It is easy to fall for the charms of the shiny new baby in town wooing marketing professionals by promising to fill the big hole that has long existed in a marketing process in the digitally connected world. That big gap was about actionable information on your website visitors and newsletters and the ability to action in quick time, with no sweat. Yes, by promising to convert strangers into delighted customers, Marketing Automation platforms hold a lofty promise for your organisations. No wonder, organisations are racing to deploy Marketing Automation solutions such as Pardot, Act-on, Marketo, Eloqua, Hubspot or even an open source solution, Mautic. But before, you sign on a platform, it might be worthwhile to look at some questions:
- Application and Data Security: I know it sounds cliched but let me tell you why this is at no 1. Inside a Marketing Automation reside your entire marketing assets (videos, whitepapers, case studies, newsletters, email drafts, business rules of operation), and vast amount of customer data, some known, some unknown and some partially known. Depending on what goes wrong, you could be staring somewhere between a nightmare – disaster continuum.
- Interop with CRM: Once a visitor to a site is reasonably known, and qualifies as sales lead, it is time to push this visitor into the CRM. Often that is a separate manual exercise and the sales and marketing teams continue to operate in silos after this handoff. That poor chap in sales has no idea that the prospect he is after, is silently looking at products different from what he is pitching in with. Irony of it? Looking for different product on their own website!
- Data Interop with other Marketing Automation systems. Often vendors reassure you that your data can be extracted and given to you if the relationship is called off and you migrate to a new platform. But what to do with huge chunks of CSV files, if the new solution or platform is unable to load your ‘legacy’ data? Choices before you are: (a)lose your data, and (b) invest big monies in remapping and reloading the data, or even customising the solution.
- Reports: How good are the inbuilt reports? Can I create my own reports? Is it very costly to get my own custom reports? How much time does it take to create new reports? Does it provide long range behaviour analytics?
- Digital Asset Management capabilities: The Digital Asset Management repository is the single place for all the images, audio, video, downloadable documents which your customer sees or downloads. These assets need to be often used in mailers or landing pages, edited, replaced or even retired.After a few hundred assets are added to a repository, it becomes difficult to locate or search an asset, sometimes even leading to duplication. All new houses look great. But the real test is only when you move in your stuff.
- Codeless, really? In fact, all solutions promise you liberty from html coding, a skill is often not found in marketing teams. Drag and drop is a nice term to hear, but get references that tell you the solution you are considering to buy does a good job of it. Even if you are a tech firm, begging for resource time from a client project to help straighten the CSS/html on a soon to go live landing page or the form is no fun – take it from me.
- Templates: How easy is it to setup custom templates for newsletter or landing pages? This is crucial because assets such as landing pages or newsletters are client exposed, and need to respect the organisation’s branding guidelines, which could be specific.
- Outcomes Measurement: You must find out how the success or failure of a campaign is measured in the solution under consideration. Else, you could be looking at dashboards that look nice, but don’t mean much.
- Total Cost of Ownership: Penny wise and pound foolish could come visiting, if the Marketing Automation solution chosen by you incurs low upfront cost, but requires, for example, a dedicated technical support. What if the premium templates that the marketing team can’t do without are priced separately, or if the solution is hosted on a less-than-quick service, which impacts productivity?
- Workflow: Most teams are geographically distributed today. Does the solution support workflow based reviews and approval?
Marketing is the last frontier of an enterprise to be invaded by IT. But today IT is central to a marketing team in a growth-seeking organisation. Do not let yourself down by falling for exuberance.