We held a webinar with a VP of Marketing, Jenifer Kern of Celerity. Since I work with many companies considering which marketing automation platform to go with I thought it might be helpful to spotlight some of the things that Jenifer spoke about on the webinar that she learned by assessing platforms and using a couple of different platforms.
She used Eloqua and switched to HubSpot. The thing that prompted her move was that she "used" Eloqua for 2 years but really didn't have alot going on in there because it was taking a lot of time to actually do things in there. There was a lot of effort going into Eloqua and so it was hard to keep up with. She had to actually hire an outside consulting company to help her.
One of the things I have also learned in the process of selling marketing software over the past 5 years is that marketers going through this process of exploring platforms don't put enough emphasis on how to get things done fast and easily.
You must think about how your marketing team likes to work. Each platform you are assessing is different in the way you work in them. Before you make a decision make sure you understand how you would be working in the platform. That will be very important as time goes on.
All platforms are not created equally and I know that because I have been selling HubSpot for 5 years.
I personally have watched the marketing automation space change and grow over the past 5 years. I have no interest in selling HubSpot to a company who is a better fit for another platform. All of the marketing automation platforms have use cases. I have nothing wrong with our competitors but I do know what makes a company and a marketer/s a better fit for us over another platform. As a sales rep selling marketing automation software you should be very aware at how hard this process is on a company. There are so many tools and platforms out there. Help the prospect understand how you are different and be honest with what you think they are a fit for and why.
Jenifer's top 5 things that she learned when assessing and using marketing automation tools are:
- It's about the business- bozo.
- Technology is a tool, marketing is a mindset.
- Not all platforms are created equal.
- Loveable imperfection rules.
- It takes a village.
1. It is all about the business, bozo.
- She wish she looked at the core values of her business and not just the technology functionality when assessing marketing platforms for the 1st time.
- It is really easy to get wooed with the cool functionality and all the features out there with systems but it is key to remember the business that you are working on and if the tools you are assessing align with your business values and goals. Software is software is software but your business needs to align with the software, not the other way around.
- Remember- you are looking at automation to drive revenue, to drive pipeline and to generate more inbound leads....is that software that you are assessing going to help with those things?
Assess the core values of the companies that are selling the marketing platforms to see if those companies align with your core values in marketing as well.
- How would the company you are assessing describe itself?
- How is this company unique in comparison to the others you are assessing?
- If this system was a person how would they describe their selves?
- Think about what your brand pillars are. Are those brand pillars the same or similar to the company that you are assessing for marketing software?
- Know what the culture of your team is and use that as a way to explore which software aligns with that culture. Think about the ways you want to work in a toolset and the ways you want to work with a company service wise. Do those things align?
- Once you implement this marketing tool that tool has to be a living breathing thing and it needs to fuel your strategies from there on out for your team. Do you believe the software will help your team to change and grow?
Jenifer came up with a way to assess this part of buying a marketing automation platform. She called it a business alignment assessment rather than just a technical requirements RFP. I suggest you come up with your business alignment matrix as well.
To come up with your business alignment matrix Jenifer suggested thinking about these kinds of things:
- Do you care about agile development and being able to change on the fly? Is the company that you are assessing work in agile modes too? Do they update parts of the software all the time? Learn more about their development team and how that team works.
- Will this system work in the capacity that you work in?
- Does the provider have the same values that you do as a company and as an organization?
Expanding your RFPs from just technical requirements to how you want to do things in the software, what type of culture and brand you want to work with should be requirements as you assess platforms for your marketing team.
RFPs today for marketing automation are very technical in nature. People don't typically include things in there that align with the business values of the company.
Marketing automation RFPs are mostly line, after line, after line, after line of technical requirements that companies think their marketing teams need. Most of the time those things are things that you can get wooed by in the sales process that you think you need to do your marketing, but really how much of it will you end up using? To help with this we suggest that you create a business alignment checklist.
1. Technical requirements are great
2. Are those technical requirements going to drive more traffic, leads and conversions for revenue improvement and growth of your business.
You need to REALLY REALLY think about if the things you are assessing tool wise in a platform are going to be things you actually use daily and end up making your life as a marketer or a marketing team easier, not harder.
Keep the greater goal of why you are assessing marketing platforms ahead of everything.
2. Technology is a tool, marketing is a mindset.
- One of the things she felt like she got away from when assessing marketing automation platforms was her core values as a marketer. Jenifer was so busy assessing the technical requirements that she got further and further away of what she truly believes in marketing wise.
- You are defined by what you believe marketing is - don't forget that. Software can either help you to achieve those marketing strategies you believe in or they can push your further away from those core values.
- Most marketers are creative people. Remember this when assessing platforms.
- Don't let technology kill your marketing spirit. Make sure the software you pick to use helps you grow that creative nature, not deter it.
