By: James Martin – CIO
Digital marketing is a fast-moving target even for those marketing pros who have embraced it. This CIO Wrapsheet will help you choose the right tools for your business.
“We are moving more and more towards a place where one-to-one relationships are going to be more the norm, even at mass scale,” said Andy Markowitz, general manager of GE’s performance marketing lab during a panel discussion at CES 2016.
In this CIO Wrapsheet, we look at how GE seeks one-to-one customer relationships, dig into why some marketing professionals don’t know what marketing automation is, explain the difference between ad tech and marketing tech (it’s not as simple as you think), compare four top marketing automation tools and provide a list of questions to ask vendors before you buy anything.
12 must-ask questions for
picking the right platform
Picking the right marketing automation platform is a challenge
for even the savviest organizations. These questions will help you
cover all of the bases before you invest in new marketing tech.
These 12 questions, contributed by marketing
professionals and other experts, can help you
prepare the proper queries beforehand and form
frameworks for evaluating marketing technology
1. What about CRM integration? Does
the information flow both ways?
Ideally, marketing automation platforms will integrate
with Salesforce or another CRM platform,
according to Adam Bockler, communications manager
at Float. Ask about the specific CRM features
available in the platform itself to determine if they’re
suitable. “Not everyone needs Salesforce, especially
if you’re a smaller company that needs to be focused
more on selling the work and tracking deals than on
creating incredibly detailed reports,” Bockler says.
“A seamless integration between the CRM platform
that the sales team is using and the marketing
automation solution is essential and becomes
increasingly important as the teams grow, and communication
becomes more challenging,” says Billy
Cripe, CMO of Field Nation.
2. Any additional integration?
In addition to CRM, ask about the other tools and
services that integrate with marketing automation
platforms, and know which services are necessities.
For example, HubSpot integrates with GoToWebinar,
SurveyMonkey, Shopify, WordPress, Zapier and
“Have a list of your must-have tools ready to go
when talking integrations with providers, and check
off each one they have,” Bockler suggests. “If they
don’t have it, ask them if it’s on their roadmap.”
3. How does data flow in and out of
the marketing automation system?
You will likely need to combine data that resides in
the marketing automation platform with data from
other systems, such as those dedicated to CRM, SEO,
content management systems (CMS) and ERP. The
goal is to form “a holistic picture and drive decisionmaking,”
according to Tom Berger, vice president of
digital marketing at Progress. “The data should be
easily accessible via application program interfaces
(APIs) or scheduled exports in common formats.”
4. How flexible is the reporting module?
Can you export custom reports?
Weak reporting is still the Achilles heel of many
otherwise great platforms, according to Micky Long,
vice president and practice director of lead nurturing
at Arketi Group, so it’s important for organizations to
drill down into tools’ reporting features.
5. How does the platform
“Tracking, reporting, ROI — these are terms that
weren’t significant to marketers for a long time,” says
Lauren Littlefield, president of Field Public Relations.
“It was easy to run radio and billboard ads,
then hope for the best when the end-of-year revenue
numbers became final. Now, through marketing
technology, marketers and company leadership alike
can analyze where their marketing is effective and
where it isn’t.”
Littlefield says quality marketing automation
platforms have flexible, customizable dashboards
and reports that help to measure campaign success
at a variety of different, granular levels. Organizations
should ask marketing automation providers
about success metrics and make sure they support
the metrics that are most important.
6. What about migrating from the
old system to the new one?
If you plan to migrate from a rival marketing
automation platform, it’s importance to ask about
the migration plan, according to David Chao, vice
president of marketing and product strategy at ReadyTalk.
“Listen for references that a migration from
your current platform has been done before,” he says.
“The right provider will want to dig into your specific
setup to assure a successful migration.”
It’s important to get a solid understanding of the
resources required to migrate or update your system,
says Gwen Knudsen, director of demand generation
at LiveHive. “Understand whether you’ll need to pay
for additional resources or use some of your own,
which may require you to pause other programs. You
may also need to pull in reps from your IT department,
sales operations, and marketing department.
Get their input before making a decision to make
sure it fits within their department goals.”
7. What’s the true cost of
using the system?
Hidden fees and costs associated with overages,
training and implementation can greatly impact the
overall price of a platform, according to Littlefield.
“Be sure to understand every potential cost for your
organization and how these possibilities affect the
competitive aspect of pricing as you’re vetting multiple
8. What about marketing
As with any service, a personal touch from a marketing
automation software provider is important— but
unfortunately isn’t always available. “It’s been typical
for different managers to take over my account,” says
Float’s Bockler. For example, his contact at a marketing
automation software provider left the company,
and then Bockler received a “generic email address”
to use if he had questions or issues.
Ask specifically about telephone support — when
is it available and how much does it cost? It’s wise
to pick a platform that offers solid, easily accessible
phone support. “You will need it,” according to Long.
9. Is it easy to add new users?
Ideally, you want the capability to freely add or
remove users in your marketing automation systems
as needed, says Bockler. Some systems have restrictions
that let you only remove users when their contracts
are up for renewal.
10. How long does it take to implement
the new system?
Depending on the size of the organization and the
condition of the data, implementation should take
two to four weeks, according to Littlefield. Anything
more or less should raise red flags. Variables that
influence implementation time include the number
of data sources and silos, team engagement, and the
sophistication of systems and workflows.
11. Can the system manage full customer
lifecycles, or only leads and prospects?
Marketing professionals must increasingly manage
and determine entire customer lifecycles, or
journeys, from unknown prospects to brand-loyal
customers, Littlefield says. As such, it’s important to
ensure that marketing automation tools fit your specific
needs. “Several marketing automation platforms
focus solely on leads or prospects.
12. Does the platform support
your mobile needs?
Mobile technology has never been more important
to modern marketers, and it’s crucial that
you pick automation tools that meet your mobile
requirements. “With more than 50 percent of
responses coming from mobile, it’s critical that
email templates, landing pages and forms are supported,”
says Knudsen. “Ideally, getting a mobile
responsive template shouldn’t require additional