Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Evaluating Marketing Automation - 10 Questions To Ask

The market for marketing automation software is doing very well these days. This has lead to an unprecedented variety of options for marketers to choose from, and the range of options can be dizzying. While many of the discussions can focus on software and feature/function comparisons, this is only one element of success. To be truly successful, you need focus on the people, process, and technology changes with equal energy. As a big believer in the economics of smart buyers, I wanted to share ten question areas that are key to dive into when evaluating a marketing automation investment.

The people and process elements of the investment are often the most interesting. Some organizations have the skills in house to make the needed business process changes, and some organizations are more comfortable bringing in outside expertise in order to facilitate discussions, avoid mistakes, and gain consensus on the changes.

If you have not gone through this process before, you will want to ask your team, your consulting partner, or your chosen software vendor some deep questions in order to ensure that you will be able to succeed with your software implementation.

There are no "right" answers to look for, but these are areas to discuss, debate, and understand. These questions will differ based on your business and your team, but the following list of ten questions will hopefully get you started.

Ten questions to ask your team, your services partner, or your software vendor, in order to highlight key questions, process issues, and areas of concern:

1) How will we define a qualified lead for sales?

Having sales buy in to your definition is crucial, but reaching agreement between marketing and sales on the definition of a qualified lead is not as easy as it seems. What mistakes can be avoided? How will you score explicit (who) and implicit (how interested) activity? Are there multiple product lines that need to be scored separately?

2) What is marketing's service level agreement with the sales team?

How are leads routed to sales? Are there overlays for strategic accounts, specific product lines, or geographies we need to take into account when routing leads? How will these be handled? How is routing in “large” geographies like New York city or California handled – zip code? Area code? How quickly do leads need to get to sales? What happens when leads are passed to sales – does sales have a specific time frame for follow-up? What if this is missed, are leads clawed back?

3) What do we do with leads that are not yet ready for sales?

Can we establish a lead nurture program? Do we have the right content? How will we monitor whether the audience is losing interest? How will we make sure we are not over/under-communicating to each person? Do we have the content in place to guide buying criteria over time as we nurture?

4) How will our marketing automation data and CRM data integrate seamlessly?

What if a person doesn’t exist in the CRM system? What if they exist multiple times? If a person is influenced by multiple campaigns, how does this appear? How is digital body language presented to our sales team? How do the data, activities, and process aspects of the integration work together with our business?

5) How good is our data? How good does it need to be?

Are our titles/geographies/industries/revenues all standardized and normalized? Is new data from lists, web forms, CRM systems, and tradeshows standardized? Are we building rules for personalization, segmentation, lead scoring, or lead routing on top of data that is not standardized? Are there best practices for building a contact washing machine that we want to leverage?

6) Do we need to add data from external sources?

Are we going to ask prospects for every piece of information we need? Can we leverage sources like Dunn & Bradstreet to append data and avoid asking excess questions? Where in the process will we do this? What do we do about internally sourced info like sales territories or geographic regions – how can we append this data if we need to? Do we have an understanding of how to balance the customer experience between asking for too much, and too little data?

7) Do we understand how to maximize email deliverability?

How will we ensure that our emails are delivered? Do we have the right people to understand what technologies need to be in place to maximize email deliverabililty? Do we have the right relationships with ISPs and policy boards? Will emails appear to come from us, or from a third party? Can we allow our audience to manage their own preferences? What are the best approaches to use? What metrics will we look at to understand and report on email deliverability to see if we’re starting to encounter problems?

8) What analysis and dashboards will we present to management?

What are our key metrics? What industry benchmarks will we compare to? How will we define the stages of the buying process? How will we measure each of those stages? If there are many touchpoints in an overall buying process, how do we measure the effectiveness of an individual campaign? What will our executive marketing dashboards look like?

9) Where are we going? What is our strategy and roadmap for success?

Is there a marketing maturity framework we are using in order to guide our progress year over year? Do we know where we are currently on that framework? Do we have a plan for how we are going to make progress each quarter/year? Is management bought in to the goals?

10) How well do we understand the needs of our international colleagues?

Do we understand the cultural difference in marketing to each geography that we need to be aware of? Do we understand the regulatory differences in terms of permission and data management? How are we going to deploy a single platform to our international team? Do we understand the best approaches?

A few of these questions may not be relevant to your business, but many of them will, and they will take the discussion beyond feature comparisons in software platforms and into the realm of what it will take to truly drive success in your business. By taking a deep dive into each of these areas, you will gain a better understanding of your own needs, and the capabilities of various providers in meeting those needs. By doing so, you will move yourself one step closer to success.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
Come talk with me or one of my colleagues at a live event, or join in on a webinar


Pablo Edwards said...

Thanks for the advice. I think going through these questions will clear up a lot of problems.

Alexandre Sagala said...

Good list of questions to make sure your marketing automation project starts off on the right foot. Marketing automation is great but if you dont have a process that goes with it its not going to deliver the results you want.