The 10 things you need to ask for in a marketing automation demo

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Marketing budgets continued to rise in 2016, advancing to 12% of company revenue, on average, according to Gartner. This ongoing investment in the profession has left the majority of marketers optimistic about the year ahead. However, with increased spending power comes heightened scrutiny from those holding the purse strings, and an even greater focus on ROI.

So, whether marketers are considering investing in automation tech for the first time, or they want to improve the capabilities of their current platforms, there’s a real need to get it right.

Any marketer worth their salt will conduct rigorous due diligence before deciding which vendor to partner with, but with so many suppliers vying for sales, it’s easy for various demos to just merge into one. Pre-demo preparation is therefore crucial.

The more time that goes into formulating what questions to ask the automation provider, the more effective and worthwhile each demo will be. By remaining focused and sticking to a ‘game plan’, there’s a far greater chance of coming away having learned what really matters.

Here are 10 important things to ask when the demo is underway:

What results have they achieved before?

It’s perhaps the most obvious question (after ‘how does it work?’) but it’s often one that marketers are afraid to ask. But by skirting around this topic, there can be no ensuring that the platform is proven. It is important to assess if it has already increased conversions, boosted sales and made life simpler for other brands. Details of existing client successes should therefore be requested.

The more forthcoming a vendor is, the more likely they’ll be able to provide meaningful support with the marketer’s own campaigns moving forward. It means they know what ‘good’ looks like and can feed back their learnings from wider activity.

What does ‘multi-channel’ communications truly look like?

Successful marketing automation relies on more than just email. Yes, the ability to nail personalisation, throttling and deliverability is important, but the tech must be able to build truly multi-channel journeys most relevant to the customer. This means integrating things such as Google, direct mail, SMS and Facebook.

How is email deliverability configured?

Email deliverability is becoming a huge challenge for marketers and the hurdles are only going to become tougher in 2017 as ESPs increase their stringencies. Marketers therefore need reassurance that their messages will reach recipients’ inboxes as spam protection evolves.

Does the technology include an integrated report builder?

Ask to see the report builder in action and make sure it will intuitively present easy-to-digest data and analysis, mapped against specific KPIs. Campaigns will soon fall flat and deliver limited ROI if it isn’t possible to measure performance and learn from each activity.

How do they attribute ROI?

There’s more to measuring ROI than simply looking at open rates and click throughs, so look in detail at how the vendor handles this modelling.  Will the platform attribute ROI solely according to the last campaign clicked or can it also account for previous campaign interactions and behaviour?

Where will data reside?

Safe harbour rules mean data protection is big business, and with the upcoming General Data Protection Regulation due in 2018, the topic is going to rise to the top of marketers’ agendas. It is no longer an issue that can be ignored.

It is crucial to therefore ensure that customer data resides permanently in the UK – in line with data sovereignty principles, it cannot leave or be accessed by anyone outside of the country.

Is training available to help replace lost skill-sets?

Marketers are an ambitious bunch continually looking to progress in their careers. So, if a team member moves on (or goes on holiday!) it is important that the automation provider will provide training support for any new starters and/or cover skills gaps when resources are low.

What if you encounter a problem?

What is the provider’s back up and support infrastructure? If it becomes difficult or impossible to complete an action within the automation platform, is it OK to pick up the phone and speak to a dedicated account manager? Or, will there be a ‘ticketed’ log system with little sign of urgency? What about if a campaign is falling flat? Will there be access to a creative team of marketers who can boost engagement and drive more enquiries?

There’s more to marketing automation success than just software so a supplier should be sought that offers full support, if and when it’s needed.

How would you do X?

A generic demo is of little value – it’s simply a sales pitch. That’s why specific requests should be asked, such as, ‘How would you make a refer a friend concept work?’

A tailored demo will really aid the decision making process, and it may just generate some new ideas to tackle unchartered waters.

What does the product roadmap look like?

The world of marketing – and tech – is changing by the day. Marketers therefore need confidence that there is a defined product roadmap for the platform, to ensure it evolves long into the future. Otherwise, what looks like a sound investment today could be an outdated and restrictive investment tomorrow.

Marketers therefore shouldn’t be afraid to ask about the vendor’s investment levels to date and any upcoming new features; this will highlight their true passion and commitment to this area of marketing – not to mention clients’ ROI.

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Mackenzi
18 Jan 2017, 9:41 p.m.

Awesome content, thank you for sharing these things to look for. Another thing I would even add to the list is the pricing structure depending on what type of company you are. Let me explain - If you are an agency, marketing service provider, or printer where in all 3 cases you’re actually creating and executing campaigns for your customers (the enterprise), you’ll need to make sure that the pricing structure allows you to have margins. Most marketing automation providers have pricing structures geared toward the enterprise themselves and aren’t conducive to the service provider model. The only provider that has a price structure specifically aimed to help the service provider model is MindFire whose product MindFire Studio was specifically designed for service providers. www.mindfireinc.com

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