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Does your organization really need a marketing automation platform?

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Does your organization really need a marketing automation platform?


Marketing automation platforms are often at the center of the marketing organization, but with capabilities that go beyond your average email platform often come steeper prices and a sharper learning curve.

So before jumping into the purchase process, we recommend starting with a comprehensive self-assessment of your organization’s business needs, staff capabilities, management support and financial resources.

Have we outgrown our current marketing system?

Marketing automation is often a solution for companies that are growing rapidly and need to scale their efforts. If you have data in multiple databases that cannot be consolidated or are using an email system that can’t deliver the level of behavioral targeting you need, it may be time for marketing automation.

What marketing automation capabilities are most critical to our business?

Identify and prioritize your software requirements and the key capabilities you’ll need from the new system. Do your sales reps need real-time access to marketing data? Then native CRM integration is a must-have. Do you have a sophisticated social media presence? Then social marketing management and integration will be important. By knowing what you need, you’ll be in a better position to control the selection process and choose the platform that will most benefit the organization.

What kind of marketing automation platform do we need?
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Marketing automation is not a one-size-fits-all solution; it’s important to find the right fit. Nearly all companies offer the same basic capabilities for email, website tracking and a marketing database. Additional capabilities vary, however, so it’s important to identify what you need. Is inbound marketing (social media, blogging, SEO) more important than outbound (email)? Are reporting and analytics the key features you need? Is lead scoring a crucial part of your marketing process? Do you need greater capabilities in audience segmentation and personalization?

What are our goals?

It is critical to know up front what your goals for the marketing automation system will be. Do you want to improve the quality of leads handed off by marketing to sales? Or increase revenue by increasing conversion at key stages in the buying cycle? Do you want to improve visibility into the buying and sales cycles to optimize marketing engagement? Or do you want to reach the growing portion of your leads that are mobile users? Bring key stakeholders together to establish the organization’s goals.

How will this platform integrate with our existing tech stack?

The odds are that you already have a tech stack in place, (e.g., several standalone tools for social media
management, SEO, webinar hosting, etc.). You’ll need to identify them all so you can ask the marketing automation vendor about integration. Many vendors offer app marketplaces, which provide faster access to the participating systems. Virtually all marketing automation vendors offer APIs, but they may be an add-on to the price of the platform.

Does management support this purchase?

Every marketer should have an executive sponsor to secure support at the C-level. If you are not the ultimate decision-maker for this purchase, you will need management to buy into the idea before you go any further. Present a compelling case that the benefits of new software vastly outweigh the costs. This could include converting more leads, making sales more efficient and improving campaign ROI.

Do we have the internal skillset and staff necessary?
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To maximize your ROI, staff will need training and a willingness to develop and execute new business processes. You may also need to consider several new hires. If your marketing and sales organizations have been operating in silos, they will need to work more cooperatively on lead scoring and routing systems, lead qualification definitions and more effective marketing collateral and communications. Identify someone in the organization who will take the lead on the selection process, as well as who will be using the system once it has been adopted.

How will we measure success?

This is one of the toughest questions, and ties in directly to understanding why you are adopting a marketing automation platform. If your goal is to increase conversions, you’ll need to know what your conversion rate is before automation in order to measure its impact. If it’s to improve email efficiency, be prepared with metrics
on open rates, clicks, etc. In addition to measuring against your marketing goals, it’s wise to measure the depth and breadth of platform usage. Many marketers only use basic email capabilities, which ends up being a costly investment.

Have we realistically assessed the cost?

Some marketing automation platforms are all-inclusive, while others feature add-on tools and services that can significantly increase costs. In addition to the cost of the software license itself, consider the costs of ongoing services and training, as well as the indirect costs associated with getting staff up and running on the new system (i.e., more cooperation and data sharing between marketing and sales). If you don’t have your own IT or design staff, be sure to ask questions about what these services cost on an hourly basis. For example, if the platform offers templates, find out how many, and how much it costs to customize template design.

Snapshot: Marketing automation

For today’s marketers, automation platforms are often the center of the marketing stack. They aren’t shiny new technologies, but rather dependable stalwarts that marketers can rely upon to help them stand out in a crowded inbox and on the web amidst a deluge of content.

HubSpot noted late last year that marketing email volume had increased by as much as 52% compared to pre-COVID levels. And, thankfully, response rates have also risen to between 10% and 20% over their benchmark.

To help marketers win the attention battle, marketing automation vendors have expanded from dependence on static email campaigns to offering dynamic content deployment for email, landing pages, mobile and social. They’ve also incorporated features that rely on machine learning and artificial intelligence for functions such as lead scoring, in addition to investing in the user interface and scalability.

