For marketing users who are new to Salesforce, here are some quick and easy tips on evaluating any additional marketing automation needs that you might have:

  • Understand what marketing automation is. Marketing automation is an umbrella term that describes the automation of various common processes used to manage marketing campaigns. For example, marketing automation tools can help quickly create the prospect list from your customer database, send out a personalized e-mail all at once or at scheduled intervals, track who opened the e-mails or asked to unsubscribe, track who registered, track who attended, and display all this in a standard campaign report.

    If you are manually trying to do all or most of the steps mentioned here, it might be time to explore a marketing automation tool. Salesforce can help you manage campaigns, but vendors like Eloqua, Marketo, Pardot, Silverpop, and ExactTarget all play in the marketing automation space, too. So do you need to look outside of Salesforce for this? It depends.

  • Evaluate your short- and long-term needs. Quite a few vendors are out there, and all of them have cool demos that show how much better your campaign management life will be if you use their products. Before you start drooling at all the ROI that your marketing department will be able to demonstrate with a new system, step back and make a list of questions that your marketing team should answer. Invite your lead generation manager to hear her thoughts, too.

    • List all the types of marketing campaigns that your company has done in the past 12 months and plans to repeat.

      These can be trade shows that your company attended or hosted, physical letters mailed, or an e-mail campaign targeting a certain user persona.

    • What do you know about the company’s upcoming plans that may require either an increase in the number of campaigns or a new type of campaign?

      Is a new product launch coming up? Will you be exhibiting for the first time at a trade show? How much more will your workload increase?

    • What reporting insights do you want to measure as a result of these campaigns?

      Do you use any metrics today to track your marketing funnel? What metrics can’t you provide that you wish you could?

    • How many people are available to grow as your campaign needs to grow?

      Do you plan to add more people (and hopefully manage more campaigns)? Or is it still just you, and you do everything else around the office, too?

    • What’s your budget?

      The leaner your resources are, the simpler the system is that can help you get up and running quickly with the basics.

  • Decide what type of solution you need. If you’ve never used a marketing automation system before, just starting off with Salesforce Campaigns may be all you need. If you need to send out a lot of e-mails (like in the hundreds of thousands), you’ll want to explore third-party tools that can accommodate bulk e-mail sends and detail the needs related to those sends. These products will come at an additional cost, usually in the hundreds of dollars per user . . . sometimes per month!

    Products like ExactTarget can help send the bulk e-mails in staggered phases. Some power users will want some campaigns to drive respondents to related subcampaigns based on how they respond. This gets more complex, and you’ll hear names like Marketo or Eloqua in this department. Given your campaign plans, and the resources and budget available, you should have a list of requirements as you evaluate a solution.

  • Ask someone with Salesforce experience to help evaluate marketing automation systems with you. Get someone who understands Salesforce nomenclature (and if no one exists in your company, get a copy of For Dummies, read it, and make that person, you!). Share your requirements list with this person, and get her input. It’s even better if she has experience being a Salesforce system administrator. Why? Salesforce captures lots of customer information, including leads, contacts, campaigns, and closed-won opportunities.

    Marketing automation systems also want to capture their version of leads and contacts in their systems. Understanding details of how that system integrates with Salesforce will be helpful. People often want this integration to track the ROI that occurs when a lead ends up buying your product or service. Is Salesforce the master owner of all customer information? If a salesperson manually enters a lead into Salesforce, will that record be synced with the marketing automation system? If data in one system differs from that in the other system, which one wins out?

  • *Get hands-on with the product during the evaluation period. The devil’s in the details. If your marketing automation system has no hands-on trial, be concerned about its ease of use. Use some of your historical campaigns as examples of what you want to reproduce in the marketing automation system. See how easy or difficult it is to replicate that process, and the tracking of results, in the system.