12 questions to ask marketing automation vendors (before you buy)

Thanks to the increasing number of marketing automation tools available today, picking the right platform is a challenge for even the savviest organizations. These 12 inquiries can help you cover all of the bases before you invest in new marketing tech.

7. What's the true cost of using the system?

Hidden fees and costs associated with overages, training and implementation can greatly impact the overall price of a platform, according to Littlefield. "Be sure to understand every potential cost for your organization and how these possibilities affect the competitive aspect of pricing as you're vetting multiple vendors."

8. What about marketing automation support?

As with any service, a personal touch from a marketing automation software provider is important— but unfortunately isn't always available. "It's been typical for different managers to take over my account," says Float's Bockler. For example, his contact at a marketing automation software provider left the company, and then Bockler received a "generic email address" to use if he had questions or issues.

Ask specifically about telephone support — when is it available and how much does it cost? It's wise to pick a platform that offers solid, easily accessible phone support. "You will need it," according to Long.

9. Is it easy to add new users?

Ideally, you want the capability to freely add or remove users in your marketing automation systems as needed, says Bockler. Some systems have restrictions that let you only remove users when their contracts are up for renewal.

10. How long does it take to implement the new system?

Depending on the size of the organization and the condition of the data, implementation should take two to four weeks, according to Littlefield. Anything more or less should raise red flags. Variables that influence implementation time include the number of data sources and silos, team engagement, and the sophistication of systems and workflows.

11. Can the system manage full customer lifecycles, or only leads and prospects?

Marketing professionals must increasingly manage and determine entire customer lifecycles, or journeys, from unknown prospects to brand-loyal customers, Littlefield says. As such, it's important to ensure that marketing automation tools fit your specific needs. "Several marketing automation platforms focus solely on leads or prospects.

12. Does the platform support your mobile needs?

Mobile technology has never been more important to modern marketers, and it's crucial that you pick automation tools that meet your mobile requirements. "With more than 50 percent of responses coming from mobile, it's critical that email templates, landing pages and forms are supported," says Knudsen. "Ideally, getting a mobile responsive template shouldn't require additional resources."

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