Let’s pretend for a moment that we were 15-years-old again—that awkward phase when the world was at our fingertips, but we lacked the life experience to know where to go or how to get there.

marketing-automation-vendorsAround that time, most of us were old enough to start taking driver’s ed courses. And the sense of impending freedom was palpable. Remember when you sat behind the wheel for the first time? For most of us, it ignited a mix of equal parts excitement and fear.

Now, imagine this scenario: As you prep for your first test drive, someone hands you the keys to a souped-up Ferrari. Without any training on how to drive a car that’s capable of topping out at 200+ miles per hour, your driver’s ed teacher shoves you in the driver’s seat and tells you to take it for a spin on the highway.

Avoiding the Risk of Technology Meltdown

That scenario might sound absurd (because it is), but it’s exactly how many marketing automation vendors treat their customers selling you on big ideas and opportunities, handing you the keys, and checking in every few months to make sure you’re still alive.

Beyond the absurdity of that approach, the real problem is that technology on its own is only so valuable. You can give anyone the best sports car in the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s the right car for them, or that they’ll be able to drive without crashing into something.

In fact, without proper training and support, it’s unlikely they’ll ever experience its full potential.

Marketing automation is no different. At the end of the day, if you’re not supported by the vendor on effective use of the technology, you might struggle to extract value from the platform—regardless of how advanced or innovative it is.

Questions to Ask Potential Technology Partners

As you’re evaluating marketing automation vendors, it’s critical to assess their ability to act as true partners—advisors and experts who can help you nail the basics, navigate the technology, and grow your skills.

With that in mind, here are two questions to consider as you’re choosing a partner:

1. “What’s your support model?”

And not just in implementation, but beyond it. It’s important to look for a partner who goes beyond technical support by offering strategic advice and insight. Ideally, you should feel as if you have a peer you can bounce ideas off of and collaborate with around emerging best practices.

2. “Who will support us?”

Will you be paired with a dedicated customer success manager, or will you be supported by a team of people who don’t know your business? The former is likely to ensure a closer connection and a more intimate customer-vendor relationship. The latter often leads to frustrating inconsistency and reactive fire drills.

If you’ve ever bought marketing technology, you’ve probably heard vendors pitch their value as a partner. And some might be telling the truth.

But don’t be shy about pushing vendors for details about their support model. Will the account rep they assign to you be little more than an account manager, or will they be a second set of eyes you can trust to review workflows before you activate them or provide guidance on new tactics and ideas?

At a time when the tech landscape seems to change by the month, the latter can be the difference between buying technology that never gets used and buying technology that your team can extract real, tangible value from.

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