magnifying-glass-1607208_1280 (1)Executives at many large companies seek reassurance, or perhaps even job security, by selecting vendors that have a hold on the market. You remember the HR manager who 20 years ago said with assurance that he would never be fired for selecting ADP. Other senior executives have fallen into the same trap. … A similar claim was made about IBM by a senior executive at a major insurance company a few years later. Today, you might see this mindset among decision makers tasked with selecting a marketing automation (MA) platform.

Sure, a solution from a vendor entrenched in the market offers a certain level of security. After all, you usually don’t have to concern yourself too much with vetting the company’s solvency. Yet, what are you giving up when you make the “safe” choice? A risk-averse decision maker may miss the advantages of innovation, agility and responsiveness brought by an up-and-coming market player.

When vetting MA vendors, don’t overlook budding best-in-class solution providers just because they may diversify your application portfolio either. Since they need to differentiate their products and services from those of established market players, they are likely to offer a superior level of support, as well as an advantageous pricing model, that should outweigh any integration concerns. The additional oversight and management they provide could be a huge boon to the value your organization realizes from the investment.

In that vein, consider looking beyond the most popular MA software solutions, like HubSpot and Infusionsoft, to rising stars like SharpSpring, SalesManago and SimplyCast. To maximize the benefits of your MA platform, keep in mind that your MA platform vendor and your MA service provider needn’t be one and the same. Platform-independent service providers are available to deliver marketing automation as a service (MAaaS), and oftentimes provide value that exceeds what the platform vendor can deliver.

More than 200 different MA software products are available. Here are top features to look for when choosing the solution that’s right for you:

  • Ease of use, such as WYSIWYG email design, step-by-step instructions when creating a new piece of content, such as landing pages, forms, lead nurturing/drip programs and automation rules
  • Landing page builder with the ability to create a series of linked pages designed to funnel visitors and prospects into leads
  • Integration with other enterprise solutions, like NetSuite and WebEx, including API functionality
  • Built-in CRM, as well as integration with other CRM systems, such as Salesforce
  • Robust content blogging platform with keyword rankings
  • Social media integration, including publishing capabilities for Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn
  • E-commerce tools, such as a customizable storefront, a shopping cart function and order history linked to the shopper’s CRM profile, and functionality to combine customer data across all systems, including POS and ERP solutions
  • Advanced features, such as dynamic content, predictive analytics, built-in call reporting, ROI life cycle reports and mobile optimization for campaigns

Once you’ve determined your must-have MA platform capabilities, your vendor vetting list will be a lot more manageable. Further whittle down your choices using the following process:

  • View online product demonstrations for a greater understanding of the MA solutions.
  • Identify your available resources. Now’s the time to pull in an outside resource if you’re short on time or qualified staff.
  • Conduct trials to assess ease of use; don’t rely on demos entirely for this important feature.
  • For pricing, find out which features are included and what vendor resources are dedicated to implementation.
  • Confirm that a plan is included for consolidating and cleansing your marketing data reports.
  • Assess the customer support parameters to ensure they are adequate to your needs.
  • Ensure a level of training is provided that will help you maximize the value of your investment.
  • Evaluate the vendors’ financial and business viability.

To learn more about what an MA platform-independent service provider can do for your business, contact Marketing Automation Partners.

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