At Capterra, we always recommend that software buyers do some detective work by getting references from existing customers (preferably from companies with a similar business model or from within the same industry). While most marketing automation vendors will be more than happy to connect you with a few of their referral contacts, it’s always a good idea to seek out your own, as well. Why, you might ask? Well, if a customer has volunteered to be a reference for the software company, it’s likely they’re one of the company’s best customers and “drinking the Kool Aid.” Your own connections (and even strangers) are probably more willing to give honest feedback about their experience with the software- the good, the bad, and the ugly.
So after completing our Marketing Automation wish list for Tech last week, Besa and I had finally narrowed down our MA decision to just two remaining contenders. That’s when we decided it was time to call some of their reference customers. I wasn’t quite sure what I was going to say, so before I picked up the phone, I jotted down this list of ten questions…
- How many people are in your marketing department?
(To see if they had a similar amount of time and resources, since it’s just me and Besa in Cabo San Marketing at Capterra)
- How long have you been using this marketing automation system?
(To determine if they were newbies that were still figuring it out or veterans who could share how the software has evolved over time)
- Did you look at any other solutions when you purchased MA? Which ones?
(So they can offer some comparisons if they considered the same solutions we had)
- Why did you ultimately decide on this software over the others?
(Try to sell me on it…)
- Who is/are your target audience(s)? Explain how you market to them using your MA.
(Would we be using marketing automation in a similar way? Maybe we could borrow some ideas from similar businesses in our space.)
- How smooth was your implementation? Did the system easily plug into your existing technology environment?
(Is this going to take us forever or just a few days like all the sales guys are promising?)
- Is there anything you wish you could do with XYZ software that they either don’t have the functionality to do, or you’ve found difficult to accomplish through the software?
(So we don’t regret our decision in a month, 6 months, or even a year from now)
- What kind of ROI have you achieved so far? Do you feel the cost is justified/fair for the results you’ve generated?
(If you really don’t think it’s worth it, then we need to know that before we drop a few thousand dollars)
- Have you seen the kind of results you expected/were promised, or do you feel you could be getting more from the system?
(Because we’ve had many promises made throughout this buying process)
- Did you find your training to be worthwhile? Any recommendations on how to prepare?
(Are we going to have to pay for it? Who should attend? Was it hard to learn the software?)
I ended up speaking to two users of each of our two remaining MA software options, one referred by the company and one we found independently, for a total of four reference calls. I think the trickiest question for the references was the ROI one (isn’t it always?). While most people could quote how their email deliverability, or time to set up a landing page, or some other factor had been impacted, it was hard for them to tie that back to revenue (even if marketing automation is supposed to help with that). Yet the second part of that question- do you feel it’s worth the investment- actually generated some of the most helpful answers. As suspected, the people referred by the MA vendors had nothing but positive things to say about their experience with the software, whereas the ones we found independently were more willing to gripe about some of the shortcomings. Those shortcomings were great to hear though, since some would definitely impact our decision whereas others weren’t that important to us.
What would you ask a marketing automation reference customer? Is there anything you would add to this list?