If you are concerned about the hidden costs of marketing automation software, you are simply being smart. Even the savviest marketer can be caught by surprise by these hidden charges. This post will acclimate you to the top costs marketing automation vendors try to sneak past unsuspecting marketers.

1. They charge for programmatic support differently than technical support.

You may find early on in your relationship with a vendor that you have several technical questions. You contact them about how to copy a program or how to import PDFs to the file manager, and then you think nothing of it when your next call is about the best way to set up an “if-then” statement in your smartlist.

But, surprise, surprise – instead of a simple, “this is how you set that up,” you are told they cannot help you. It seems that what you thought was a straightforward question on how to get their software to work correctly, was taken as a question on best practices in marketing. They tell you that you need to buy consulting hours to get an answer. Needless to say, their consulting fees can blow your budget.

And so you discover there is a line between technical and programmatic questions – and your contract only covers you for the former. What to do? In these situations, online communities can be your best – and least costly – source of support. Use Google, search the vendor knowledge base – and always remember the value of reaching out to someone with more experience in the software than you have. It’s times like these when your ability to right a genuine, inviting email comes in real handy. Show a genuine need with the software they know and love, and the odds are they will be willing to answer your questions.

2. They charge huge upfront costs in the form of implementation fees or kickstarter packages.

Frankly, I am not a big fan of charging someone to learn how to use the thing you just sold them. It’s a little like buying Monopoly and having to pay extra for the instructions. Nevertheless, a lot of marketing automation vendors feel differently. Which is why marketing automation software often comes with launch fees.

The best approach here is to shop around. Look for vendors that do not require these fees. Even if you prefer the vendor that charges the launch fee, you can see if they will match their competitor’s no-cost approach in order to get your business.

3. They charge you for growing.

Obviously, there is a difference between 1,000 customers in a database and 1 million. It makes sense that, as your database grows, so will your costs. However, you want to be sure you understand thoroughly what those costs are going to be – and whether you can prevent them from rising with simple database management. For instance, if you de-dupe to get back under the contract threshold, will they credit you back the extra fee?

Likewise, your marketing or sales team may grow, requiring that more people have access to the system. When this happens, you may be charged a straight user fee that applies to the entire software, or you may be charged per user of the vendor app. For instance, your sales force may need to use a vendor app to view the marketing automation information within your CRM, and you may be charged to give each salesperson that access.

The solution to being charged fees for database size is to clean your database diligently. Your goal is to keep your number of contacts under the vendor threshold. Regarding per-user fees, however, you are likely to be stuck. Which is an extra reason to negotiate hard before you sign the contract.

How to Handle Hidden Costs of Marketing Automation

Always remember to ask about additional fees before you sign the contract. Until you sign, you still have room to negotiate, so use it. Ask how they will charge for different types of support questions and where you can find the answers you need. Ask about launch fees and whether they can be waived. Most of all, ask what kind of fees you will encounter when your team – or your database – grow.

Need help with your marketing automation? That’s a specialty of mine – get in touch with me here.