Sea of Knowledge

Finding a Marketing Automation Partner

“I’m a marketer and I’m really freaking sick of managing systems. With a large sales team (read: a herd of cats), an even larger account management team, and a four-person marketing team, we’re feeling the heat. I can’t accurately report on our marketing revenue attribution, our sales team isn’t following a process (and they keep importing dirty data into our CRM!), and I’m over subbing as a ‘technical’ marketer.”

- You (probably)

Marketing Automation, a quick and easy solution to all of your business problems.

Marketing automation is the newest buzzword in the marketing ecosystem. Every company has to have it and they need it right now. With the shiny product websites and click-and-drag demos, why wouldn’t leadership think it’s as easy as signing a contract to have marketing automation generating & converting leads, automating sales tasks, and moving deals from the first touch to conversion in a snap?

You know better and, we’re assuming, you’d like some help.

As a manager at an Enterprise organization, you know that hiring a full-time employee takes time. Lots of time. Unfortunately, you don’t have time to recruit, onboard, and train a new employee in order to meet this quarter’s marketing automation goals. Not to mention how scarce marketing automation talent is to begin with.

So, now you’re considering creating an Upwork listing for a Marketing Automation Expert or, honestly, posting on that Facebook group you’re in just to get a bandaid solution. If you’ve taken this route before, you know that freelancers, while super skilled, do not have the time needed to turn your marketing automation operations around. They have a full-time job and (most likely) many clients. Meaning, the work your organization desperately needs falls to 3rd, 4th, or 5th place on their list of priorities.

You need a partner with marketing automation experience, process design expertise, and, most importantly, time.

At this point, it’s probably time to find an expert and get some things off your plate. Here’s a peek at how a marketing automation firm can make your life a little easier.

Platform Experience

If you’ve recently purchased a platform or are currently trying to select one, partnering with a firm that specializes in marketing automation is a must. The right marketing automation firm brings years of experience, a library of platform-specific certifications, and a handful of tricks they’ve learned while solving complex problems for their clients. If you’d like to skip the courses, hire a pro that’s already mastered them to distill the lessons and share the takeaways with you and your team. Thank us later.

Process Design and Implementation

Remember that sales team we mentioned? They need some help. If your specialty is leading a team of creative marketers that can spin up stellar web copy and design ads that convert, odds are, sales process design isn’t your cup of tea. A marketing automation partner knows that marketing automation is only successful when simple, repeatable processes are custom built for a sales team’s unique needs (well, and when you have clean data - but we’re getting there!). At the start of your partnership, your marketing automation pro will meet 1:1 with your sales team and their leadership to get to the heart of your process breakdowns and design a sales process from the ground up. If they’re good, they’ll also build the data architecture, automation, and documentation to support the new process. If they’re great, they’ll also train your team, provide office hours, and start fielding the emails you’re tired of receiving.

Free Up Your Time

Have you read this far without responding to an email or Slack message, hopping on a meeting, or answering the phone? Doubtful. Time is so precious as a marketer with a small team and back-to-back meetings. The right partner will need to take a decent amount of time on your calendar for the first bit of your partnership. If they say they don’t, they’re not asking enough questions or digging deep enough. However, after the kick-off and discovery are complete, marketing automation should magically disappear from your to-do list. With a pro fielding the questions, building & testing automations, generating reports, and integrating systems, consider marketing automation handled and get back to what you do best - marketing!

Now, it’s time to find your ideal marketing automation firm.

So, how do you vet a marketing automation firm? Here’s our take on how to approach vendor comparison & vetting for a marketing automation firm.

  1. Fact Check. Quiz your consultant to see how much they really know about the platform you’re looking to use. Verify that they have certifications (that aren’t expired) in the systems you’re using.
      • Which platforms do they specialize in?
      • How many years of experience do they have with the platform you’re interested in using?
      • Are they currently consulting in the platform you’re looking to support? With marketing automation platforms, there are 3-4 system upgrades a year, and, if they’re not currently using the system, their knowledge could be outdated.
      • Which certifications do they hold in the platform? If they’re only certified in the content-creation certifications and you’re looking for a systems integration expert, they’re probably not the best fit.
      • Have they worked with other companies in your industry? This is most relevant if you have industry-specific regulations (HIPAA, Financial Services, etc), but it’s a plus if they know the ins and outs of your industry!
  2. Contract Structure. Request a sample contract for your team to review. Take a look at their pricing structure and the services they offer. If their terms and structure don’t meet your expectations, it’s best to stop here and save your time.
      • How do they structure their contracts? If you're looking for a long-term partnership and they only do short-term projects, it's not a fit.
      • How does their price range compare to your budget? If their starting price exceeds your top-range budget, further discussion is probably a waste of time.
      • What are their SLAs? How long will it take for them to get back to you? How long in advance do you need to request work to be completed?
  3. Fit Check. If your company prides itself on strong company culture, it’s important that the partners you bring into the fold match your standards. Agencies are often staffed with underpaid, salaried employees that work 50+ hours a week to meet agency-imposed and, often, unrealistic deadlines. Consider the morale of the employees supporting your firm as happy employees make the best partners.
      • What is their mission statement? If their guiding principles resonate with you, odds are, you’ll have a better experience with their team.
      • What are their company values? See how they compare to your company’s values as well as your own, individual values.
      • How do they treat their employees? Take a look at current job postings, past employee reviews, and social media accounts. Again, happy employees make the best partners!
      • What time zone are their employees in? Partnering with a West Coast agency when you’re on the East Coast can put a real damper on scheduling. Ideally, you’ll find a firm that can accommodate multiple time zones to maximize their availability.
      • What systems do they use? Get a sense of how they communicate, manage tasks, and market themselves. Bonus points if they use the marketing automation system you’re looking to use!

Ready to find your ideal marketing automation firm?

Our team has made it easy to start looking. Download our Vendor Comparison Spreadsheet and start vetting firms today. Your goals aren't getting any closer until you have the right partner by your side!