4 tips to help switch marketing automation systems

What's more nerve-wracking than selecting a marketing automation system? Switching from an old platform to a new one. The transition process can be painful, but these four tips can help you avoid some of the most significant pitfalls.

Switching from one marketing automation platform to another is a headache most organizations would probably rather avoid. Such transitions are often costly and can sap the motivation and morale of sales and marketing teams tasked with learning new programs. A change of providers can also delay brands' abilities to launch new campaigns, and it sometimes takes time to incorporate the appropriate data into the new systems.

Despite those challenges, changes of marketing automation tech are often necessary. These four tips can mean the difference between a smooth switch and some make bad decisions that cannot be undone.

1. Involve key stakeholders in marketing automation decisions

One of the first things a company should do before deciding on a new marketing automation system is get all of the key business leaders into the same room and on the same page, according to Paige Musto, director of communications at Act-On Software, a marketing automation vendor. Executives in marketing, sales, IT and data should all be at the table to help define and implement a successful project, Musto says.

"Lack of communication to your stakeholders can cripple your movement," says Monica Gallegos, senior director of marketing automation at R2integrated, a digital marketing agency. "Remember their involvement and buy-in ultimately plays out in your new platform success. So communicate the process and provide adequate training."

2. Properly prepare to migrate marketing data

It's crucial for businesses to prepare to migrate data to the new marketing automation system if they want to experience painless transitions, according to Gallegos. "Let's face it — no marketer likes to lose data," Gallegos says. However, it's not uncommon for businesses to have stale, inactive or incomplete data in their systems, because the information changes constantly. "Taking the time to analyze your data and understand what data is being brought into the new system will help you better segment in your new platform."

Musto says businesses should seek providers with products that can integrate closely with their other systems. "Your new marketing automation system should be able to import older data and integrate with your existing applications," she says.

3. Set goals and corresponding metrics for the switch

Businesses should also proactively set goals and then develop key performance indicators to monitor progress toward those objectives, according to Musto.

It also helps to remember that the transition should be viewed as a marathon and not a sprint, Gallegos says. "This is a large project so make sure you have the time to get through each phase of the project and do it right … 'Re-platforming' is an opportunity to audit what you have in market, how it is used, where attribution is missing, and what is effective in driving qualified leads, so take the opportunity to capitalize on this."

4. Work with IT on marketing automation transition

Marketing leaders should try to work closely with their organizations' tech leaders, such as CIOs, because they can provide technological guidance throughout the evaluation and subsequent deployment of the system, according to Musto. "It is imperative that [CIOs] are involved in the marketing automation decision process to ensure that the system will support the current IT and communications structure," she says.

CIOs can also help develop cost-benefit analyses of various marketing automation services to help their organizations achieve greater ROI, according to Musto. One straightforward way to do that is to "look for solutions that won't require extensive IT assistance to run and manage," she says.

The biggest potential pitfalls of switching marketing automation vendors involve problems with technology integrations and workflows, according to Gallegos. "Technology integrations should be closely evaluated so that downtime is mitigated and so that proper data mapping is not only established but also validated."

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