Marketing technology has exploded over the past decade, with new tools for emailing, posting, measuring, generating, responding, tracking, analyzing and everything else you can imagine.
It seems like every other day, some new company or software is touted as the next big thing in marketing. Or, the next big thing (right now it’s account-based marketing) gives way to a blizzard of new software and tools.
It’s tempting to jump on these bandwagons early, in an attempt to gain an early competitive edge. Too often, however, businesses invest in these technologies because they buy into hype, rather than taking the time to make a strategic evaluation of whether or not they really need what’s being offered. Just because you can do something new doesn’t mean you should, or even need to.
Even if you can in fact use the new shiny toy – do you really need it at this point in your evolution or are your strategic processes worth your attention instead?
As the saying goes, don’t fix what isn’t broken. That’s not to say you shouldn’t innovate, or be on the lookout for new systems and technologies that can truly improve your business. But if you already have systems and processes in place that are working well, helping you achieve your goals and they can be scaled for future growth, you have to seriously consider whether a new technology will make a substantial enough change to warrant buying, installing and training employees for a new system.
Now I know some of you are simply early adopters who love trying out the latest toy, and nothing in this article will persuade you otherwise. But for the rest of you, here are some things to consider when evaluating whether or not to sign up.
Determine the needs you’re trying to solve
Marketing technology exists for a purpose: to solve a need within your organization.
Every company has different needs, which is why there are so many different options out there.
Get really specific about what your issues are, and what you need to alleviate them. Looking for an autoresponder to help with your content marketing campaigns? Need a better way to A/B test things on your website? Trying to find a better tool for measuring social engagement?
Some companies buy the most popular or most talked about option, then try to make it solve their organizational challenges. It’s like the proverbial round peg in a square hole; you picked something without knowing what it needed to look like. Figure out your challenges first, then go find the system or systems that will help resolve them.
This is especially helpful during the demo phase. Often, those who demo software to you will only show the most generic, most requested features, which doesn’t really tell you much about what it can do for you. Knowing what particular pains you’re trying to eliminate will help you ask the right questions. You should be in the driver’s seat during this process, so do your homework and come prepared to every sales conversation.
Bring in the right people upfront
Don’t just think in terms of your department. Many marketing automation systems, for example, have robust sales tools. So if you have a sales team, bring them in on the conversation so you can find the options that work best organizationally, not just departmentally. Chances are, they have or need a system anyway, so why not join budgets and forces to find something that works seamlessly, rather than taking a siloed approach?
Also, don’t forget to involve your IT department. IT will help you determine how well different systems will integrate into your company network and work together with other necessary systems. They’ll know what technical questions need to be asked when you’re evaluating and comparing options. They’ll also have a better understanding of software culture, so they can tell who really knows their stuff and offers value and who just offers trumped up solutions disguised behind a pretty website.
Assess multiple options
Rarely is there only one right answer. Chances are, there will be a few different companies that provide the services you need. Don’t just go with the name you know. And while something may come highly recommended by someone you trust, remember that their needs are different from yours, and what works for them may not work for you.
Early adopters like to jump on the newest name in the market. But here’s a statistic that should give you pause: according to a study by Allmand Law, around 90% of tech startups will fail. So if you’re the type that likes getting on board early, know that “next big thing” might not be around in a year or two—and think about the effect that can have on your business.
Besides viability, there are a number of things to consider as you compare options, including:
- Tools and features – This is somewhat obvious, but how well do the tools and features address and solve the pain points you’ve identified? It may be impossible to find one system that does everything you need, but you should evaluate which one comes closest.
- Learning curve – How much time and training will your team need to get up and running?
- Expertise – Is the implementation process complicated? Do you have people on staff with expertise in setting up similar systems and processes, or will you need an outside resource to provide assistance?
- Resources – What kind of resources are available, via customer service, training materials, user communities, etc.
- Scalability – Sure, it works for where you are now, but how about a year from now? Five years from now?
- Integration – How well will the system integrate with others you have or need, like Salesforce.com? Is the API easy to work with?
- Cross-departmental use – Can the system be used to solve more than just your challenges? Are there tools and features that can streamline things across multiple departments?
Take your time
Time is money. We all know that. But technology is a big investment, and we’re not just talking money. You’re agreeing to a whole new system, with new processes and a new ways of doing things. It requires a commitment of time, personnel and resources, and in some cases, a whole culture shift to a new way of thinking. With so much on the line, you can see why making a quick decision is not in your best interest, not matter how urgent your needs.
Don’t rush the selection process. You don’t want to choose something quickly, only to realize in six months that it’s the wrong solution and now you have to start all over again—or worse, you’re stuck with it. Take your time to do it right. Talk to people. Watch demos and videos. Ask many, many questions. Weigh the pros and cons. And don’t default to the cheapest (or most expensive) option.
With the right approach, you’ll feel confident that when you do make a choice, it’s the right one.
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