Let’s be honest: marketing is hard regardless of the size of your company and the expertise of your team. New Act-On customer, Sharp Europe, is a prime example of how having the right marketing technology is essential for even the most top-notch marketers and reputable brands. Sharp has garnered an immense amount of recognition since it was founded in 1912 for its state-of-the-art consumer electronics, appliances, and B2B services — such as business software, printers, and technology solutions.
Despite being a well-known brand, Sharp faces the enormous challenge of executing marketing efforts to Europe’s broad and diverse B2B audience. This involves managing over 28 local country websites and executing everyday marketing efforts in a variety of languages. In addition to this tremendous workload, the company’s European marketing team is distributed across 50 offices and relies on a combination of central and local marketing efforts — meaning that each unit must practice excellent communication and collaboration in order to ensure brand consistency and meet the company’s marketing and sales goals.
Louise Loughlin heads up Sharp’s European Digital Marketing function and is also in charge of managing and auditing the company’s digital marketing technology stack. Essentially, she is tasked with ensuring that the team is equipped with the tools they need to drive marketing success. Most recently, Louise led the company’s search for a marketing automation platform that would empower Sharp’s distributed marketing teams to improve collaboration and drive more effective marketing campaigns.
The company evaluated six platforms before choosing Act-On thanks to its ease of use, distributed Marketing Network capabilities, excellent service, and best-in-class support. As with any huge investment, the decision wasn’t an easy one to make and required a thorough evaluation process involving multiple stakeholders.
We were fortunate to talk to Louise about what inspired Sharp Europe’s search. Through our conversation, we learned more about her team’s evaluation process and how the various business units collaborated to find the best marketing automation platform to support Sharp’s extensive marketing efforts.
Keep reading to learn key takeaways that you can implement into your own evaluation process as you embark on the search for the marketing automation platform that’s right for you.
Having Your Distributed Marketing Team on the Same Page Is Crucial
When Louise and her team embarked on the search for a new marketing automation platform that could be used by business units across Europe, they weren’t new to the world of marketing automation. Sharp’s European business units were actually each using an array of marketing automation platforms to support their business efforts.
Louise found that one of the biggest pain points Sharp was experiencing due to the usage of multiple marketing automation vendors was that it created misalignment across the teams.
“We had different business units using different marketing automation platforms, so that prevented us from having shared learnings and processes that would have stemmed from us using the same platform.
The problem with us being on different systems was also that the platform used by each unit didn’t always match their needs. We had one business unit that was using a platform that was too complex for what they needed to do. Whereas another, much bigger business unit didn’t have a solution advanced enough for what they were planning to do with their marketing strategy. For example, they lacked features such as website visitor tracking, lead scoring, and other key automation features.”
Sharp needed a centralized solution that could be leveraged by all business units regardless of their needs. Finding a marketing automation platform that would improve visibility and collaboration and empower all of Sharp’s European business units became a key driver in their search for a new vendor.
The Sharp team conducted their due diligence when it came to evaluating marketing automation vendors. Louise set up a project team that consisted of representatives from the marketing team across Europe and various other business units. Louise wanted to make sure that her evaluation team was well-represented so that the team could work together to select a solution that would encompass their various needs.
Louise also gathered input from the project team and the marketing community as a whole to determine what the ideal marketing automation platform would look like for Sharp’s team. The vast amount of input she received helped her create a thorough RFP document that listed key features and capabilities her team needed to be successful.
“That RFP we created for vendors to respond to listed all our requirements (which were split out by category) and indicated whether these features were considered essential or nice to have. So, we had questions that were specific to functionality such as, What’s the landing page builder like? What are your email marketing capabilities? We also asked questions regarding the vendor and their software like, What’s your customer support like? How reliable is the platform?
Because we have so many business units and offices using different CRMs, there also turned out to be quite a complex need for our new platform to have a parent-child structure and be able to support multiple integrations.”
Louise and her team first evaluated their incumbent vendors and two new ones, asking each team to submit a written response to their questions, present a platform demo, and provide a quote. However, none of the platforms they evaluated quite matched their needs.
“We scored each of these vendors based on how closely they met the different categories and requirements. At that point, there was only one vendor that could genuinely meet the requirements with a high enough score and competitive pricing, but it wasn’t a platform that anyone on the project team really loved.”
Demonstrating that you should never settle when it comes to choosing the right marketing automation platform, Sharp went back to the drawing board in hopes of finding the perfect solution.
Louise and her team reached out to Act-On and another vendor during their second evaluation round. After conducting the same detailed evaluation process, Louise and her team found that Act-On had many of the features Sharp was looking for — including the “parent/child” Marketing Network structure that would enable the company to centralize its marketing efforts.
“We went through a very thorough evaluation process and I would say that, for a number of different factors, Act-On just ended up being the best fit for our organization. A key thing for us was that the platform we picked had to have an interface that was very easy to use and intuitive.
Unlike other companies that might have a centralized team of specialists who are always in the system, we weren’t going to have a big team of people to manage our marketing automation platform. Therefore, the solution we picked had to be intuitive enough so that a marketing generalist could use it easily without knowing things like how to code HTML.
We also have a very complex organization structure where we need to do certain things on the central level and other things on the local level. So, Act-On’s marketing network feature ended up being a really important factor in our selection process because it allows us to set up an account hierarchy and easily share assets between business units. Equally as important was that this platform had to connect to multiple CRMs, such as Salesforce, used by our various business units, which Act-On did.”
Choose a Vendor That Is Invested in Your Success
Investing in marketing automation involves much more than paying for software. When choosing a platform, you should look for a partner that prioritizes your needs and is committed to your success. Louise notes that Act-On’s commitment to helping Sharp find the best solution was evident throughout the evaluation process.
When making your decision, consider the level of service you receive during the evaluation process and the type of support that will be available to you once you convert to being a customer. A company that is responsive during your initial conversations will be more likely to support you when the time comes to implement and launch your new solution.
The Sky’s the Limit When It Comes to Sharp’s Marketing Efforts!
Louise and the Sharp marketing team have big plans for how they will leverage Act-On once they’re up and running. She says that the various units will use the platform for everything from inbound demand generation, lead nurturing, marketing/sales alignment, segmentation, and more.
Louise notes that a huge advantage of Sharp’s distributed marketing team using the same platform is that it paves the way for better alignment and collaboration down the road. “I’m hoping that as we start using the platform and we get more countries onboarded, we’ll start to learn and share best practices with each other over time.”
Sharp is already a household name, and we can’t wait to see how the company’s European business units leverage marketing automation to become even more of a powerhouse. We’re sure that it’s only a matter of time before they have many best practices and insights to share.