I am sure you are constantly hearing about the amazing benefits of marketing systems.  Great vendors such as Hubspot, Marketo, MailChimp and Constant Contact (to name a few) supply loads of information, webinars, checklists and calculators on how these tools will increase your sales and your customer good will.  They are not wrong – the problem is that the material glosses over the real labor involved in obtaining or switching marketing systems.

Over the years I have found that adopting a new marketing system is like having a child.  You need to plan on 9 months of gestation to form your requirements and select a vendor.  Birth itself can be painful as you negotiate contracts and set up data collection.  Then you need to plan on a newborn phase of several months of constant care in set up and training.  Finally, your new child will be living in your house for many years to come – with all the joys and disappointments.

So think of this article as a bit of “what to expect…”

First let me define the different terms used by vendors.  In essence you want a system that communicates with prospects and then with customers, nurturing your relationship in the most personal, yet efficient way possible.  Email marketing systems focus interactions related to email while marketing automation software looks at tracking prospect/customers behavior across the digital landscape (email, website and even social media).

There are many articles on feature list comparison and user reviews.  Here is a good one from a non-vendor http://www.softwareadvice.com/resources/marketing-automation-vs-email-marketing-software/.  My hope here is to provide you with the total costs in terms of time and talent requirements so you can make a decision that works for your company.

  • Marketing Software Cost:  Most companies set this up as a monthly recurring fee plus a fee for volume or usage.  Like your cell phone company, look at overages and other expenses – they can be a killer.
  • Your Web technical resources:  You will need a programmer to tie the marketing system with your website and any other customer systems.  This cost can be substantial.  Think about what you want to track and then have your IT resource put together a budget of what they need to do to get that done.  And pay to have that person involved throughout the process as they will be able to weed through the specs to tell you what the system really can and cannot do.
  • Content creation.  Sending the right content at the right time to the right person is everyone's goal but each custom interaction requires custom content.  Do you have the existing content to do this?  Who will curate and assign content to each customer segment?  Who will create fresh content moving forward? 
  • Design: And don’t forget graphic design both for your email template creation but also your blog posts, social media, etc.  Effective client communications are much more visual than text oriented.
  • Training.  Any new system requires training by members of your marketing team.  The more complicated the system, the more training it requires - a lesson I unfortunately learned years ago.  We bought a flexible and powerful email marketing system, but I was the only one who understood how to set up the logic rules and customer segments.  What a bottleneck!  Make sure you have multiple people trained and the vendor support to bring in new staff in the future.
  • Metrics and reporting.  At the end of the day you want to know if a given marketing campaign actually worked, so you need the ability to extract, summarize and report important data.
  • Growth potential:  As mentioned above you will be living with this decision for several years.  What do you see happening down the road?  Will this system allow you to grow or at least have an open architecture so you can bolt on other systems later on?
  • Support:  It is very important to go with a company that has excellent technical support.  This will not be your nice sales person but the tech support staff that works in a dark room.  They need to understand the ins and outs of their system and yours.  Remember that this system can literally be akin to shutting the doors of your business if it is down. Check user reviews and have your tech resource also involved.

About the Author(s)

 Jeanne  Rossomme

Jeanne uses her 20 years of marketing know-how to help small business owners reach their goals. Before becoming an entrepreneur, she held a variety of marketing positions with DuPont and General Electric. Jeanne regularly hosts online webinars and workshops in both English and Spanish.

President, RoadMap Marketing
Email Marketing or Marketing Automation System? What to Expect When You are Expecting