Marketing automation can provide significant business value to organizations but the question for many marketers is How to Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms.
B2B marketers (demand generation and account-based marketing) have a difficult job: accurately target the right companies with the right messages, on the right devices, at the right time. And, ensure there is immediate follow-up with relevant and meaningful content. And, accomplish this in a cost-effective manner and provide an accurate model of the amount of revenue that will be generated (and when) for each dollar of marketing resource.
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – A Tall Order, But Doable
The only way B2B marketers can be successful at this is to nail down a process and scale it. And that requires automation. The good news is that marketing automation technology today exists to help B2B marketers via an optimized, managed and repeatable manner. The bad news is that unfortunately, some vendors’ claims as to their solution’s capabilities are sometimes confusing and inaccurate. Also, because demand generation and account- based marketers are at times so eager for quick results that they fail to think through what they really need in a marketing automation solution.
When companies make a marketing automation purchase decision, typically an approver along with various decision makers, influencers, recommenders and even a sniper or two are involved. In total there may be 10 to 20 people directly participating in the customer buying process. And more often than not, IT either leads the search or is required to sign off on the technology.
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – Sample Customer Buying Process
Here’s a summary of the basic steps involved in a technology purchase, from the customer’s perspective:
- Identify the business need
- Document and get approval to begin looking
- Scan the market for possible solutions (potentially 15 – 25 vendors)
- Create a long list of solutions & solicit for basic information (potentially 7-10 vendors)
- Whittle down to a short list of solutions for further evaluation (potentially 3 vendors)
- View a demo
- Validate proof of concept
- Make decision (the vendor of choice)
It’s critical for demand generation and account-based marketers to think through both the current state and the desired state. To facilitate this process, below are five key categories and corresponding questions that can be added to, deleted or modified to help with vendor evaluation and selection:
- Operational needs of the demand generation and account-based marketer
- Integration of social media platforms
- A user interface that is truly self-service and spans the prospect and customer life span
- Metrics, reporting, dashboards and KPIs that allow evaluation, management and corrective action
- Integration and APIs for marketing, sales and analytics tools and solutions
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – Demand Gen / ABM
Below are some of the operational needs of the demand generation and account-based marketer that you may want to inquire about:
- Support Account-Based Marketing (ABM) goals of strategically targeting, engaging, and nurturing key accounts
- The ability to execute automated, omni-channel account engagements at scale, with enhanced segmentation, scoring capabilities at the account and contact level and content personalization at the persona level
- Pre-built emails and landing page that can be dynamically customized by persona and sales cycle stage and executed as bulk, drip or triggered campaigns
- Anonymous website visitors can be reverse-matched using IP addresses to identify potential contacts and company intent
- Scoring, segments and nurturing prospects based on firmographic, technographic, social, transactional and behavioral data
- Wizard-like automation and advanced manual settings to optimize content, blogs, and entire website for search engines
- Efficiently and effectively manages keywords for both SEO and AdWords
- Automated A/B testing to ensure contextually relevant emails, progressive profiling and social sign-on
- Provides relevant product recommendations in emails based on web browsing behavior, transactional, social and intent data
- Ability to modify campaigns in-flight based on A/B testing results
- Rules-based or predictive lead scoring to incorporate any data point including email and website actions, social media metrics and web form captures
- Notifications (and record appendage) when prospects and customers view site pages as well as in-line information on competitor sites and email receipts
- 1:1 personalization across all channels including email, web, mobile devices, Facebook retargeting, SMS, etc.
- Consumer hyper-segmentation to enable behavioral, demographic and lifecycle segments.
- Automated lead capture, follow-up emails, tasks and appointments including triggered personalized communications (i.e. emails, landing pages, forms) based on email sends, opens, clicks, form submissions and payment history
- Customizable storefronts, order forms and payment processing out of the box
- Ability to collect payments online through PayPal and accept all major credit cards
- Create custom referral programs and provide partners with a portal to access marketing materials
- Real-time re-marketing capabilities for addressing use cases such as cart or browsing abandonment issues
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – Social Media
Here’s a list of some of the social media capabilities that you may want to consider:
- Social behavior tracking across Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+ to score, segment, and nurture leads and customers
- Manage multiple social streams from Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn, with the ability to pin social posts and updates for follow up
- Publishing, listening, and reporting capabilities to correlate social media into the lead-to-revenue process
- Track social lead conversions and attributes revenue to specific campaigns and channels
- Ability to add social-sharing buttons to email campaigns and landing pages to connect and broadcast campaigns to their social media channels including Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google+, YouTube, Instagram and LinkedIn
- A social media dashboard to provide social media and web-based traffic benchmarking against specified competitors
- Social media publishing and monitoring tools
- Visualization of a prospect or customer’s social media lifecycle
- Ability to schedule and publish posts to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+ from one or multiple accounts
- Can categorize tweets (customer, prospect or active opportunity) and then trigger alerts for sales, marketing or customer service
- Drag-and-drop design software and templates to create social content and promotions such as social photo contests, giveaways, video contests and viral vote promotions
- Tools and dashboards to monitor and manage consumer signals in real time; ingests and unifies consumer behavior data across mobile, web, and other connected devices
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – UI / UX
Demand Gen and Account-Based Marketing teams may want to ask questions like these about the UI
- A drag-and-drop interface to create personalized, dynamic content campaigns across email, social, display advertising, search advertising and mobile
- Responsive design to support multiple devices
- UI allows dashboard customization of home layout and components organized by marketing activities to enhance content management and navigation
- A drag-and-connect interface to capture leads, segment data, and create customer journeys from scratch or via pre-built templates
- A visual WYSIWYG editor with templates for digital messages, web page and blog page creation without the need for HTML knowledge
- WYSIWYG editor for email and landing page creation, including drag-and-drop forms, social apps and videos
- Visual email editor with dynamic template customization
- Program locking which prevents multiple users from editing the same engagement program at the same time
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – Reporting & Analytics
In terms of reporting and analytics, here’s a list of functionality that you may want to delve into with each vendor under consideration.
