by David Taber

20 questions for screening a Salesforce Marketing Cloud consultant

Jul 31, 2017
Cloud ComputingCRM SystemsEnterprise Applications

The biggest issue with Salesforce Marketing Cloud projects in particular, and cloud-based marketing CRM in general, is matching the soaring goals and promises to the actuality of staff and funding. These questions will help you find a Salesforce consultant with the level of experience you need.

marketing automation
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Marketing Cloud projects have not been part of most consultancies’ Salesforce work, so they likely don’t have a lot of general experience.  Further, because of the range of products and add-ons available, there is still an issue of general competence and ability to execute.  And when it comes to marketing business process expertise, you need to set your expectations very low:  they either will be experts in the product or the process, but almost never both. 

This brief set of questions is designed to help you evaluate the suitability of a (SFDC) consultancy. It isn’t to be used as a questionnaire for the consultancy to fill out in the RFP.  Instead, use the questions conversationally so you can see their flinches and know where to probe.

Since client requirements vary, there’s no single “correct” set of answers to these questions. Instead, score the vendors on how closely they fit your organizational needs and corporate IT style—and no firm is going to get a perfect score (be happy if you find a “solid B+”).

Marketing Cloud experience

  • What Marketing Cloud products has the consultant implemented?
  • Can they explain the difference between ExactTarget, Pardot, and Marketo?  Have they implemented all of them?  What are the main differences between these APIs and SFDC’s platform APIs?Can the consultant explain the difference between social media monitoring and Salesforce communities?
  • What is the best measurement for awareness vs market sentiment?  Which of these changes faster?
  • If you use marketing service bureaus and contractors (particularly internationally), how should they be represented in the system?  What level of access does the consultant recommend for them?
  • From what you understand of our marketing practice, do we need to use Leads at all?  Why or why not?
  • Should deduplication and data cleansing be done outside the SFDC database, or should the data be improved in place?
  • What’s the difference between lead-gen model and a Named Account Model?
  • What tools, services, or processes should we use for lead enrichment?
  • What’s the difference between the Named Account Model and Account-Level Marketing?  Has the consultant implemented both of them?
  • What is the trickiest part of implementing a Named Account Model?
  • Has the consultant implemented a Lead Scoring system?  What approach do they recommend for this?
  • What is an A:B test?  Why is it done?  How long should the sequence of tests be repeated?
  • Should the sales reps be given full access to marketing’s email system?  Why or why not?
  • What dashboarding system do you recommend for marketing?  Why?
  • What marketing metrics are essentially meaningless?   Why?
  • What are the key metrics for a marketing organization like yours?  Does the consultant have an example of a similar set of metrics implemented for another client?
  • What is likely to be the the most important source of reputational risk in the way we do sales and marketing today?
  • If you are considering using gamification for the marketing team, what is the consultant’s experience implementing  What are the lessons learned about effective gamification?  If the consultant is recommending something else, what are their reasons?

Marketing Cloud deployment

  • What should be the general deployment strategy for go-live?
  • If you have an international service organization, what strategy does the consultant recommend for:
    • Discovery of local requirements?
    • Implementation of country-specific requirements?
    • UAT of country-specific features?
    • Sequencing / prioritization of country roll-outs?
    • User training?

As a 20-year veteran of marketing teams, I can assure you that a lot has changed for the better in the marketing world.  The tools are more powerful, the processes better defined, and the idiots have, by and large, been weeded out of the profession.  That said, the journey towards marketing science is still underway, and things will continue to change in the next few years.  So, be ready for the requirements in your Marketing Cloud project to change either midway through the project or as soon as it’s done.  Sorry, this is just the territory. 

The biggest issue with Marketing Cloud projects is matching the soaring goals and promises to the actuality of staff and funding.  A real consultancy needs to tell you, for example, that your Marketing Automation system (read: email blaster) will only be effective if there’s a ton of relevant content and somebody talented enough to tune the system (with A:B tests) on a regular basis.  If they can’t do that, you shouldn’t use them.