As of 2016, 49% of companies are using marketing automation software.
This tells us two things: first, that those companies who do use marketing automation can still count it as a competitive advantage; and second, that confusion over platform offerings and pricing is likely still an impediment to more widespread adoption.
There are so many marketing automation platforms right now that choosing a provider can be a real headache. Often, the pricing, features and customer service offerings are structured in such a way that makes it difficult to compare apples-to-apples.
We’ve come up with a list of essential questions to ask providers before making a decision to switch over to a particular system.
1. What integration do you offer?
Remember your ultimate goal is to consolidate systems to end up with a very clear picture of how well your online prospecting and converting processes are functioning. Ideally, your marketing automation platform will include integration with Salesforce or whatever other CRM platform you’re using — at the very least. Most marketing automation platforms include further integration with SurveyMonkey, Shopify, Zapier, WordPress, AWeber, and other marketing tools. We recommend having a checklist of “must-have tools” you’d like integrated to run through with prospective providers.
2. How flexible are the reports?
A common complaint among marketing automation users is the rigidity in some of the reporting modules. For instance, you may find that you can only track the success of a campaign back a month or two, with no ability to specify custom dates. Ask about customization options for reports and whether you can have them automatically delivered to different users.
3. How does your platform measure the success of campaigns?
What specific metrics can you track? Can you track opens and clicks of emails? Can you A/B test landing pages and forms? Can you track a prospect through their entire life cycle — even beyond the sale, to nurture ongoing relationships, as well as generate new leads?
4. What is the true cost?
Hidden fees and costs of a particular platform may include:
- Mandatory training expenditures
- Additional charges for adding users
- Additional charges for adding contacts to the database
- Additional charges for going beyond a set number of emails
- Additional charges for monthly billing, rather than annual billing
- Charges for adding functionality and features on top of the basic plan
- Charges for additional “insights” from consultants
As Knowledge Marketing For Industry points out: Don’t forget about all the other intangible “expenses”: man-hours spent for your staff to learn the new platform and the complexity that may cause these hours to skyrocket, while your talent’s time may be better spent on something else.
5. What support is included?
In our experience, generous customer service sets the best marketing automation platforms from the worst. We’ve tried some providers that were downright difficult to get ahold of — and others that act as true partners. You want to ask whether telephone support is available, when it’s available, and how much it costs. You will almost always need it for one reason or another at some point. Is there live chat or email options? You don’t want to end up in a position where you’re paying tons of extra money due to unexpected difficulties learning the new platform you assumed you’d never need.
6. Is training included?
The best vendors offer some type of training, whether it’s hands-on support presented to your company members directly or an online tutorial and webinars. Training is an important consideration with regard to pricing that can vary wildly from company to company. For instance, Infusionsoft has a mandatory $1,999 kickstart training package that some say is a “deal-breaker” when shopping around for a new platform. Similarly, HubSpot charges mandatory training fees in the $500 – $2,000 range. On the other hand, Hatchbuck offers free training with their semi-annual plan and as a Mod Girl Hatchbuck partner, we provide free training on both semi-annual and monthly plans.
7. Are there limits on the number of contacts in my database?
Many marketing automation systems charge monthly fees depending on the number of contacts in your database. With HubSpot, you pay $200 for 100 contacts, $800 for 1,000 contacts, or $2,400 for 10,000 contacts. With InfusionSoft, you pay $199 for 2,500 contacts, $299 for 5,000 contacts, or $379 for 10,000 contacts. With Act-On, you pay $600 for 1,000 contacts or $2,000 for 10,000 contacts, all the way up to 1 million contacts for $6,500 and higher. Check out this blog from Capterra for more detailed information on pricing and the difference between packages.
8. Does the platform support mobile?
With more than 50% of responses coming from mobile devices, you’d think this would be a standard given across the board, but the rise of dedicated mobile marketing automation platforms suggests otherwise. So you want to make sure your vendor provides built-in mobile optimization for landing pages, email templates and forms.
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