October 2, 2019

Software Research Reports: The Marketing Automation Selection Process

Tech companies like to point to their recognition in various analyst reports, but have you ever wondered how they wound up in those reports to begin with?

At Act-On, we’re pretty proud of the recognition we’ve received from numerous analyst reports. We feel this recognition is the direct result of the hard work we put in for our clients to create the most powerful and easiest-to-use marketing automation software on the market. Not only that, but we know that our customers are able to leverage our platform to its unparalleled potential thanks to our best-in-class customer support team.

Yet, while we know why experienced and esteemed analysts are eager to celebrate our powerful marketing automation platform and unrivaled customer service, we want to lift the veil to let you know how these analysts come to their conclusions. With that said, today we’re going to take a sneak peek under the hood to gain a better understanding of software research reports and the selection process for marketing automation platforms. 

Let’s dig in!

What Are Software Research Reports?

To begin, let’s all make sure we’re on the same page here. A software research report is a culmination of significant data collection and analysis within a specific market that is packaged as a comprehensive review of the major players in the field and their positioning in relation to one another. 

These reports are designed to give potential consumers better insight into each listed software platform’s highlights and areas of improvement. To ensure accuracy and integrity, research firms apply universal evaluation criteria to each company/platform on their list. This way, consumers and industry leaders alike can better understand how each software company is delivering on their promise and leading the charge toward future innovations. 

In most cases, these reports aren’t going to be as cut and dried as many consumers might want. But don’t be fooled; that doesn’t mean they’re not valuable. It’s just that most reports aren’t as simple as “buy this, not that” or “platform A is better than platform B.” It’s usually a little more nuanced than that, as every company and every piece of software is going to have pros and cons based on individual consumers’ unique and diverse needs. 

Some companies might need software with limited functionality that performs extremely well within those parameters. Others might be looking for software that can do a lot of things and is constantly innovating toward future advancements. Neither of these approaches are wrong — they’re just different fits for different companies with different needs.

Conveniently enough, this brings us to our next question, which is… 

Why Are Software Research Reports Important?

In their own marketing materials, every company is going to speak to their strengths and make claims about their software that may or may not be absolutely true. This sort of chest-pounding is usually subjective, and what might resonate with one user could be viewed entirely differently by another.

Software research reports are vital for consumers because they compile (mostly) objective and accurate reviews of the available vendors and their capabilities and limitations from dependable subject matter experts. These reports combine myriad data points with real customer feedback to help set the record straight and provide actionable insights that lead to more informed purchasing decisions. This is especially valuable when it comes to marketing automation, as the consumer evaluation process is usually lengthy and detailed — and because the final decision will have significant impacts that reverberate throughout the organization for years to come (for better or worse). 

While software research reports are an invaluable and necessary part of any purchasing decision, they should be viewed as one piece (albeit, an extremely valuable and important one) of your final choice. Other important factors for evaluating your marketing automation platform should include:

  • Customer support
  • Existing customer advocacy
  • Ease of use
  • Time to value
  • Technology integrations
  • Reporting and analytics
  • User reviews
  • Your budget and headcount
  • Data syncing and visibility

Whatever route you choose, you should feel that your platform of choice satisfies your organization’s unique needs based on the factors above.

How Do Software Research Analysts Come to Their Conclusions?

Software research analysts perform rigorous research in order to reach their conclusions. 

First, they establish their objectives — usually by asking themselves a series of questions that will become the basis of their research and, ultimately, the criteria they use to come to their conclusions. From there, they begin drafting formal and informal surveys to share with users, academics, other researchers, investors, and business leaders. They then use the data they’ve collected from all of their various sources to determine trends, patterns, strengths, weaknesses, and potential for each platform in a given space and/or vertical. 

Here are just a few of the ways analysts might conduct their research:

  • Distributing surveys
  • Vendor showcases
  • Product demos
  • Internal peer discussions
  • Reviewing public research materials
  • Speaking with vendors directly
  • Interviewing vendor customers
  • Networking with industry investors

As they go about researching each vendor, analysts also spend a lot of time speaking with applicant organizations to gain insight into:

  • Where their platforms excel
  • Where they are going to market in the foreseeable future
  • Where they are innovating
  • Where they think the industry is heading

These conversations can last several hours and often take place over the course of several months. 

Now, armed with their initial conclusions, these analysts release their analysis to a larger community of analysts who can further examine and debate these findings from different perspectives — for best results, anonymously. 

Analysts then take all of this information into account as they attempt to validate their findings by comparing them with related internal and external research on the same topic. As they go through this process, they often engage in an informed debate of their findings with their peers to come to their final conclusions. 

Depending on the industry and software type they do this for dozens of platforms and then bundle their review in an annual report that can either be purchased by consumers or made available to the public. In either case, all vendor promotions and messaging are usually heavily regulated, and most (if not all) marketing materials must be approved by the research group before it can be released.

Gartner Has Named Act-On a “Visionary” in the 2019 Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management

Now that you understand software research reports, why they’re so important, and how software research analysts come to their conclusions, you might appreciate my next statement a bit more:

Act-On has been named a “Visionary” in the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for CRM Lead Management! This is the third year in a row that we’ve been recognized, and we have continued to improve on our overall positioning year after year. 

To download the full report and learn more about Act-On’s positioning in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, please download the full report below. Or, if you’d rather cut out the middleman and just get in touch today, you’re only a click away from booking a demo with one of our marketing automation experts!