What does it take to find the right marketing automation solution for your agency? A good platform helps marketing agencies be more effective. A great platform can do much more – increase efficiency, improve intelligence, expand your reach, enable targeted real-time action, and most of all, create a key competitive advantage for your agency in a crowded marketplace. That’s why it’s important to take the time to research your options in advance. When choosing your marketing automation partner, it’s essential to figure out the capabilities that are important to your agency – as well as to the diverse needs of your clients. Let’s take a look at some of the core competencies, key considerations, and must-haves for marketing agencies seeking automation solutions.

Choosing the Right Solution

Step One: Identify the Core Competencies You Have, and Those You Want

Before you even get started in the process of evaluating vendors:

  • Take a long look at your own organization and your existing marketing processes; what do you want to do more? Less? Better? What new capabilities do you want? What tools are you using now that marketing automation would replace? Would that save budget?
  • Take a long look at your client list. Identify the goals and objectives for each client. Would marketing automation help you achieve them? Would it make existing processes better? Would it make existing practices easier or save significant amounts of time? Would it allow you to show your client new metrics that prove the value your agency provides?
  • Figure out your resources and budget, and get a handle on the staffing levels you’ll need to oversee the effort throughout the evaluation process and beyond, to integration and on-going maintenance.

Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to begin the process. This can be labor-intensive because there are a lot of different marketing automation solutions out there, and it’s not an apples-to-apples comparison.

Marketing Automation Basics

However, there are some basics that you’ll want to make sure get covered. Some may be capabilities you don’t use in your own marketing, but are basic must-haves that your clients probably expect. If your agency isn’t using one of these features now, you may well be in the future, and it’s important to use a solution that can grow with you as your needs (and your clients’ expectations) expand. The marketing automation solution you choose should support:

  • Asset creation, such as email messages, landing pages, and online forms
  • Ready-made templates you can use right out of the box
  • Easy, minimal-click campaign creation, management, and scheduling
  • Website visitor tracking and alerting so you can monitor results and target based on behaviors
  • Integration with other systems such as CRM, Google AdWords, webinar platforms, and social platforms
  • Lead generation, lead scoring, and lead management capabilities
  • Automated programs for lead nurturing, trigger email campaigns, etc.
  • Campaign tracking, analytics, and reporting that aligns with what is important to you and your clients

Make sure the vendor offers on-going training, and support that works in partnership with your agency. Also check on any awards or accolades the vendor has received. These demonstrate market awareness, competency, and industry leadership. Check out the Buyer’s Checklist for Marketing Automation to get tips on evaluating potential vendors and a handy checklist to help you choose the best marketing automation partner for your agency.

Roads diverge

Step 2: Prioritize Additional Considerations

Cultural Fit

When you partner with clients, cultural fit and company size are important considerations. Do you share the same values? Are your goals aligned? Corporate culture is also important when selecting a marketing automation vendor. Will you be a valued customer or an anonymous source of revenue? Will the vendor listen and respond to your needs? Is it vested in your success? This is especially important for agencies presenting marketing automation to clients as a part of their skillset. If something goes wrong with your vendor, it’s your reputation that’s on the line with your clients. You also want a vendor that’s committed to continual improvement in its features and capabilities. Digital marketing isn’t static; you could outgrow a vendor that’s not adapting to change.

Pricing and Profitability

Many agencies operate with very tight margins, making pricing and profitability an extremely important consideration. With some marketing automation vendors, you have to sell their technology to your clients before you can sell your services. A better (and more profitable) agency model is to sell your campaign management services, while you manage the needs of your clients together on a single platform that you manage. That way, as you gain or lose clients or your clients’ needs ebb and flow, you can manage your marketing automation solution according to your changing needs.

Agency-Specific User Interface

Several marketing automation vendors provide dashboards. (If they don’t, you can rule them out right away.) But to really get the information you need – like real-time campaign data, on-demand reports, user-permission settings, and so on – you need to make sure the solution provides a dashboard that’s optimized for an agency. That makes day-today operations much easier.

Look for features such as:

  • Single sign-on. Access all client accounts from a single log-in, including the ability to create and edit client campaigns immediately.
  • Account manager control: Assign or remove your account managers from client accounts as needed.
  • Flexible accounts and contacts. Whether you’re onboarding or removing clients, you want the ability to rearrange, reallocate, and modify the number of active contacts in real time. You’ll also want to provision agency-specific contacts for business development.
  • Shared marketing content and assets. Save time, effort, and money by leveraging and sharing assets from past (and successful) campaigns with your client accounts, including templates, imagery, and messaging.

Evaluation checklist board

Step Three: Create a Checklist of Must-Have Features

If you’ve done the research and legwork, you should have a short list of vendors for consideration, and list of essential features, which might well look something like this:

  • A control panel that provides visibility, management functions, and individualized reporting for multiple client accounts from one dashboard
  • The ability to leverage creative assets and templates across accounts
  • Support for helping you win business with sales tools, product demonstrations to prospective clients, and more
  • A culture that inspires sharing industry best practices and advice
  • Dependable, friendly, responsive, timely, and knowledgeable tech support
  • The horsepower to support you as your clients achieve success and their needs grow
  • Flexible business terms to allow you to manage the ups and downs of your business
  • Proactive communication on evolving or new features

Does it seem like a lot of work to go through the process of finding a marketing automation partner? The time you spend up front will return to you a thousandfold in the time you save once you’ve got the right marketing automation solution for your agency in place. Plus, you’ll know that you can present unique, differentiated automated marketing features to your clients – and do it with confidence. Read this eBook to discover the nine essential strategies that can help agencies of any size take full advantage of the power and growth potential of marketing automation.