It’s worth investing in the right marketing automation platform. Businesses that nurture leads make 50 percent more sales at a cost of 33 percent less than non-nurtured prospects. (We’d love to dive into that data further to understand the practices/technology those companies are using. Based on our experience, a company either takes their investment seriously and generates a big return from them, or they pay a lot of money for the capability and then don’t do anything with it.)
Once we’ve worked on the basics with a client (nailing down target audience, messaging, brand vision, etc.), we start thinking through how to nurture leads as they come through the funnel. We have a few go-to marketing automation recommendation tools for our clients, but we haven’t been a strong advocate for Act-On, mainly because of these five issues.
#1: The flip-flop from Sales to Support
You know you can trust a team you’ve hired when you move from working with a salesperson to working with the support team and you still feel valued. No organization can deliver perfect support, but it’s the trendline that matters.
Consider this red flag: Act-On includes basic support for all customers, but offers additional support tiers—for more money.
$6,000 for the “gold level,” where you get access to the customer success team
$15,000 for the “platinum level,” where you finally get a named customer success manager
Support should be bundled with the platform. In an ideal world, you should care more about the technology than the team behind the technology. But realistically, strong support is usually the reason a team has a successful implementation. That’s why we recommend marketing automation platforms that have customer success managers dedicated to every implementation.
#2: Year-long agreements?!?
We believe that all companies should be easily fireable (ours included). If you have to lock your customers into long-term engagements, you’re not trying to ensure their best performance; you don’t want to give them an easy way out.
Act-On offers a standard one-year agreement, which is an eternity for the MarTech industry. Consider how fast technologies evolve today. To go through an arduous implementation and then be stuck on a hamstrung platform for eight-to-10 months is dangerous for your team morale and bottom line.
Here’s the kicker that really embodies vendor lock-in: Act-On emails use self-hosted dynamic links that won’t work if you’re not a customer. That means that if you send your customers an email right before you cancel Act-On, any customer who tries to access that email afterward won’t be able to open any links. If you do want those links to work, you need to go back on the platform for another year-long renewal.
#3: Lagging API Vision
The future is microservices-driven (a.k.a., the future is API-first). If a technology company wants to remain relevant as other technologies emerge and mature, their tools have to be able to talk to each other fluently with no creative workaround from smart customers.
Act-On’s analytics are actually pretty sharp, but the value of analytics comes down to what you can do with the data. If you want the data to only be accessible in the tool, then you’re probably fine. But if your company uses or is considering using a business intelligence tool, the 30,000 daily hit limit most likely won’t work for you.
This issue is really about future-proofing your decision. The API vision might not disturb you right now. But we promise you that it will be a major frustration in the next two-to-three years. Rather than growing accustomed to a platform that you’ll eventually outgrow (but still be trapped in for a whole year), start with a platform that will scale with your business.
#4 - Still clunky in 2019
A poor user interface reduces agility, which is costly in today’s fast-paced market. Act-On’s email marketing interface doesn’t look like it’s been updated for a number of years, which is a problem not because it looks outdated, but because it reduces productivity from customers.
A great example of a clunky feature: Act-On can make it difficult to move members between lists, which can become a tedious chore if you have to do it manually. Marketing automation is about eliminating the tedious chores, not adding new ones.
When considering the interface for an automation tool, we recommend tools that automate both your marketing and the behind-the-scenes work. Lists should be easily manageable, campaigns should be quickly customized, and analytics should be easily accessible for overall performance and a specific campaign, etc. When your job is easier, you can concentrate on the ROI of marketing automation.
#5 - Slow product roadmap
A slow-moving product roadmap is a knockout punch for Act-On. Product roadmaps are exciting, but if they aren’t executed quickly (or at all), they are just a sales tool.
Act-On has made major strides in some areas (such as landing page creation), but has stalled in other areas (such as their email marketing tool which hasn’t been updated for a number of years). It’s nice to have major releases on new functionality, but all marketing automation tools should be regularly updating their interface and underlying technology to support the evolving needs of digital marketers. If the market is changing monthly, so should each tool on the platform.
The best marketing automation tools prioritize customer success above all else. Success is largely based on innovation and speed, which Act-On can’t (or won’t) compete on. For that, we always refer back to the companies that are listening to their community and leading the industry in continual iteration.