No matter what part of your business it may be for, evaluating new technology can feel like a daunting task. However, going into your search with a checklist of questions to ask yourself before even meeting with providers helps further define your options. After all, many modern day B2B buyers report being as much as 70 percent complete with the decision-making process before even reaching out to a vendor. Are you a part of this well educated buying group?

Lucky enough, if a new marketing automation platform is the technology you’re currently evaluating, you can check out this list of questions to ask yourself before speaking to a vendor.

Questions to Ask Yourself when Evaluating Marketing Automation Platforms

About CRM

  • If you plan to use a CRM platform, which one do you plan to use?
  • Do you anticipate that CRM platform changing within the next 36 months?

In order to achieve sales and marketing alignment, you should always make sure your CRM platform is natively integrated to the marketing automation platform you choose. A seamless integration between the two will make the handoff between sales and marketing more efficient and effective. And if there is any chance that your company may change its CRM platform within the next 36 months, be sure you’re looking for a MAP that not only integrates with your current CRM, but also to others you would consider migrating to. Avoid choosing a MAP that only works with one CRM to avoid disruptions to your marketing programs.

About Functionality

  • Which elements of marketing automation are you solving for?
    • Email marketing
    • Inbound marketing
    • Lead scoring and management
    • Nurture campaigns
    • Account-based marketing
    • Event management
    • Social
    • Measurement and reporting
    • CRM module

It’s important to note that the platforms offered within the “marketing automation category” can vary widely. There are point solutions for email marketing, all-in-one solutions that have a CRM and perform light marketing automation, complete marketing automation platforms and of course the highly sophisticated and configurable MAPs that extend far beyond typical marketing automation. The functionality of each platform varies drastically so knowing which functions of marketing automation matter most to your business allows you to directly focus your search on a platform that meets your needs rather than inadvertently comparing apples to oranges.

About Implementation

  • What are your expectations for implementing the marketing automation platform?

The depth of marketing automation isn’t the only thing in our industry that varies. You also have to consider variations in timeline, cost, effort and complexity of the implementation. Some platforms are designed for users to learn on their own, while others come with personalized training courses and support provided by the marketing automation provider. There are others that may require the support of a third-party consultant as well. Making yourself and your staff aware of the various levels of implementation effort from the get go helps prepare everyone to implement within your project timeline and budget.

About Integration

  • What, if any, third-party tools do you expect the marketing automation platform to integrate to?

There are MAPs that integrate to dozens of third-party tools. And there are others that don’t integrate to any. Likewise, the approach for providing those integrations varies. Understanding the third-party integrations that are in place, the completion of each and the cost associated with using those tools all contributes to your total cost of ownership for the MAP. Most importantly, you need to understand which integrations actually matter to you.

About Support

  • What type of support relationship do you need for marketing automation?

As with everything else mentioned above, the levels of support for marketing automation platforms vary. Some of the support options you may be presented with include no support at all, web and live phone support, subscription fees, up-charges, etc. Knowing what to expect when it comes to support ensures you identify a partner who provides the type of support you’re looking for, and allows you to budget for the right level.

About Cost

  • What is your budget, all-in, for marketing automation?
  • How does that break out for initialization costs vs. monthly charges?

The typical variables for the monthly cost of a marketing automation platform include some combination of: modules of functionality included, number of users, number of contacts, number of email sends per month, level of support, and integration and/or middleware fees. There are other one-time costs that can be included such as training, data cleansing, technical integration and third-party consulting.

Do you have the answers?

With the excitement that a new MAP, or any new piece of technology creates, it’s natural to quickly jump into meticulous evaluation of too many platforms. However, before doing that, take a look at your people and processes, and answer these questions. Having all of these answers before you talk with vendors can help you develop the right questions to ask marketing automation providers, and overall it will ease your MAP buying process.