Marketing Automation Software – What to Know Before You Buy

Guest Post by Kathy Lamphier, Marketing Programs Manager, Demand Generation

I’ve been talking to several marketing VPs and directors who’ve been using marketing automation software (MAS) – something like Marketo or Eloqua – and the consensus is that these tools are not easy to use and need a dedicated resource, like a marketing operations specialist or manager, and quite often ongoing consulting help from the MAS vendor.

Based on my personal experience, marketing automation software is not at all easy to use when it comes to creating complex, multi-touch lead nurture programs. The software can do some very impressive things but there are a lot of moving parts, a lot of room for error and it can get complex. It can become a lot like programming – think “if then” statements. And if you’re developing the marketing plan for the nurture program, and then building it in the software yourself, it’s like being the architect, builder and building inspector rolled into one.  (And, yes, these functions are rarely a single person in the building trades, so why do we expect a single person marketing department to be able to do all these things?)

If you have never before used marketing automation software (MAS) – something like Marketo or Eloqua – be forewarned, there is a learning curve.

Setup and Management of Your MAS
Here are a few of the many things to think through and ask your MAS vendor about before you sign on the dotted line.  They involve the setup and management of your MAS. You may want to ask the vendor to share their best practices for accomplishing some of these things.

1.    Email templates – and how to edit them
2.    Images for the emails – how to size them to fit your email
3.    Landing pages – templates, images and registration forms
4.    Database management – creating the list of people email should go to and excluding the people it should not go to (prospects vs. customers, users of product A vs. users of product B).
5.    Registration forms – hidden fields, tracking codes and progressive profiling.
6.    Tracking codes – for example using a hidden field on a registration form to capture a Salesforce campaign code.
7.    Integration with your CRM system – like
8.    Integration with your existing forms – web forms (i.e. contact us) and product registration forms (i.e. freemiums, free trials).
9.    File naming conventions – so you can find older emails – Marketo uses programs for this but each program still needs a name.
10.  Closed loop reporting – from the lead’s original source and the first offer accepted to a closed deal or reporting all the touches the lead had from entering the database to becoming a customer.
11.    Staff Resources – Who is going to learn how to do all of this and manage the MAS going forward – including keeping up with new features as they’re released? What type of skills does this person need to be successful?
12.    Time investment – How much time will it take to learn how to use the MAS? What’s the weekly time investment to manage the MAS? How long is it going to take to get an email campaign out using the MAS? How long will it take to create a multi-touch lead nurture program?
13.    Quality assurance – Who is going to review the nurture programs for programmatic accuracy? If there’s only one person on staff who knows how to use the software, who’s going to “proof” the program setup?

Lead nurture is a great tool for moving leads through the conversion funnel. But designing the nurture program flow – who gets what when and why – is a much different skill from programming the MAP to execute the nurture program – and figuring out how to capture the data to report on its success.