For agencies, it’s important to be constantly considering the business needs of your customer ecosystem. Think about your top 5 clients. What are they doing today and what should they be doing to become more successful? Are your clients’ businesses growing at the rate they should be? How can you help them reach the next level? Focus on your client’s needs. Marketing automation technology has created a paradigm shift in the field of marketing, transitioning it from Mad-Men-esque thinking to a highly advanced technical field that ties marketing directly to ROI. Organizations are waking up to this shift but they need help to implement demand generation strategies and marketing automation software. That’s where agencies come in.

The adoption of marketing automation technology is expected to increase by 50% by 2015.

As more and more organizations adopt marketing automation as part of an overall demand generation strategy, agencies are providing the skills and expertise to enable optimal utilization. There are many options out there to choose from, so it can be difficult for agencies to narrow down which vendor is the right fit for their clients’ needs.

We’ve compiled 7 key questions agencies should ask while researching software options to help agencies determine which marketing automation vendor to partner with. We focused on helping agencies identify and prioritize the software needs of their clients so they can confidently choose their best software partner with an educated mindset. It does not name the top vendors for each need (because we’re a little biased), but it should give you a good foundation for making a decision.

QUESTION 1: What goals do your clients want to achieve and what business problems are you trying to solve for them with marketing automation?
The first step in choosing a marketing automation platform is all about understanding goals for the software. Think about why your customer wants and needs marketing automation and how it can help them grow their business.

QUESTION 2: Which core MAP features are the most critical for your clients’ needs?

Marketing Automation Features

Understanding what your clients want from the software makes the second step easier. Next it’s important to think about features. Decide which core features are the most critical for your clients’ needs. Keep this in mind:

50% of respondents to a 2011 Focus survey stated they have not realized the full value of their marketing automation investment, and less than 25% use their platforms to their full potential.

While marketing automation platforms are becoming quite robust with their feature sets, not every client will want or need every feature. Think about what is important for their business and how you can package your demand generation services to address their business priorities.

77% of CMOs at top performing companies indicate that their most compelling reason for implementing marketing automation is to increase revenue

Keep things like this in mind. Make sure the vendor you choose to partner with makes it easy to see reports that demonstrate the impact marketing efforts have on revenue. Agencies will also want to consider the ROI for their demand generation services. Will your agency be able to set their own pricing or is that controlled by the software vendor? This will affect your agency’s bottom line.

QUESTION 3: How much will support cost? Will you be able to reach the support team when you need help?
Many marketing automation vendors charge for different levels of support. Support should never be a backburner aspect for a technology company. Make sure the support is top-notch and you and your clients will be much happier in the long run.

QUESTION 4: What integrations do you offer?
What software are your clients already using that they would need the marketing automation software to integrate with?

Only 33% of companies who use both CRM and marketing automation said the two integrated well.

Keep in mind that not all integrations are created equal. When you demo your final contenders make sure you get a good look at the strength of the integrations. Your goal isn’t to create more work for your team or your client, it’s to make it easier by combining multiple tools together.

QUESTION 5: What will my client’s future needs be?
Each platform is constantly evolving, and some have a more robust feature set than others. We often speak with companies switching from their current marketing automation platform because they’ve grown beyond its capabilities. Sure, at first your client may just want to send emails, do some basic lead scoring and focus on better SEO, but down the line you don’t want them to have to switch platforms if they don’t have to. Make sure you get a good demo of all the available features and how robust they are before committing to a vendor your client will have to leave at some point in the future. Switching vendors can be a huge hassle, especially when it comes to transferring lead data so it is best avoided.

QUESTION 6: Are there any hidden costs?
Don’t forget to factor in hidden costs. Here are some common hidden costs:

  • Set-up
  • Training
  • Mandatory software intro sessions
  • Integrations
  • Future additional features

Some vendors charge extra for these things, some don’t.

Those six questions should help you narrow down exactly what you need from your ideal marketing automation platform. Demos and Free Trials (if available) will help you narrow down which platform is truly the best fit for your agency’s clients. Don’t forget your client’s needs and you won’t get caught up in shiny bells and whistles.

QUESTION 7: What metrics matter?
It always comes back to metrics. At the end of the day, you need to think about what metrics your client cares about. Why did they hire you to help with their marketing?

As an agency you should care about the same metrics your clients care about because that’s how you earn your bread. If the client’s goal is to double the average amount of traffic to their site on a daily basis, then you’ll need to prove that you’re accomplishing that for them. Make sure that whatever software you choose, it enables you to quantify the metrics that matter to your client. In reality, those are the metrics that really matter to you too by default because they are what allow you to remain engaged with and employed by your client.

Did we leave an important question out? Let us know in the comments below.

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