Salesforce has sponsored and released a massive, 45-page guide to marketing automation platforms, called (fittingly enough) B2B Marketing Automation Platforms: A Marketer’s Guide, describing:
- The capabilities B2B marketers need in a MAP, and
- How B2B marketers can select and implement a MAP that’s right for their needs.
In this second post of our “Finding a MAP” series [see post one on MAP capabilities], we’ll explore how to select and implement the right MAP for you. We also recommend that you watch Sojourn’s recent Marketing Automation Comparison webinar (and register for our October webinar), so you can see what specific features and functionalities multiple MAP vendors offer.
Selecting and implementing a MAP: 7 steps to success
Here’s a 7-step plan for finding and implementing the best MAP for you, the one that best meets your strategic needs and delivers marketing ROI:
1. “Map out” what you need in a MAP. Don’t simply run out and buy the first MAP you see. You need to take stock first, beginning with a deep understanding of your strategic goals as a B2B marketing organization as well as the existing martech tools, processes, and people/team you’re deploying to meet those goals. Too many organizations forget to assess the skill sets and capabilities their people/team will need to adopt and work with a MAP. When they purchase a great MAP, their people don’t utilize its full value – making a great MAP “less than great.”
The guide explains this self-assessment process well: “Understanding your current marketing processes, knowing how to measure success and being able to identify where you are looking for improvements, are critical information when deciding about a MAP.”
This self-assessment will tell you exactly what features, functions, and training support you need in a MAP, so you can begin looking for what you need to achieve your goals. This step will also inform all the other steps below.
2. Know how MAP pricing and purchasing works. MAP vendors typically offer PaaS/SaaS-based pricing, meaning the platform and software are licensed by the customer and hosted by the vendor. Your actual pricing will generally be based on the number of contacts in your marketing database, the number of email marketing messages you send each month, and/or the number of internal users you have (and instances you need).
You should also consider your training needs and related costs. Pro tip: Many MAP providers will ask you to sign an annual contract (some offer monthly pricing). If you’re willing to offer the MAP vendor a longer-term commitment, you can request a discount for doing so.
3. Know the importance of integration. A MAP may be amazing in isolation, but if it doesn’t integrate well with the rest of your stack, especially your CRM, then you won’t be able to optimize its value and achieve your marketing/strategic goals.
Since you’ve already conducted a full self-assessment of your stack in step #1 above, you should be ready “to ask [any] marketing automation vendor about integration,” says the guide. “Many vendors offer app marketplaces, which provide faster access to the participating systems. Virtually all marketing automation vendors offer APIs, but they may be an add-on to the price of the platform.”
4. Know how you’ll measure MAP success. This step ties directly into step #1 above. Knowing why you’re selecting a MAP will help you measure the ongoing effectiveness and success of your chosen MAP.
If your goal is to increase conversions, for instance, you’ll need to establish a pre-MAP baseline to know what your conversion rate was before implementing your MAP in order to effectively measure any post-MAP impact.
The guide offers another example: “If [your goal is] to improve email efficiency, be prepared with [pre-MAP] metrics on open rates, clicks, etc. It’s also wise to measure the depth and breadth of [your MAP] platform usage. Many marketers only use basic email capabilities, which can end up being a costly investment” that goes to waste. Again, training your people in using your new MAP and all its functionality becomes very important for driving utilization/usage, as well as MAP ROI.
5. Prepare your RFP and send it out to MAP vendors. Your RFP or “request for proposals” describes your exact needs for a MAP, listing the core capabilities/functionalities you require as well as some “like-to-haves” such as (maybe) predictive analytics or a native CRM integration. Once your RFP is drafted, create a list of MAP vendors that you believe have the capacity to meet at least your core requirements. Send these vendors your RFP with a deadline to respond with relevant information.
6. Winnow down your vendor shortlist, set up demos. When the vendor responses to your RFP come back, you’ll need to begin by eliminating vendors who don’t meet your basic/core requirements. From there, you can begin ranking the remaining RFP responses from best to worst, perhaps defining a shortlist of 4-7 vendors to engage with at a deeper level.
Request further information from these shortlisted vendors and start to differentiate them on functionality, price, service, and other factors. Request a demo from these vendors, start asking detailed, relevant questions, and open up a preliminary negotiating process with your preferred 2-3 vendors.
7. Select a MAP vendor and begin implementation. As part of step #6, you should already know how each vendor plans to work with you to implement your new MAP. Make a final decision on your preferred vendor and begin creating an implementation plan together, defining an SLA (or “service level agreement”) that sets expectations and consequences for both you and your chosen MAP provider.
You should also consider bringing in outside expertise in the form of an implementation partner (like Sojourn) to facilitate time-to-value for your MAP. An experienced implementation partner can help prepare your data, other martech tools, and your people for optimizing your MAP utilization.