As the primary purchaser of technology platforms at our agency, I have spent a lot of time looking at marketing automation platforms – Hubspot, Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Adobe, Act-On, InfusionSoft – in search to find the best solution for our agency and our clients.
The more technology platforms I have purchased (we spend around $30-40K per year on technology), the more important quality of service has become – even over features and price.
Quality of service are the intangibles that are not necessarily listed in the “best features” punch list – but are critical to getting your team trained, strategy flushed out, the platform properly set up, getting and maintaining full adoption, and effectively and efficiently using the platform to execute.
The majority of failure that I have seen with marketing automation is a failure of one of these issues. I have never seen a failure result as a product of the platform costing too much (and therefore not achieving ROI) or a platform lacking key features that were vital to success (most of the platforms have an 80% or better feature overlap).
Here are, as I see it, the major keys to marketing automation success, and what you should really consider when evaluating a marketing automation platform.
What is the onboarding process?
If you don’t get set up and trained properly, your chances of success are zero. Over the years I have run across several companies paying big bucks for marketing automation who weren’t even set up. Whether you work directly with the software provider or with a partner, make sure that they have a well documented and robust onboarding and initial training program. It’s also important to understand what’s required of you and your team in terms of time, money, and technical resources. If you’re going to take on automation, especially for the first time, spend the time and the money and make sure you onboard for success.
What strategic support is available?
Most platform providers offer technical support (ie – how do I send an email or how do I build a list). This is very different from strategic support (ie – how do I develop and implement a successful campaign). If you’re already a digital pro, strategic guidance and collaboration may not be as critical, but either way, it’s nice to have an expert account manager that can offer insights, tips, and intelligent guidance.
What on-demand training is available?
After your initial onboarding, you’re likely going to want to get to the next level. What does the company provide to help you? And there are always new team members that you need to get up to speed quickly and efficiently. A strong on-demand webinar based training program is priceless. Great programs provide basic and advanced training on both strategy and the platform – don’t settle for less!
How intuitive is the platform?
If the platform is intuitive, it’s easy to use. This means quicker and easier adoption, less required training, less fumbling around, and fewer calls to support, which can be a huge time suck.
Is the platform buggy?
All platforms have bugs, but some do way more often than others. Bugs are major time and money suckers. They can take hours and hours to investigate, submit support tickets, call live support, troubleshoot, test, and (hopefully, eventually) fix. And this can be incredibly expensive. If a platform is buggy, you can easily spend more in a few hours of troubleshooting than the monthly license cost in the first place.
How responsive is support?
Good support needs to respond fast and they need to resolve the problem quickly, accurately, and on the spot. And they should also provide multiple support channels – live chat, email with support inbox, or phone support. This goes back to two factors – time is money and time is limited.
When we first looked into marketing automation as an agency, I considered a platform that ran around $1,000 per month. Instead of going with the “premium” provider, I opted for a less expensive option that offered a value priced platform, but not much else. A year later, they were out of business and I went back to the original company with a better understanding of how much value a full onboarding, training, and support experience brought to the table.
That company was HubSpot. Check them out – you won’t be disappointed. Or give me a call – I’m happy to show you the platform and share my experience and perspective.