Marketing technology has exploded over the last six years.

As we covered in a previous post, the marketing automation platform category alone stands at 212 vendors today, while the broader marketing technology landscape has exploded to more than 5,000 vendors. Think about that for a second. If we can conservatively say that most marketing organizations have a dozen technology categories they typically try to fill, it means there are hundreds of potential solutions to evaluate for each of those categories. Good luck sifting through the noise.

So, when it comes to selecting a marketing automation platform, what exactly should you be using as a benchmark to weed out the pretenders from the vendors who can actually help you accomplish your goals?

3 Key Pillars of Modern Marketing Automation Platformsmarketing-automation-platforms

If you’re shopping around for a new marketing automation platform, there are no shortage of flashy features that will catch your eye (machine learning and AI, anyone?!).

While those features can be valuable when they’re applied to the right challenge, there are some foundational pillars you should look for first:

1.Customer Identification and Intelligence.

Whether someone is a customer who’s been with you for a decade or a prospect who’s finding you for the first time, the first step in delivering relevant experiences is to identify website visitors and intelligently analyze their interests and intent—even without a form fill. This tracking makes it far easier to optimize a customer’s experience in real time.

2. Intelligent Workflow Automation and Lead Scoring.

The goal with personalization is to identify a prospect’s readiness to buy and ensure he or she receives messages that match that stage. To do that, you need to be able to place prospects into workflows that are triggered based on specific attributes or behaviors. As you execute campaigns and gather more lead intelligence, you should be able to automatically qualify leads and feed the hottest prospects into Sales’ hands at exactly the right time.

3. Ease of Use.

A 2017 report by marketing research firm Ascend2 found that the most important criteria for choosing a marketing automation platform was ease of implementation. And you don’t want the simplicity to stop just as you start actually using the solution. At the end of the day, what good is a technology platform if you can’t figure out how to generate insight, execute a campaign, or quickly spin up an email or landing page? When you choose a technology, you should do it with the confidence that it’ll make your life easier, not harder.

Going Beyond the Basics & Thinking About Your Use Case

Most of today’s marketing automation platforms will give you the core functionality you need: email marketing, social media distribution, campaign management tools, website optimization, etc.

But success today isn’t about basics. It’s about being able to easily leverage that technology—and the intelligence it generates—to meet your modern challenges. Specifically: delivering personalized engagement, creating operational efficiency, and accelerating sales results.

Today, collecting real-time intelligence on each prospect who visits your website, opens your emails, or interacts with your content is critical. And, when things move at such a fast pace, marketing teams need a simple way to know which leads to chase and how to best engage them. Marketing automation can help you solve these challenges, but only if you choose a partner that’s built its technology around those foundational principles.