How to calculate the cost of a marketing automation platform in year one

Marketing automation is a long-term business investment characterised by features that lead to organisational growth and stronger revenue performance, but the cost of this revolutionary technology is more than just the licensing or subscription fee. How, then, is one supposed to accurately budget for this critical purchase?A good rule of thumb is for every dollar spent, one quarter of it should be spent on the technology itself while the remaining three quarters will be spent on the services needed to use the software effectively. In this post I’ll outline the primary associated costs necessary to realise success with marketing automation. Use this as a guide so you can approach this software with the knowledge you need to garner executive support and allocate your budget appropriately.


It takes some time to learn how to use marketing automation software. All the major platforms know this, so vendors usually offer onboarding and training sessions to help you get started and quickly gain proficiency. You often have the option to do this onsite or virtually, and during the onboarding process you can create real or example workflows and campaigns that can be referenced or saved over in the future. Sometimes these programs are free to a certain point, other times they can be quite expensive, but they’re a smart way to ensure you start off on the right foot and see results sooner.


One huge strength of marketing automation software is its ability to integrate many different technologies together into one, unified platform and data source. Many integrations are already available, but if your organisation needs an integration that doesn’t already exist, it will need to be developed and customised for your needs. Be prepared to pay a considerable amount if you require a custom integration. The alternative involves choosing a marketing automation platform that already offers the integration you need, changing the tool that doesn’t integrate for a competing tool that does, or not having the integration.

In general, you get the most out of the software when you leverage the integrations it offers. For this reason, when choosing a platform we recommend prioritising the systems you absolutely need to integrate with and finding a marketing automation platform that can accommodate them. Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and E-commerce systems are good examples of existing tools you likely already use that you would definitely want to integrate with to deliver quick wins. To counter that example, integrations with less commonly used social media platforms are not as critical.

You will likely be made aware of integration costs, but a potential hidden cost is the preparatory work needed beforehand. Databases can contain a significant amount of obsolete data, so eliminate any cold, dead or old leads from your CRM system before the integration to save both time and money.


I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: marketing automation isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it solution. It takes constant upkeep and development. Once you begin using the software you will start to realise the true extent of its capabilities, which will inevitably lead to a task you do not know how to tackle with the software. This is where support comes in. Support is arguably the most valuable part of a vendor’s offerings because you will likely need it when you least expect it and you want to be able to access it on demand. Things like after hours support, multilingual support and heavy usage of support will all cost extra so there are often different tiers to select from based on your need. Read support-related reviews and testimonials before committing to a specific vendor, or plan to work with experts who have familiarity with the platform you purchase.

Strategic Guidance

Marketing automation isn’t new, but it can be difficult to find skilled employees who have the experience and knowledge to use the technology effectively. For some organisations, managing this technology in-house isn’t realistic or is only possible in a limited capacity. This shouldn’t be a reason not to implement the software though. Strategic guidance and outsourced partnerships are a cost-effective way to bridge any skill gaps you have and still utilise this powerful technology. Whether you need a few campaigns, a content library, strategic advice, hiring advice or buyer persona development, there is help available. Digital marketing practices like ourselves, freelancers and consultants are valuable experts who can be hired for everything from a temporary project to a long-term agreement.

Commit to Success

Marketing automation works, but you need to commit the time and resources needed to support and run the software, create content, engage socially, monitor performance, etc. Plan for success by anticipating these related service costs – they’re the bulk of the investment you will make as you begin using this revolutionary technology. Contact us to get a better understanding of potential costs in year one.

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