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Plan Before You Leap: 5 Key Factors to Consider Before Implementing A Marketing System

By February 22, 2017

By: Kristin Sharpe, Managing Partner, ACF Solutions, An Attain Company, cross-posted from

At ACF Solutions, we are privileged to work with clients who are seeking to use technology more strategically to advance their cause, whether the cause is educating our children or one of the amazing causes promoted by our nonprofit clients. Increasingly, we are encountering organizations that want to replace existing email marketing tools with new solutions that will enable data-driven marketing automation. It’s a natural progression. Once you have done the hard work of centralizing your organization’s data inside of Salesforce CRM, the logical next step is to find ways to make better use of that data to help drive constituent engagement.

We are often asked by clients, which marketing tool we recommend; Marketing Cloud, Pardot, or another solution that integrates with Salesforce. And while we’re happy to help answer that question, we often advise our clients to do some planning first to help assure that your strategy drives your technology decisions, and not the other way around. You will also want to be sure you are aligned internally to take on the work (and expense) of a new system, and to use it to its full potential. To guide you in this process, we’ve put together five key factors that you should consider in the lead-up to selecting a new marketing system:

1. What are desired outcomes of your marketing efforts?

What is the purpose of marketing in your organization? Are you fundraising, promoting your mission, recruiting more students or volunteers? Marketing doesn’t work in a silo; its goals need to be tied to the organization’s goals. Be sure all of your stakeholders are represented so that you are clear on all of the purposes and outcomes your marketing (and marketing solution) needs to serve. Get agreement on the the goals you want to achieve.

2. What is the state of your data?

Data is key to targeting communications to the right person at the right time. Where is your data found? There may be numerous sources; be diligent in your search for them. Even if you think you have identified them all, keep pressing. Who “owns” the data? Do you have a plan in place for how the data will be shared and how it may be used? What is the quality of your data? What is your plan to keep your data clean and consistent over time?

3. How is marketing structured in your organization?

Is your marketing centralized or decentralized? Is it in-house or outsourced? What kind of calendar or content control do you require? Making a system change is a good time to revisit your current structure and process, and make any changes needed to better align them with your strategic goals.

4. What is the timeline?

What is the time frame for implementing a new marketing tool? What are the internal and external constraints? For example, when do current system contracts expire? Are there significant events you need to work around, both in the life of your organization and in the life of your key staff? Have you allowed enough time for training and user adoption, to ensure a successful transition?

5. What are available resources?

What is your budget for a marketing tool and program? Are there ways to share costs across departments? Do you have the human resources to manage the program? Do you need to hire additional staff, or provide specialized training for system administrators or HTML specialists?

Once you’ve worked through these questions, you will be better prepared to review new marketing systems against your needs and make a decision that is right for your organization.