Sure-fire ways to evaluate marketing automation platforms
Through-channel marketing. Cross channel marketing. Channel partner marketing. Enterprise marketing automation. Call it what you will, the marketing technology that allows your company to create, customize and distribute content to prospects and consumers through your sales teams is all the rage.
And the number of vendors talking about this and soliciting subscribers for their platforms is growing. In fact, a recent Google search on the topic yielded 82,100,000 results.
That’s not a typo. Eighty-two million is correct.
With so many platforms vying for your attention, how do you begin to evaluate which brand of through-channel marketing automation (TCMA) platform may be right for your organization?
First thing to understand is that each platform offers something a little different. Some have their roots as email platforms or variable data printing. Others as tech developers. Still others are pros in CRM systems.
So before you start evaluating platforms, look at your objectives first and decide what is most important to you and your organization. The last thing you want is to get seduced by the bells and whistles that a certain platform offers only to discover after you subscribe that it doesn’t serve your immediate needs.
Here are five steps you can take to hone in on your specific needs:
- Identify the different types of users who will access your new marketing automation platform. If they’ll have access to the same type of materials/functionality, write down each group and identify what types of materials and capabilities are the most important for each.
- Identify the critical business objectives for each group that will be using the system. Recognize the primary and secondary objectives for your user groups including administrators, management and other stakeholders.
- Assess your available materials and resources. Do you have the marketing materials available to support the objectives you identified? What types of materials are most readily available now? Do you have the resources to fill any gaps that may have been identified? Do you have the internal resources available to administer the platform?
- Understand your current landscape. Determine if there is a need to integrate with any existing platforms e.g., CRM systems, single sign-on, etc.
- Consider the measures of success. How will each group measure success? To get an idea, think about how you would answer this question: “Our investment in a marketing automation platform will be successful if…”
Once you have a better sense of who will benefit from a marketing automation platform and what’s most important to your organization, you can start your evaluation process. Here are five questions you and your team can ask to guide your process:
- What types of content does the platform support? Not just email, for instance but social, video, whitepapers, and infographics? Then, think about how they are organized. Will your users be able to find and access the materials they need? Will only relevant materials be served to each user group? Can materials be organized by your objective or be tailored to reflect your organization’s workflow?
- Can the platform provider also be a strategic marketing partner? Can the platform provider offer guidance on how to most effectively leverage existing materials? Can the provider be a strategic and creative resource when it comes to prioritizing and filling any gaps that may have been identified?
- Does the platform allow for customization? Does the platform provide the ability to customize content and tailor messaging based upon user group, region, service product, etc?
- What capabilities does the platform offer for sharing and distributing content? Can the platform support ads, collateral, video, ecards, articles, white papers, etc.? What distribution channels are supported, e.g., email, direct, landing pages, banner ads, embed code, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter? Can materials be organized into pre-packaged, automated campaigns to ensure best practices?
- Does the platform offer analytics? This way you can measure things like platform utilization, material use and effectiveness. Can the reporting be tailored to align with your measures of success? Can data be exported?
Bottomline is… picking the right platform depends on what you’re looking to accomplish. Keep this general rule in mind and you’ll find it will be a little less overwhelming to select from all the platforms out there.