At the start of the year, we got a Marketing Automation expert onboard to boost our inbound efforts. On his recommendation, we decided Salesforce and Pardot are the best bets for us in our lead nurturing and lead generation efforts. The other Content Marketing professional on the team readily agreed. For they worked together as team in the past and generated a few millions in revenues using Salesforce and Pardot for a large company. They had a strong case to use Salesforce. We are a small organization and until that point we were content using marketing automation tools built for SMEs, though they were two different softwares.
The False Start
It took us almost a month to get in touch with the Sales team as they were busy with the holiday season and then getting back to work in the new year. Precious few weeks lost for us trying to chase the Salesforce sales team. Finally, when we did get hold of a Salesperson the process was quick, I must admit. We signed up for Salesforce and Pardot licenses with convenient payment terms. Little did we realize, what was in store ahead. We were promised multi-tier support through a local implementation partner for database migration and user training. In addition, we would have access to the global support teams across time zones and geographies.
The implementation partner is a busy one-man-show, handling multiple clients across different cities. He had little or no time for us to get into the finer aspects of the implementation. His team was below par and most of the time clueless about handling multiple databases, much less implementing the full suite of SFDC and Pardot features. So, the database migration which was promised to be done in 2 weeks took well over 5 months to complete. Given that our Inbound team had prior experience of using Salesforce/Pardot we started running the campaigns within the first month on our own, with little support from the Salesforce partner.
The Pandora’s Box
That’s when the Pandora’s box opened up. Soon after we sent out our initial emails, we got a spam alert from the Pardot team. The reason is high bounce rate. The inbound team checked for all hygiene spam red flags, found none. We used all email best practices and avoided any potential pitfalls. We realized it’s the Gmail IDs that bounced. Most of our clients are startups and they operate with Gmail accounts. Pardot was just not able to deliver to Gmail accounts. We raised multiple tickets with the global team but to no avail.
Another big letdown was Pardot was unable to track prospects who sign up the Contact Us form on the website. There was no trace of the referring site or which pages the prospect visited on the website. Again, neither the global support team nor the local implementation partner had any answers. In addition, there were multiple lead scoring errors, tracking errors and more – it’s an endless list.
Marketing Automation & Data Security
Things hit a new low when our team discovered to our utter dismay, that the Salesforce implementation partner had used some of our data to showcase our drip campaigns to prospective clients. What’s surprising is the campaign was set up by our in-house Marketing Automation expert and screenshots of our database were being sent to their prospects without our consent. This amounts to blatant violation of the NDAs signed and a potential security breach. When we brought this to the notice of the Salesforce team they did pull up the partner and an apology mail was sent. But we revoked all access to the databases, Salesforce and Pardot platforms, choosing to share screens when required.
The Consolation (if any)
The story continued, with the inbound team trying to salvage the best out of a bad bargain. Their credentials and professional integrity were at stake. Towards the end of August, they were contacted by a Customer Success Manager from Australia, who was in town for the Salesforce Basecamp event. Ironically, the event is organized to highlight Salesforce Success stories and showcase future developments. The Manager in question met with the team, listened to their grievances patiently and promised to make things right. To her credit, she wrote a few mails to the Sales and Support team but again the response was lukewarm at best from the support team. The local account/sales team couldn’t care less. They didn’t even bother to call in spite of repeated assurances to the contrary from their global counterparts.
To sum it up, there’s no respite to our Salesforce woes so we started looking beyond Salesforce. We are wiser now, though it cost us a few thousand dollars and we lost some valuable time in the process. Maybe the platform is not for businesses like us. It is built for enterprise clients with deep pockets and an appetite for more products/licenses. The entire Salesforce machinery let us down and for a small business like us it’s a big setback.
Once bitten, twice shy. We will make a smarter choice next time. Or maybe we’ll build a marketing automation platform for businesses like us. Until then, for those of you who are on it, may the force be with you.