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The growing popularity of account-based marketing has also been a force influencing vendors’ roadmaps, as marketers seek to serve the buying group in a holistic manner — speaking to all of its members and their different priorities. And, ideally, these tools let marketers send buyer information through their tight integrations with CRMs, giving the sales team a leg up when it comes to closing the deal. Learn more here.



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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

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6 martech contract gotchas you need to be aware of

Having worked at several organizations and dealt with many more vendors, I’ve seen my share of client-vendor relationships and their associated “gotchas.” 

Contracts are complex for a reason. That’s why martech practitioners are wise to lean on lawyers and buyers during the procurement process. They typically notice terms that could undoubtedly catch business stakeholders off guard.

Remember, all relationships end. It is important to look for thorny issues that can wreak havoc on future plans.

I’ve seen and heard of my share of contract gotchas. Here are some generalizations to look out for.

1. Data

So, you have a great data vendor. You use them to buy contacts and information as well as to enrich what data you’ve already got. 

When you decide to churn from the vendor, does your contract allow you to keep and use the data you’ve pulled into your CRM or other systems after the relationship ends? 

You had better check.

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2. Funds

There are many reasons why you would want to give funds in advance to a vendor. Perhaps it pays for search ads or allows your representatives to send gifts to prospective and current customers. 

When you change vendors, will they return unused funds? That may not be a big deal for small sums of money. 

Further, while annoying, processing fees aren’t unheard of. But what happens when a lot of cash is left in the system? 

You had better make sure that you can get that back.

3. Service-level agreements (SLAs)

Your business is important, and your projects are a big deal. Yet, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll get a prompt response to a question or action when something wrong happens. 

That’s where SLAs come in. 

It’s how your vendor tells you they will respond to questions and issues. A higher price point typically will get a client a better SLA that requires the vendor to respond and act more quickly — and more of the time to boot (i.e., 24/7 service vs. standard business hours). 

Make sure that an SLA meets your expectations. 

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Further, remember that most of the time, you get what you pay for. So, if you want a better SLA, you may have to pay for it.


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4. Poaching

Clients and vendors alike are always looking for quality people to employ. Sometimes they find them on the other side of the client-vendor relationship. 

Are you OK with them poaching one of your team members? 

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If not, this should be discussed and put into writing during the contract negotiation phase, a renewal, or at any time if it is that important.

 I have dealt with organizations that are against anti-poaching clauses to the point that a requirement to have one is a dealbreaker. Sometimes senior leadership or board members are adamant about an individual’s freedom to work where they please — even if one of their organization’s employees departs to work for a customer or vendor. 

5. Freebies

It is not unheard of for vendors to offer their customers freebies. Perhaps they offer a smaller line item to help justify a price increase during a renewal. 

Maybe the company is developing a new product and offers it in its nascent/immature/young stage to customers as a deal sweetener or a way to collect feedback and develop champions for it. 

Will that freemium offer carry over during the next renewal? Your account executive or customer success manager may say it will and even spell that out in an email. 

Then, time goes by. People on both sides of the relationship change or forget details. Company policies change. That said, the wording in a contract or master service agreement won’t change. 

Make sure the terms of freebies or other good deals are put into legally sound writing.

Read next: 24 questions to ask ABM vendors before signing the contract

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6. Pricing factors

There are many ways vendors can price out their offerings. For instance, a data broker could charge by the contact engaged by a customer. But what exactly does that mean? 

If a customer buys a contact’s information, that makes sense as counting as one contact. 

What happens if the customer, later on, wants to enrich that contact with updated information? Does that count as a second contact credit used? 

Reasonable minds could justify the affirmative and negative to this question. So, evaluating a pricing factor or how it is measured upfront is vital to determine if that makes sense to your organization. 

Don’t let contract gotchas catch you off-guard 

The above are just a few examples of martech contract gotchas martech practitioners encounter. There is no universal way to address them. Each organization will want to address them differently. The key is to watch for them and work with your colleagues to determine what’s best in that specific situation. Just don’t get caught off-guard.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.


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About The Author

Steve Petersen is a marketing technology manager at Zuora. He spent nearly 8.5 years at Western Governors University, holding many martech related roles with the last being marketing technology manager. Prior to WGU, he worked as a strategist at the Washington, DC digital shop The Brick Factory, where he worked closely with trade associations, non-profits, major brands, and advocacy campaigns. Petersen holds a Master of Information Management from the University of Maryland and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Brigham Young University. He’s also a Certified ScrumMaster. Petersen lives in the Salt Lake City, UT area.

Petersen represents his own views, not those of his current or former employers.

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