Whether you are preparing for a new marketing automation solution or switching to a new vendor, you will need to do diligent research on the available options. To do this, I have created two documents to help you in your quest for sales funnel bliss.
Preparing a Marketing Automation RFP
You will likely need to go through a request for proposal process to make sure you have fully evaluated each vendor’s capabilities. These helpful documents should make the RFP process move faster, at least on your end. Using these documents, several vendors quickly submitted completed RFPs to me which had far more detail than they offer on their websites.
Feel free to edit the letter and matrix to meet your own business needs. It is best to find out at the start of the process what a vendor is able to do now, and what their roadmap looks like over the next year. You may find it better to grow your ability to use the system along with their feature list, rather than have to install features you are not ready to use. For firms switching to a new vendor, it is important to understand the reasons for the switch (technical, capabilities, or cost) and how much the new vendor will help you make the transition.
Managing the sales process
During your evaluation process, be sure to ask as many questions as you can come up with to ensure you understand what you are buying. Many sales people are happy to help, while a few will find too many questions a sign of a “tire-kicker.” My bias is toward sales people who will explain everything or find me a technical sales consultant to answer those questions. Unresponsive or irritated sales people are not a welcome part of my team, internally or externally. A vendor is there to help you solve your lead funnel problems, not for you to buy their product on their schedule.
As you narrow down the vendors, ask two or three of the best to come in for a full sales presentation with your marketing, sales, and technical teams. For larger firms, you may want to have these as separate meetings so each team can ask the questions they want. Successful meetings mean you have coached your teams as well as the vendor team on what to expect. I have found pre-coaching your own team will let you cover more ground during a vendor call while exposing unspoken concerns your colleagues have.
My friends in automation firms will hate me, but you can use their sales pressure to ask for additional concessions, such as free months, an email IP address, more customized training, or free trials of add-ons.
A few vendors offer free trial months, however, those usually involve the entire integration process to work well, effectively ensuring you will buy their solution. Be careful if you want to test their system with your own data. Ask if you can upload your own data on a standalone instance instead of integrating the system up front. Run a few campaigns or test lead scoring systems. Use the month to better understand how automation works with their tools so you are better prepared for potential pitfalls or workarounds. No vendor is perfect, so make sure your deal-breakers involve fundamental issues of functionality or price.
Good luck with your funnel construction!
PS: here are a few additional resources for those considering automation solutions
- Left Brain DGA (acquired Raab Associates)
- The Pedowitz Group
- Sirius Decisions (research)
- DemandGen Resources
(Disclosure: I am not currently paid by any of these firms; file updated Sept 9, 2014)