Marketing Operations

Think at least twice before migrating your marketing automation platform (MAP)

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Migrating from one marketing automation platform to another is going to be expensive, there’s no way around that. Here are some pointers that will help you avoid making it an expensive mistake.

In the early-adopting tech sector, we’re starting to see the first wave of migrations and consolidations happening – not to mention some situations where companies are going from one to multiple instances.

This is happening for a number of reasons. The most common we see is a desire to stem platform proliferation and centralize and improve governance. Some marketers want to access features and functionality only available in an alternative platform, for others, the driver is a lack of service and support from an existing vendor. And in some cases, it’s simply a desire to start over again and replace chaos with order.

Whatever the reason, migrating from one platform to another is a decision that’s rarely taken lightly. Every dollar invested in a migration is one that could be spent building a brand or generating demand. While it may be possible to use license savings to offset the cost of a migration, there’s still the inevitable business disruption and management distraction to consider.

If you’re contemplating migrating your marketing automation platform (MAP), here are our tips for mitigating risk and keeping those leads flowing.

Find a partner to hold your hand

Is this self-serving? Maybe. But you’re never going to have more need for the experience of someone who’s done this before (several times). A good partner will steer you in the right direction, point out the pitfalls, and provide invaluable additional capacity so your team can support business-as-usual marketing efforts. Don’t risk going it alone.

Know your options

It’s easy to conclude that a migration to a nice clean MAP instance or a move to an alternative platform is the only way to solve your challenges once and for all. The truth is: a migration isn’t always the best way forward. Before making an irreversible decision, start with a full system audit and cost/benefit analysis of migrating vs. optimizing your existing MAP instance. If you’re considering a different platform, research all the features and limitations and align them to your business requirements. Don’t take vendor claims at face value – it’s important to research externally and consult with third-party experts, preferably those with experience across multiple platforms.

Plan and prioritize

It’s impossible to know what you don’t know. Few organizations fully understand what they have to migrate and therefore it’s essential to conduct a full inventory of what you’re dealing with. Don’t even begin to try to estimate budget and resources until you’ve been through this process and made the necessary decisions about what to migrate, what to leave behind, and what new models and frameworks you want to standardize on moving forward.

Bring all stakeholders in at the start and get buy-in to what you’re trying to do. Not just the platform users and the business units they support, but the broader IT team, web team, and others. Set expectations up-front about any period where you’ll need to ‘go dark’ and make clear the risk of disruption to in-market programs and potential loss of tracking data. Remember, if multiple platforms are involved you may have to contend with different license expiry dates that necessitate clear prioritization and phasing.

Define your go-to governance model

You’re going to need to decide on the new way of doing things: who’ll have platform access, how you’ll tag assets, the foldering structure to adopt, naming conventions and possibly new processes to enable work to be done.

All things you may have done as part of an initial implementation – only now it may be way more complex because of all the different ways disparate teams have dealt with these things. The biggest challenge is invariably consulting multiple stakeholders and getting them aligned. This is where having an external party cracking the whip and driving consensus (or forcing decisions) can be hugely helpful.

Ensure your data is automation-ready

There are almost certainly going to be multiple datasets to import so it’s best to start with a comprehensive data audit to understand what’s out there before you begin.

You’ll need to design a data model that can support all the desired ways of segmenting and reporting (which may be different from one business unit to another). Getting legacy data ‘automation-ready’ may require a significant amount of data engineering, particularly if the data structure of the go-to platform is different (it’s easier if it’s consolidating multiple instances of the same MAP to one).

It’s important you communicate with marketing stakeholders that while all profile data can be retained and carried over, there’s a good chance historic activity data is going to be lost. If this has serious business implications, then steps can be taken to create a workaround.

Assess campaigns and programs

This is a huge variable. There could be anything from tens to hundreds of campaigns and programs in existence across platforms, many of which may be dead or dormant. Of those that are live, some may be complex and if you’re moving to a new platform, it may not be possible to replicate functionality exactly. Developing workarounds can take up valuable time and so compromises may be necessary.

Several companies we have worked with have chosen to take the opportunity to standardize program designs in order to simplify development efforts, enable future scaling and provide more consistent reporting so that campaigns can be more easily benchmarked and compared.

It’s always a challenge to plan the cut-over – do you stop people entering live programs for a period, and is it possible to pause while there are contacts active within a program?

As more programs are added to a single platform, it will become necessary to consider program governance, or what we call ‘air traffic control’, to manage the routing of contacts from one campaign to another, including rules to manage suppression and limit frequency to avoid over-messaging.

Replicate your reporting – or take it to a new level?

Again, it starts with understanding what reports are currently configured – and which are actually used – so that you can decide what needs to be recreated in the new platform. Ensuring ‘parity’ so you can compare historic benchmarks with new metrics is always desirable, but as with your campaigns and programs, it may not be possible to replicate reports 1:1 in a new platform. This might be an opportune time to develop a new set of standardized reports around which the organization can align.

Rationalize and configure third-party applications

If your platforms have been around for some time, there are likely going to be myriad third-party apps connected to them. Tough decisions will need to be made in the case of duplicative apps and services. It may mean some stakeholders giving up tried and trusted apps and extensions and embracing new ones.

Plan your CRM integration

The most challenging migration projects are those involving multiple CRM integrations. Whether you’re considering parallel CRM integrations with a single MAP, or a move to a single, consolidated global CRM, it’s going to require detailed planning. Parallel integrations will generally require some form of custom solution i.e. multiple API or SFTP connectors. A global CRM consolidation will often require some form of middleware or a centralised data hub (for data transformation). Both scenarios will require a data source audit, the creation of a single global data taxonomy, and a stringent governance model.

Train and enable users – and non-users!

If it’s a new platform, you’re going to need to train people. If it’s a new instance of an existing platform, chances are you’re still going to need to train people on how to use it – correctly.

But if your migration project is part of a drive towards further centralized governance of marketing automation, the move may also require training people on new ways of working outside the platform: how new intake processes are going to work and what service levels can be expected.

Technology + Data + Process + People = Success

That’s right, the success of a marketing automation platform migration depends on much more than having the right technical know-how (although let’s be clear, that’s absolutely a prerequisite). If you’re going to look back on your migration with no regrets, you’re going to need to invest in your data, align around processes and truly enable people to leverage the new platform. We would wish you luck, but choose to partner with MarketOne and you won’t need it.