Stop! Take your fingers off your keyboard and slide back a few inches from the laptop. Seriously. Before you fill out the next webform requesting a demo from the latest and greatest marketing technology, take a quick seat.
Buying software feels good. It’s the promise of potential, and who doesn’t have a lust for opportunity? Everything could be better if we could just get a tool that (fill in the blank).
Hold it right there. Technology can make all the difference, lending to its prevalence around us. The right technology, that is. Adding on new systems isn’t the default answer. In fact, before you even think about using a new tool, you need to take a multitude of steps to ensure you’re truly ready to take that leap.
It’s a bummer, I know. Don’t fret though, we’ve taken the time to boil down the software evaluation process to six key (often overlooked) areas you can’t afford to ignore when considering the purchase of new technology.
I hope you aren’t still looking at that webform, because we’re about to begin.
1. Is there an associated (and robust) community?
There’s an argument to be made that the community around a software is one of the most important parts of it. When you go to evaluate a new piece of technology, research to find out if there are agencies building businesses around it (so you can get help with enablement and augmenting your skillset if needed). Find out if there are forums and outlets in which active users are sharing their problems, answering common questions and outlining best practices. If you decide to engage with this system, you’re going to want—and need—detailed guidance on maximizing the software’s purpose and there’s no better place to get this than from current users.
While on the topic of active users, take a peek at which companies are getting on the bandwagon of this software. If there are several brands in your space you respect and admire that are clearly getting value from the tech, that’s extra validation it could be worth your while too. Though, don’t just decide to go for it because you see your competitors are using it.
In addition, does the greater community offer add-ons and additional integrations you can tap into to meet your nuanced goals? The tech might have a lot of bells and whistles, but without a way to shore up your data or orchestrate the connectivity flow you need, bells and whistles might be all it is. I can give you a hint that that’s not going to do anything for you, except maybe add some lame music to the office Christmas party.
2. What are the all-encompassing costs?
So you see a pricing sheet online and it seems to fit your budget. You think, “Awesome! Let’s get started!” Not so fast. When it comes to costs of MarTech, you need to think through the far-ranging expenses that it can entail. For example, how much are you going to need to spend (in terms of time or employees hours) training your team on how to use it? Will you need to spend money getting a software pro to connect this system with your existing tech stack? Are there upgrades every so often you’ll need to pay for, or are they included?
Once you have the true comprehensive costs figured out, do a little math and see if for every $3 you spend on marketing technology you’ll be spending $1 on the people and support mechanisms that make using it possible. If this ratio is intact, the system might be a viable option within your budget.
3. What will ROI look like?
Oh, ROI. The same damn acronym that holds so much power in so many conversations—and MarTech is no exception. After you’ve landed on the real costs of a new piece of software, it’s time to define what a real return on this investment would look like to you and if that seems feasible. For instance, if you want the system to help you generate leads, how many do you need it to generate in order to hit your sales goals? What’s the standard amount of leads it’s been found to generate for other companies?
Or you might need to think about the idea that this solution could be valuable simply for the intangibles it’s intended to provide. Maybe you want it because you’re sorely lacking efficiency in one of your sales processes, and this looks like it’ll solve the issue. However you define meaningful ROI for this investment, you need to make sure you do your due diligence as much as possible to see if you’ll be able to get it.
4. How extensive is the support offered?
Of course customer service is huge, and if the company you’re evaluating isn’t highly rated for its customer treatment… start walking right now. But when it comes to support, you need to evaluate a whole lot more than just whether or not a human will pick up the phone and be pleasant if you encounter an issue. Check out what kinds of resources the company offers, for free, to its users.
Ideally, the provider should be generous with its supporting services, workshops, integrations, guidance on best practices and troubleshooting. They should give tools to help speed up your learning curve and expedite how long it takes for you to get value from their system. An example of a software behemoth that’s done this well is Salesforce.com. They’ve been lavish with the resources they provide, built an entire ecosystem that’s dependent on its business and used certifications to power it.
5. How does the functionality align to your goals?
This one might seem obvious, but you need to be hyper honest with yourself about it. Are you evaluating a piece of MarTech because your competitor has it and it sounds like the hottest tech on the block or are you considering it because it’s going to amplify your effectiveness and help you reach a goal? Your goals should be clearly articulated, and should include benchmarks you can measure against and accomplish within the first 6-12 months of owning the technology. Setting near-term goals and evaluating every potential software against whether or not it can help you reach them is a surefire way to end up with the highest yielding tech stack.
For example, many businesses want to start using Marketo because they’re heard great things about it. They buy it, hoping to increase lead flow, but without ever stopping to realize that isn’t Marketo’s purpose. If you’re looking to fill your database, Marketo isn’t your solution right now. So make sure every system you consider aligns with measurable, mission-critical goals—or it shouldn’t be on your radar right now.
6. Does this brand have an innovation mindset?
Finally, it should matter to you whether or not a software provider is intent on innovating. Do some digging to find out if they put resources into product development and continue to add functionality and features as time goes on. MarTech companies should know they’re in an evolving space with evolving needs, and do more than just check the boxes that are required today. If they don’t, you may be happy with what they offer today, but you’re likely to end up with unmet expectations down the road.
You could go absolutely crazy evaluating software solutions on a litany of areas, but these are the most critical areas to look into before making a purchase. If you do your homework in these categories, it should become very clear very fast whether or not a system is worth your time and resources.
Moving fast and breaking things is a great slogan on a t-shirt, but when the potential exists to actually break your business and the bank, the quip starts to lose its luster. If you still need more help, check out our MarTech decision tree created to help you evaluate each system thoughtfully. It should give you even more clarity—and maybe even be a little bit fun too (who doesn’t love flow charts—maybe that’s just me?).
Meet Justin Gray
Justin is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Justin has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them, with successful exits of over 200MM+ in the last decade. Justin’s latest endeavor launched in 2016 when he co-founded Six Bricks an online learning startup designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Justin has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing and culture. As a recognized speaker, Justin has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch and others. Justin and his wife Jennifer met over marketing and three years later welcomed their son, Grayson, into the world in April of 2017.