- Out of the box reports to track site visitor activity including time on site and pages viewed, top referring sites, email responses, webinar attendance, landing page visits and forms submitted
- Marketing and sales funnel reports that define and track prospects from click through to conversion
- Measures overall flows from all programs (inbound, outbound and channels) to intelligently measure and manage velocity through the marketing and sales funnel
- Ability to easily compare results across time periods and industry averages
- Ability to visualize, select, configure, and move data
- Capability to download reports to Excel and other common file formats
- Ability to run regression or correlation analysis
- Push reporting of standard reports that may include messages sent, throughput, opens, clicks, devices used and tracking indicators as well as lead reports for lead management activities and a conversion funnel
- Preconfigured and customizable real-time reporting dashboards that track lead sources, campaigns, contacts, companies, messages, geographies and all stages of the marketing and sales funnel
- Real-time analytics and reporting tools and dashboards to track and measure campaign engagement, cost, and activity (email click-throughs, bounces and trends from conversion and abandonment and landing page performance, trends, and visitor demographics)
- Canned email reporting for delivery rates, opens, clicks, bounces, forwards, spam complaints, etc.
- Cross-channel analytics to focus on campaign performance, trend analysis and the direct impact on audience engagement, retention and conversion
- KPI tracking and comprehensive attrition metrics like opt-outs, uninstalls and unsubscribes
- Marketing insights on website and web form activity, email statistics, broadcast reports, lead and campaign source ROI and overall campaign effectiveness
- Ability to see real-time campaign results in order to make adjustments on the fly, and refine marketing efforts to maximize marketing dollars spent
- Channel performance tracking, conversion assists, time-to-completion and reverse funnel analysis
- Benchmark traffic, conversion and inbound link tracking important
- Ability to track marketing ROI via multiple sources such as organic and paid search, referrals, social media, email marketing, direct traffic and other campaigns
Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms – Integrations & APIs
Below are some questions about Integration & APIs that you may want to probe into with vendors under consideration:
- What is the database of record?
- Is native integration to share audiences, conduct lookalike modeling and leverage anonymized data for retargeting strategies?
- Is real-time, bi-directional synchronization of lead, account and opportunity data a key requirement?
- Is there native integration with sales force automation solutions like Salesforce, Oracle CRM on Demand, SugarCRM, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, NetSuite, Adobe, etc.?
- Is integration with QuickBooks, Shopify and Zapier out-of-the-box or does it require professional services?
- Is there native integration with Google AdWords, WebEx and GoToWebinar?
- Is there native integration with data services such as Bombora, Data.com, Data Prospect and ZoomInfo, etc?
- Is there native integration with web analytics systems like Google Analytics and other data analytics providers?
- Are there RESTful APIs?
- Is there native integration with both email and chat?
- Is there native integration with online or offline attendance solutions?
- Is there native integration with video, social media and call tracking?
- Is there native integration with SMS mobile messaging (SMS), event tracking, app connectors), team messaging and printing?
- Is there native integration with sales enablement solutions?
- Is there native integration with service offerings?
Summing Up How to Evaluate B2B Marketing Automation Platforms
The mainstream adoption of B2B marketing automation is occurring today as B2B marketers must do more with less, in shorter time frames and with predicted outcomes which significantly impact revenue. B2B marketers in organizations of all sizes and in all industries can gain a myriad of benefits from a marketing automation platform: increased marketing efficiency, generation of better qualified leads, a multichannel view of prospect behavior and better alignment of sales and marketing. However to realize these benefits, marketers need to perform their comprehensive due diligence when selecting a marketing automation platform.
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