I recently read this post on the SiriusDecisions blog about the minimum requirements for a marketing automation platform. The Net-Results team really enjoyed the article, and then pow-wowed about what else we think could or should be added to their list. Since we’re daily users of our own marketing automation platform, we felt like there were a few mission critical features that we wouldn’t want to leave home without. So, without further ado, here are the minimum requirements as SiriusDecisions sees them as well as our take on what else should be on the list if you’re taking lead management Siriusly. (pun intended…and yes, that is a Harry Potter reference and a SiriusDecisions reference rolled into one. I think I’ll die happy now.)

Below we’ve listed the minimum requirements an application must meet to be called a “marketing automation platform” according to SiriusDecisions. Our recommended additions are in red:

1. Campaign Management

a) segmentation
b) automated programs
c) asset storage
d) email (with decision-based branching, AKA advanced nurturing emails)
e) landing pages
f) forms with progressive profiling

2. Lead Management

a) scoring
b) lead routing (to the right sales rep, with alerts, often via a CRM integration)
c) sales view
d) data update
e) custom fields

3. Platform Management

a) database of contacts
b) SFA Integration (CRM system) that doesn’t interfere with your existing workflows
c) website integration (web visitor tracking)
d) security (different permissions for different user roles)
e) email deliverability

Now I’m going to justify why we believe our additions are mission critical.

Progressive Profiling

Progressive profiling is really a sub-feature of forms, but it’s worth it’s weight in gold if you ask us. Progressive profiling allows you to have a form with as many fields as you’d like but it automatically only displays the first few questions (you should be able to choose to display whatever amount you wish, 1, 2, 3 at-a-time…) and every time the same visitor comes to your site and views a form, they automatically see the next few in the sequence of questions based on what they’ve already answered. Why is this important?
The fewer questions you ask on a form, the greater your form fill-out rate will be.

Giant forms are conversion killers. By displaying only a few at a time, you can optimize your conversion rates while still gathering all the information you’d like from your prospects over time.

Key Takeaway? Don’t be these guys:

A form with too many fields

Unlimited Custom Fields

Custom fields allow you to get the information that’s critical to your business if the default fields don’t include what you need. Perhaps not everyone needs this feature, but for those that do it’s a deciding-factor.

Standard fields are what come by default within any software; every answer that is entered on a form gets automatically assigned to it’s own field. Those default fields automatically correspond to types of data in the software’s programming. This is how the software knows that certain fields are numbers, dates, words, etc. While many default, system-provided fields are available for storing details about your contacts, custom fields allow you to store additional information specific to your company and your needs. Details such as customer number, account number, their website, and even their comments can be stored in fields you create.

Need to know something atypical? Wondering what brand of yogurt your leads prefer? Feel like asking for someone’s favorite Mario Kart player? You’re gonna need a custom field. We speak with people every week who have information on hand about their current customers and prospects that they want to leverage, but the information requires a custom field. That’s why we added this feature to our platform- it’s invaluable for businesses who want to leverage a-typical or pre-existing, non-conforming data within their marketing automation platform.

Anything you plan on doing with your marketing automation platform will require that you accurately segment your data and without custom fields that can entail a LOT of manual labor. We have been spending all kinds of time updating and improving our custom fields and recently released a new feature that allows users to select a date as a custom field. Here’s an example situation of when that would be useful to help you understand why custom fields are such a great feature:

One of the fields on your form asks for “the date your software contract is up”. You can then have a perpetual campaign that sends out emails and triggers alerts for your sales team to contact specific leads when their expiration dates are approaching. Proactive, efficient, smart. And automated.

A CRM Integration (SFA integration)

that Doesn’t Interfere with your Existing Workflows

Not all CRM integrations are created equally. The key word here is efficiency. Yes, you definitely want a CRM Integration, but what you really mean by that is you want a CRM integration to help your sales and marketing team gain access to insights within either piece of software. To do that, you should make sure any CRM integration doesn’t require your salespeople to leave the CRM system or your marketing team to leave the MA platform. This allows everyone to maintain their existing workflows and get exactly the information they need, where they need it with minimal interference from extra software sign-ins. Another bonus is that there is no extra piece of software for anybody to learn. Win-win. A CRM integration can turn into a lot of extra work very quickly without this important detail.

A lot of companies fail to anticipate is the set-up process required for a CRM integration. CRM integrations shouldn’t be painful to set up, you shouldn’t need to involve your IT team or spend several weeks editing data. The vendor should do the majority of the work necessary to setup and sync the integration so the process is easy and relatively painless for you. Make sure the vendor is doing the heavy lifting for that integration, not you.

So there you have it. We love SiriusDecisions’ post about the minimum requirements in a marketing automation platform, but we really felt like these 3 additional features should be added to their list. Are there any other features you think they missed? How do you feel about our additions?

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