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9 Keys to Evaluating Marketing Automation Solutions
By Jeff Kostermans, CEO, LeadGenesys

When you add up the total hours that go into the evaluation process of vital technology purchases like marketing automation applications, it's truly amazing that failure rates are still considerably higher than success rates.

When you add up the total hours that go into the evaluation process of vital technology purchases like marketing automation applications, it's truly amazing that failure rates are still considerably higher than success rates.

In most cases, this is not a reflection of the software. There are plenty of applications on the market that work well, but "working well" often depends on an implementation and a utilization that conforms to a specific, and often unrealistic, scenario defined by the software vendor.

In reality, most companies have (and continuously evolve) their own processes, which need to be clearly defined and kept top of mind before decision makers get too excited about the end result that applications routinely promise to deliver.

To be clear, a process change is often required to ensure success, but the change in process should support the success of the company--not just the success of the software application.

Let's assume one primary objective of your company is defined by marketing and sales effectiveness, or more specifically, revenue generation. It may be tempting to purchase a solution that claims to "also" unify marketing and sales. But let's look beyond the top-line bullet points to see what's really involved in making that happen.

Some hard-hitting questions you should ask before investing in marketing automation include:
  • How much application and process customization is involved in fulfilling the promise? What does that cost?
  • Is the solution architected correctly to enable proactive and meaningful revenue generation, or is it just designed to report on typical marketing activity results?
  • Within the next 12 months, what is the lost opportunity cost of using an application that can't truly accelerate the sales cycle? A 20 percent decrease in revenue? Fifty percent?
  • How much data needs to be manually (and diligently) key-entered by users for reports to be comprehensive? What is the potential cost to the company if much of the entered and reported data is subjective and misleading?
  • What realistic lift in response and capture rates could we get in six months if we used a best-of-breed solution that optimizes the lead-gen spend with detailed and ROI-driven metrics? A 20 percent lift in "A" and "B" quality leads? Forty percent?
Once you put hard numbers to these and host of other questions and apply them to the primary objective of revenue generation, the decision-making process becomes much more clear. That nifty Swiss Army knife might have lots of different features, but if your primary goal is to trail-blaze through the jungle, the machete is clearly a better choice.

Now to keep things in context, this doesn't mean you should start swapping in best-of-breed solutions for each module of your CRM application, only the ones that are essential to your company's primary objectives. For instance, many CRM applications have billing modules, but unless billing at your company is very complex or your company's success is dependent on world-class billing, the billing module in your CRM application should suffice.

Below is a short list of business considerations that go into making the right technology investment. Other, more technically comprehensive checklists are available, but remember: It's not about buying the most feature rich or extensible application, it's about buying the set of tools that best ensure your company's success.

Before you invest ...
  1. Never compromise your primary objectives with applications that don't specifically support those objectives. Stay focused on essential elements and functionality that supports the goal of the company, not "nice to have" features.

  2. Factor in the expertise and focus of the solution vendor. Is the vendor specialized in solving a core challenge?

  3. Be skeptical of customization. When a sales rep says, "That can be customized," what's the opportunity cost of not having it place for several months?

  4. Pin down sales or vendor promises. When a sales rep says, "It will simplify the process," keep asking how until you get the answer you are looking for.

  5. Don't fall for the "wow" factor. Dashboards are nice, but look closely at the data being displayed on the dashboard. How much of it is subjective? How much of it is accurate and actionable? How much of it would turn your sales team into data managers instead of sellers?   Is the user interface simple and intuitive?

  6. Be sure new processes support the company goal --  not just the software. Be open to a process change but only if it's a positive one for your company.

  7. Establish the metrics for a successful implementation ahead of time. What are the true dollars generated and saved?

  8. Factor in all ancillary costs. Include hardware, implementation, updates, maintenance, training and support--as well as any lost opportunity cost in your calculations. What could have been done with the hours and resources devoted to a costly enterprise-wide implementation or custom in-house build?

  9. Consider how the application will evolve. For instance, how will it handle a new channel, a new corporate structure or a new lead cultivation process? What will users be doing with it over the next 12 months? Will they only use one-tenth of the application?


Jeff Kostermans is CEO of LeadGenesys ( www.leadgenesys.com ) a B2B direct marketing and lead generation firm, he can be reached directly at jeffk@LeadGenesys.com. He is a direct marketing veteran with over 12 years of experience managing lead generation and relationship marketing programs for companies ranging from technology and service start-ups to Fortune 100 firms. He is author of the Email Marketing Imperatives and has written numerous other best practices papers. A UC Berkeley graduate, Mr. Kostermans also serves as an Army Reserve Psychological Operations Major, consulting allied governments and militaries in target audience analysis and influence methods.

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