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Marketing automation platform needs integration, not features

One company has tested several marketing automation software platforms and discovered that, with existing Salesforce technology, features may matter less than integration.

Given its industry and corporate strategy, the company I work for has six unique sales channels, each operating...

with its own products and services.

This mandates a personalized marketing style and can create a headache when identifying where to allocate precious resources. The struggle is prioritizing our marketing efforts to help each channel. Do we allocate heavy resources into a channel that has doubled in growth every year, or a more established channel that generates a substantial amount of the company's revenue? This has forced us to consider ROI as the differentiating factor when prioritizing larger marketing resources.

To accomplish this, we need to integrate our marketing automation platform with our CRM system. This allows us to track the success of our campaigns, reduce overall workload on our team and maintain those personalized marketing channels. Our three- and five-year goals include complete behavioral marketing campaigns for each of our emerging sales channels, and the only way to accomplish this to scale is with a fully utilized marketing automation platform.

Challenges with marketing automation software

Our sales team adopted Microsoft Dynamics in 2013. At that time, we began using Silverpop's Core Motives plug-in for our marketing campaigns. But whenever we attempted something new, we encountered problems.

With our previous marketing automation platform, the marketing process felt bolted on to fit the sales process.

The marketing automation platform has a lot of the functionality we require, but it lacks simplicity. Any problem required us to search for solutions online. Even something as simple as updating a contact list was cumbersome and involved uploading the list, exporting the errors (e.g., the "duplicates"), modifying the data, then re-uploading the duplicate list one more time.

Core Motives felt like a marketing automation platform designed by one salesperson per every 10 developers. The marketing process felt bolted on to fit the sales process. This hindered our creativity when considering new options for marketing campaigns. We didn't want to deviate from our standards to generate more unknowns, busywork and delays.

In mid-2014, we moved to the Silverpop Engage platform. Engage differs from Core Motives in terms of how you interact with the platform. Contact lists are a breeze to update. Behavioral campaigns can be created by flowcharts and personalization can get as intricate as the data you have available.

We also find significant value in the company's e-learning and certification courses, which have been invaluable for onboarding team members and exploring available options. It has courses for every element of the platform and offers regular instructor-led webinars for core content. Plus, as they release new functionality for its Engage platform, they update the learning material to reflect it.

Exploring Salesforce

Since Engage doesn't integrate with Microsoft Dynamics, we wanted its new Dynamics Marketing solution but found few resources on how to integrate, set up, design or maintain the marketing automation platform. We found certification exams and books for learning but were flabbergasted to find no real method for quickly training or implementing it.

This now leads us to mid-2015 when our sales team had begun looking to move their CRM platform over to Salesforce. Still looking to integrate our marketing and sales project data, we began researching the Pardot and Salesforce Marketing Cloud options. Both of these platforms integrate seamlessly with Salesforce and would allow us to closely track our performance metrics.

Pardot easily became our preferred choice. It is touted as the B2B option for Salesforce marketing automation software. It has the tools that align with my company's long-term goals which would allow us to expand our department. Specifically, we liked Pardot's focus on lead generation and nurturing, as well as calculating the marketing ROI with closed-loop reporting. To top it off, Pardot can integrate with the Engage platform if we choose.

So, today, Pardot is the preferred option. The choice will hinge on which CRM platform our sales team chooses. If our sales team remains on our Microsoft Dynamics CRM, migrating to Pardot will be moot. If it transitions to Salesforce, price will be the major objection. Until then, we will stay with Silverpop Engage, which allows for the flexibility and functionality we need.

Throughout the buying process, we've learned that marketing automation software is booming and platforms' functionality is in a constant state of improvement. Most platforms offer similar functionality, but using them to their full potential is rare. It's like buying an orchestra and playing only the violin.

The creativity necessary to find profitability in a highly competitive and increasingly desensitized market requires adaptability. Marketers are trying to forecast and react to a customer base that demands high-quality products or services for as close to free as possible. This is why our decision matrix leans heavily on the ability to track our actual return on investment rather than a larger feature set.

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This was last published in November 2015

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