Technology is always changing but the core concepts of marketing are not changing.
HubSpot truly does help to make your content shine. She wanted to be the marketing goddess that she knew she was. As a marketer you want tools that will help you to do your job the way you want to do your job.
Think about things like:
- is it easy to use without coding
- is the UI what you identify with and like
- do you feel like you can use it easily
Is this system going to help me know and understand my customer so well, that the customer will move themselves through the buying process? OR is it going to be hard to actually use the software you really want to use it to get your job done. Remember you are buying marketing automation tools to help you to do your job better and easier. Ask about ease of use and truly understand what it is like to use the product. I would suggest asking to play inside of a demo portal or a sandbox portal so you can see for yourself if you like working inside of the platform.
Jenifer made a great point that I actually believe strongly in as well.
Everyone knows the saying, "always be closing." Jenifer spoke about how marketing should "always be helping."
Make sure that you are not losing out on your creativity when using a platform of marketing tools. Make sure that you combine the art of your marketing role with the science (the platform).
Will the system help your brand come to life and shine?
3. NOT ALL MARKETING AUTOMATION SYSTEMS DO THE SAME THING!
- Most marketing automation sales reps will tell the prospect that all the systems do the same things. THAT IS A LIE. I have been fighting this one for years. We are all not equal. We all do different things so it is up to the sales rep and the prospect to make sure they are educated in how each platform is different. This will help the prospect to make the best decision that is best for their needs.
- There are HUGE differences between systems and how you use them.
- She felt like she was limited with her first system because it just did outbound capabilities around email. Remember all systems are not created equally. Some do many things, some do point things. Some do things better, worse, or differently than another one. Ask lots of questions so you know what you are getting yourself involved in.
- She felt like HubSpot provided 50 percent more functionality than they had with their first toolset which was just traditional marketing automation tools revolved around outbound email nurturing.
One of the main things that she thinks you should assess is - CAN THE SYSTEM DO INBOUND LEAD GENERATION.
In the 1st process Jenifer did the selection process on her own. She did not involve her team in the process. She regrets that now and learned from that experience.
In the 2nd platform exploration process she had her team (the people who would actually be doing the work in the software) involved in the selection process. She wanted to empower her team to understand all of the options so they could help with the decision.
Here are a couple of questions you should ask yourself and your marketing team when assessing a marketing automation platform.
- Can you link parts of your marketing together by having everything in one platform? Do you find value in that? Do you want just a point solution or an all in one solution?
- Outbound is only the top of the iceberg for your selection process. Think about how you want to drive leads and growth for your company. If you want to generate net new leads then you need tools that help with that. If you only care about email, then know that going into the selection process.
- Do not overlook mobile friendliness aspects of a platform. In some platforms this will be easier than others. In some you will need to know how to use CSS and HTML to code templates. Does your team have these skills or do they need a module based template system?
- Do you want a system that enables you to use template builders and module based template building or do you want a system that you have to code things in?
- Focus on diverse, integrated approaches because it will become important over time.
*** Have the core team members who are going to be in there day to day involved in this process.
1. Does this platform suit your needs today? it is something that can be up and running quickly? Are you going to be able to execute on certain marketing activities today?
2. Is the platform one that you can grow into tomorrow? Is this something you can grow with over time?
4. Loveable imperfection rules.
At the core, marketers tend to be perfectionists.
This feeling of perfectionism in your work as a marketer can tend to hold you back from doing things fast and nimble. You need to be more agile in your marketing. Done is better than perfect. Marketers need to have a more iterative approach to marketing automation.
"It is time to let go of perfection. Our new rallying cry is loveable imperfection."
DONE IS BETTER THAN PERFECT. Just get it out.
A lot of marketers hold off on doing things quickly because they want to make sure things are "perfect." That won't help you grow. If you want to grow fast then you will also need to drop the perfectionist spirit and get things out faster. Some marketing automation software can enable that fast spirit but others will hinder it.
Think about the small wins early on that you can do quickly at the beginning of implementing a marketing system.
Fail forward fast, and acknowledge the small successes along the way.
5. It takes a village.
- Get your key operations people involved in this- product, your whole marketing team, anyone who would touch this product in the future.
- Make sure you open up the doors around how this process would help the whole business operationally.
- Marketing software will impact operations of the business- think about that.
- Marketing impacts sales, sales impacts services, etc. It is a trickle down affect for the whole org.
- Marketing automation implementation is a change management process that will leak through into the whole organization.
It might take some time to see that impact of your marketing automation platform on the whole business, but it will happen.
Don't just keep this process in marketing. There are struggles between marketing and sales teams. Use marketing automation and marketing strategies to reach out to sales and get them involved in the process and the conversation.