If you’ve been in the business world for more than three months, you’ve probably had some vendor reach out to you about buying their software which promises to solve all your problems. There is literally a tool for every possible situation you could imagine. Sometimes there are even tools for things you didn’t realize were a thing!
Scott Brinker at ChiefMarTech.com has been tracking the growth of the marketing technology space for several years. Over 11 years, the number of martech solutions ballooned from about 150 to about 10,000. Couple this complexity with confusing marketing buzzwords, and it can seem nearly impossible for a business leader to figure out which tool(s) are worth an investment and which ones are not a good fit. Where do you even begin? We hope the following seven questions will help you define a clear path forward for your martech investments.
1. What are your business objectives?
Before you agree to a single demo or sign any contracts with a vendor, take a moment to do some analysis of your organization to ensure that you’re ready to make an investment in a new tool. It might seem obvious that you should start by determining your business objectives, but it’s amazing how many people lose sight of this critical first step when they’re looking at a cool new tool that’s promising the moon.
Step back and consider where you need help. Are you looking to streamline or automate your communications? Do you want to ramp up digital advertising? Are you looking to make it easier to update your website? Are you trying to provide your sales team with digital tools they can use in the field? Take the time to figure out what your most urgent business needs are and really press into the vendors to ensure they can actually solve the issues you need solving.
In helping clients onboard new marketing technology, Ryan Ruud from Lake One Digital states, “The most common misunderstanding I run into with marketing automation is that it’s some sort of system that fixes bad sales and marketing. The reality is: marketing automation is not a robot that magically churns out leads, and it’s never, ever a replacement for bad process. Sadly, too many companies get dazzled by some really flashy marketing from martech providers and end up disappointed because they should focus on their strategy and process first before jumping to technology.”
So again, figure out what you’re really trying to solve before investing in any new tool.
2. Will bringing in a new tool require organizational or process changes?
It is important to keep in mind that no tool is a magic wand. It will not “automagically” solve all that ails your business. In fact, it might make some things more difficult. Try to anticipate if there are organizational or business process changes that will need to happen in order to create space for a successful technology deployment.
Do sales and marketing need to agree on a Service Level Agreement (SLA) to ensure a smooth handoff? Will certain people need to adjust where they spend their time? Is there information that must be collected for the business to function? Putting in the effort at the beginning of the project will pay long-term dividends as people know what is expected of them and are able to prepare for changes in the way they work.
3. What does your data situation look like?
For any MarTech tool to be effective, it must have clean, current data to power it. This is not to say that if you have a small amount of data or if your data hasn’t been cleaned up in years, that you shouldn’t move forward. The key is to take an assessment of where you’re at today, so you can make a plan for the future. Create goals for improving your data situation over time. That could mean you come up with a process to standardize, normalize, or augment the existing data you have. It could mean you decide that you’re going to start fresh upon implementation.
Your plan could be that you want to increase the number of accounts or contacts you have by X percent over the next 18 months. The plan needs to be specific to where you’re currently at. But taking an assessment of where you stand and where you’d like to be in the future will be tremendously helpful as you bring on your new tools. And don’t worry; most organizations are in the same boat as you when it comes to data health. The fact that you’re putting a plan in place automatically qualifies you as a leader in technology innovation.
4. Who’s going to run it?
We’ve seen this situation more times than we can count. Someone gets excited about the functionality of a new tool, signs the contract, but hasn’t thought through who is going to do the day-to-day work. Marketing tools don’t instantly reinvigorate your business. It takes effort to build a foundation of assets and processes that will transform a revenue engine over time.
You must have people who know how to operate the tool (or who can learn it). You need someone who is providing the strategy around a marketing vision. Your investment will be squandered if you don’t have the human capital needed to make the software successful. By the way, glomming on an additional responsibility for your lone marker who’s already overworked, or getting an intern to run it, isn’t going to be a recipe for success. Here’s a great resource to get you started thinking about the skills needed to be successful with your new marketing technology investment.
5. What existing systems do you need to integrate it with?
Every business has some sort of technology infrastructure that may warrant an integration with a new marketing tool. That existing stuff might simply be Outlook or Gmail. It could be a CRM, website CMS, or an ecommerce solution. Wherever you land on the tech stack ladder, find tools that will integrate with what you currently use in order to make life easier. When you choose new tools that can be integrated with existing infrastructure, you set the stage to simplify the process and allow data to impact effectiveness.
6. How will you measure its effectiveness?
This is pretty important to start thinking about before you buy something. Obviously, you don’t have to spell out every single report you could ever imagine before you implement. But you should consider what “success” looks like for this tool. Let’s face it, if you’re spending time and money to bring on the tool, it should actually provide some measurable results. Too often, people are sold on all the possible things a new tool could do for the organization, but it doesn’t deliver the panacea that was promised by the software vendor in the sales cycle. Why? We don’t have a good plan for measuring success. Develop your plan early, so you don’t wonder a year later if the investment was worth it.
7. Will it scale for the future?
It’s not easy to predict the future but do your best to take a 3 – 5 year view when thinking about your new tech purchase. Does the tool allow for growth in the size and complexity of your business? Don’t bother with a tool that will only have a one-year shelf life in your organization. If what you’re doing with your marketing efforts will outpace the functionality that’s available in the tool, find a different tool that gives you the flexibility you will need as your business expands.
We hope we haven’t scared you away from considering adding new technology. Yes, there are a lot of considerations to keep in mind as you build your martech stack, but adding new tools can also help take your revenue-generating efforts to new levels if they are implemented and used correctly.
Don’t worry; if you read through this article and thought, “I don’t know where to start.” or “We don’t have people doing marketing who could run a new marketing tool.” that’s okay. Authentic can help you. We offer marketing strategy, coaching and fractional CMO support to small and medium-sized businesses. If you feel like your business growth could use a shot in the arm, but you don’t know where to start, let us come alongside you to make sure you’re successful.
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