The other day someone commented on a blog post I had written about the importance of onboarding when using a marketing automation solution. To help those considering any online marketing tool (not just marketing automation), I thought I would write a list of the 12 most important things to look for when purchasing.
Before I get started I wanted mention that the smaller the company, the more important services are likely to be. Even if you are a do-it yourself type of person running a marketing solution, you want to make sure that you can quickly get the information or help you need when you get stuck. You also want to have the support of an expert team keeping you up-to-date on best practices and helping you prioritize your initiatives. I can’t stress this enough, as many often think that if they are from a smaller company then they don’t need a lot of support. This is NOT true.
Top 12 Things to Look for in Services and Support:
- System Monitoring – You don’t want to be the person who tells the support agent that there is a system issue. Instead, you want to make sure there is 24X7 system monitoring and that the uptime of the system as well as any other system issues are published publicly. For example, see Trust.Marketo.com. This way, if you have a problem you’ll know if it’s something all customers are facing, or if it’s unique to your organization.
- Experienced On-Boarding Team – You want to make sure that when you buy a solution there is an experienced on-boarding team in the background who knows how to get companies started. It’s one thing to learn how to use a tool on your own, but it’s another to gain from the experience of someone who has done 1000s of other implementations. This will save you time, as well as ensure you get the highest marketing ROI.
- Phone Support in Your Time Zone – Most online marketing tools have phone support, but many only have limited hours. Make sure the tools you choose are available when you need them.
- Web Support – Don’t want to be stuck on the phone when you have a question? Many companies now opt for web support to get their answers. Make sure this is available to you, and that you understand how quickly your questions will get answered before making your purchase decision.
- Online Knowledge Base – Does the tool you’re considering have a robust knowledge base that goes far beyond an all-in-one user manual? Look for one that is updated frequently, and that can be searched by topic area. Also, look for a knowledge base that is more than just technical papers. Many users want to see videos, images, and/or diagrams of how to complete a task with an online tool, so be sure to check if this is available.
- Online Community – There are times when you may have a question that is more about a use case or best practice than the tool itself. This becomes tricky to answer if the tool you are using doesn’t have an online community. Look for a tool that has a very active online community with posts from customers (not just employees), and check to make sure they are not just complaints about product, but discussions improving overall usage.
- Active Social Communities – Similar to the online community, you may have questions that you want to get the answers to from users instead of employees of the marketing tool. Look to see if customers are active in social media – like a LinkedIn Group, Facebook Group, or potentially an industry specific social community.
- Ability to Submit Feature Requests – At many companies product decisions are made internally, or by talking to a select few (often larger) clients. Look for a company that allows you to submit feature requests so you know your voice will be heard. Bonus points if customers can vote on the ideas to help decide which are going to be developed.
- Local User Groups – I love when I know a power user of a product and I can reach out to someone I know and trust. Even better if they are local so I can meet them for lunch or drinks to discuss my question/problem/issue. I often find this connection at a local user group. Furthermore, user groups are a great way to hear about how others are using a product, or what’s working and what isn’t. If the company doesn’t have a user group in your area, find out if they would be open to you hosting one and what resources they provide to help get you started.
- In Person Events – Many marketing software decisions are made over the phone, but it is still nice to meet someone from the company in person. Look for online marketing tools that understand knowledge transfer happens both online and off. Check if they put on local events. These events are a great way to meet other users, ask questions, and hear about the product roadmap.
- Annual Conference – Many marketers prefer to attend tradeshows that are related to the tools they use, especially when they are mixed with best practices and thought leadership. Companies are often supportive of their employees attending these types of events because they know it will help increase the return of an investment. Make sure your marketing tools host annual conferences for their users before signing-up.
- Services Beyond Onboarding –There are so many ways to continue optimizing your marketing tool post onboarding and go-live. Look for platforms that offer continuing education for new users, premier support offerings, a robust partner community, and consulting services. Through continued service offerings, you can accomplish more creative and sophisticated marketing over time. Your vendor should be able to help you move up the maturity and usage curve.
There are many other support features you may want to consider like priority support routing, a dedicated support contact or engineer, or mentoring and/or consulting services. I just listed out the ones I look for when I buy marketing tools or software. Did I miss any that you think are critical?