole process for everyone: the prospects/recipients, the marketers, the tacticians, and the management. When done correctly, everyone wins.
The most important thing to remember when undertaking a CRM + MA upgrade is probably what not to do. Do NOT go out and start looking demos of different systems. They all have shiny, wiz-bang demos and colorful charts and seemingly simply drag and drop GUIs, but that’s the wrong way to go about an evaluation. In fact, Trust Radius lists 130 individual Marketing Autonomation platforms! There’s no way anyone has the time to demo a meaningful number of those.
The correct way to demo marketing automation platforms — the way that is far more likely to yield a successful outcome — is to do this:
This list of future-state capabilities should be comprehensive, but not necessarily exhaustive. More on that in a moment.
Step 1: Add to your list of Features and Functional Requirements interview questions, including:
Step 2: Next, filter through the list of candidate CRM + MA packages and develop a short-list of no more than 10.
Step 3: With these 10 candidates, initiate the sales process with each, by:
Step 4: Evaluate the Solutions Internally for a Minimum of 3-4 Weeks
Now, this is going to take some time. In our experience, it’ll take two full weeks minimum to go through the dialog, checklists, scheduling the demos, follow-up questions, etc. And you probably can’t get 6-10 done within a two-week time frame if you and your team already have day-jobs. So candidly, plan on a minimum of 3-4 weeks.
I’ve kind of glossed over some of the process details about how to compile all the gathered information into a side-by-side comparison chart, but that’s detail stuff. Once someone gets into that stage of analysis, we’ve got some good processes that help streamline things. I’m happy to share those; it just doesn’t make for good interview material.
Once you get the short list down to 1 or 2 candidates, then what?
If it’s down to a list of one, your job is really simple. Anything more than one, and you’ll have to dig a bit deeper and tease out the differentiators. There are probably no non-starters by this stage, or they wouldn’t be in the final list. This is where talking with reference customers and price negotiations come in. And pricing models vary greatly. You should be prepared for multiple licenses, user fees including admins, marketers, clerks, or whatever they each name their seat and access level licenses, and some might even be fixed rate.
We always ask for a fee structure covering each of the first three years. Year one is always the most expensive because migration and implementation services are usually all rolled up in that first year. So, three years gives a better look at annual cost of ownership. And it is a negotiation point. That the best reason to have at least two in your final list of candidates.
In Part Two of this series:
We delve deeper into the importance of data, the four categories of data, and how this will cause you to rethink your CTAs and webforms!
In Part Three of this series:
The implementation journey is about to begin. But you are not ready. There is a lot that can and should be done before anyone starts loading software onto servers! (or, in the cloud)
The post How to Choose a Marketing Automation Platform appeared first on Content Marketing Consulting and Social Media Strategy.