The need for Marketing Automation is booming, with old and new vendors pushing their offering aggressively. After almost two years of helping companies evaluate these solutions, we identified the main challenges some of these companies face when comparing the different solutions in the market. Here are the main ones:

  1. It is all about the use cases – with so many tools out there, one of the most important elements in evaluating a Marketing Automation tool is to know what you would do with it. It doesn’t mean you have a daily marketing program 7 years into the future – it is more about knowing which channels are most important to you, what is the most concrete pain you are trying to solve, and how you are going to make money off your Marketing Automation investment. Most companies start with using Marketing Automation in order to boost their email marketing efforts with smart, personalized campaigns. Additional use cases are the ability to launch campaigns based on cross channel behavior, rapid campaign launch, and streamlining event marketing operation. We’ve written this short paper to help you get started with it.

  1. Have a clear understanding of what’s included at every price point – Pardot and Marketo offer different features in each of their packages. Act-On doesn’t have this kind of differentiation, which makes their pricing much simpler (you get exactly what you see). Whenever you see a demo of a Marketing Automation platform, remember to ask if the feature they show you is included in the package you are interested in. Believe me, nothing is more annoying than getting all excited from an interesting and cool feature, just to realize that it is way above your budget.

  1. Hidden costs all around – one of the favorite pricing tricks of many Marketing Automation providers is adding hidden costs beyond the monthly fee. The biggest ones usually are those “success packages” – professional service fees that are paid regardless of the package bought. Prices for these packages range from a couple of hundred dollars, in Act-On’s case, to several thousands of dollars in Pardot’s and Marketo’s case. This could be a major price addition: if you are planning to buy a license that costs $1,000 per month, adding a $4,000 “Success Package” cost to the annual Total Cost of Ownership means a 33% price increase.

  1. Understand the meaning of a contact – funny as it may sound, not all contacts are equal. In the case of Marketo and Pardot, a contact is a record in the Marketing Automation database. So, if you have 10,000 stale contacts in your database, you are still paying for them. Act-On is different in this case, as they only count contacts that you’ve sent an email. In this case you don’t need to bother figuring out what to import to your Marketing Automation solution. This pricing fact could greatly reduce your total cost of ownership.

  1. Define the relationship between your CRM and your Marketing Automation solution, and make sure the chosen vendor supports it – while most of the major Marketing Automation players support CRM integration, they differ in depth and features. Some are offering close to real-time lead syncing, some focus on simplicity, and some support only a subset of the CRM functions. In order to make the best decision, we recommend to define what should be done within the CRM system and what should be done solely in the Marketing Automation system. Points to consider include what exactly is being pushed to the CRM (all leads? Only the hot ones?), what kind of reports should be created within the Marketing Automation system (usually campaign and lead reports) and what should be done within the CRM.

  1. Bonus point: get unbiased references about technical support quality – at the end of the day, all these fancy marketing platform are software products. And software has bugs. Technical and customer support are crucial elements in seeing a positive ROI from Marketing Automation implementation. The main things to look at here are the quality of their support for paying customers, and the implementation process. Try to reach other users directly and get their insights, it might help you to find the loose ends that are usually hidden…

Marketing Automation systems has become much more affordable in recent years, but companies differ in their offering. If you want to make the most of it, lead the sales process as a buyer, connect with other buyers, and consult with those who use these products. I hope this post will help you to find the best solution for your needs.

For more information download our free paper that discusses additional benefits of using marketing automation.