Marketing Automation Selection: Finding a Future-Safe Vendor


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Marketers can do a better job of picking their marketing automation vendors if they roll up their sleeves and try. I wrote yesterday about building a requirements document to define the features you’ll look for. But you also need a company that supports your long-term success. Here’s how to identify a “future-safe” vendor.

  • Past innovations: a history of advanced thinking shows the vendor understands marketers’ needs and suggests they’ll adapt well to the future. But it’s not just about being first: no one company has all the good ideas. You also need to be sure the vendor is a fast follower, so its clients will quickly benefit from new ideas invented by everyone..
  • Flexible technology: no one can predict exactly how marketing automation will be used next. This means you need a system that can easily adapt to unexpected requirements. Look for APIs to coordinate with other systems and a database that supports custom objects. These are still surprisingly rare in B2B marketing automation systems.
  • Training and support: will the vendor help you to try existing features and proactively train you when they add something new? Both are important if you’re going to get the most from their system. To assess service, ask how support staff are trained, managed, and incented, and talk to existing clients.
  • Educational services: will the vendor help you learn about marketing practices in general, beyond training on their system? Vendors are in a unique position to see what’s new and what’s working across the industry, but only some take advantage of it. The good ones have programs to train client staff on marketing basics and on new tricks as the industry evolves. Some vendor provide benchmarks to make it easier to identify strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities.
  • Vertical expertise: how well does the vendor understand your industry, and do they have a particular concentration of industry clients? It’s true that marketing automation is pretty similar across different industries, but each still has its nuances. A vendor who specializes in your industry is more likely to add specialized features your industry needs. Training, support and education are also more likely to be industry-relevant.
  • Financial strength: it’s not enough to just survive. A vendor needs resources to enhance its product and adapt to unexpected developments. Financial strength can also come from size, profitability, outside investment, or a large corporate parent. So define it broadly, but do take it into consideration.
  • Corporate culture: look for a match between your own company and the vendor. Some of this is based on size and style: big, systematic clients work best with big, systematic vendors. But you also need a vendor with pride in innovation, flexibility, and client success.

It’s harder to identify vendor characteristics than particular system features. But features come and go, often in ways you can’t predict. Picking a future-safe vendor is an important part of ensuring your long-term needs will be met.

Republished with author's permission from original post.


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