By Marcia Riefer Johnston published October 12, 2017
Marketing automation tools. Social media tools. Collaboration tools. As a marketing leader, you’re faced with a crushing number of marketing technologies to consider: almost 5,000 of them, falling into some 75 categories. When it’s time to consider new technology, how on earth do you know what all to consider?
B2B Marketing Academy co-founder Peg Miller has some guidance. Peg talked at the Intelligent Content Conference about Your Next Marketing Technology Implementation: How to Survive, Thrive, and Keep Your Job. In this post, I sum up what she had to say on three points:
- Prioritize people and process over technology.
- Seek as simple a solution as possible.
- Ask questions from multiple perspectives.
Prioritize people and process over technology
The people-process-tech model, which puts technology at the end of the decision-making process, has been around for decades. Still, companies often rush into marketing-technology decisions before they understand their current processes or lack of processes.
I like the way Peg made this point in a CMI article earlier this year:
To prepare for any technology implementation, document the holes or weaknesses in your processes. This knowledge will help you eradicate poor processes before you replicate them inside of a new technology.
Monitor and document your processes until you fully uncover the way your teams do things today, Peg says. Find out where you lack processes and where you need to do things differently. Improve your processes as much as possible before you buy.
In many cases, the changes companies need to make don’t even require new technology.
When you need technology as part of the solution, address process issues and pain points before you move over to new tools. “Companies often adopt new technology and keep bad processes,” Peg says.
For example, one company she worked for bought a tool, staffed up, hired an integrator, and did all the things the way you should do it. After a year, “we realized, wow, we’re still churning out all these email newsletters, batch-and-blasting. We had ported our email service provider into a marketing automation system. We fell into that trap of using old process in a new tool rather than using the new tool the way it should be used.”
In a nutshell, “plan long and execute short.” Don’t be in a hurry to get a new tool in place. Whenever possible, avoid pulling out what you have – the rip-and-replace approach. Migrations, Peg warns, are usually painful.
Get agreement from your executive level – whoever is signing off on this decision – as to how you will measure success of any tool you choose.
Finally, work with your IT team. “Marketers love to bring in new technologies and break things. We know how to market, not how to buy and implement technology,” Peg says.
For any technology you’re considering, evaluate – and promote – the user payoff. Successful implementations are fueled by payoffs.
For example, even if you bring a technology to improve reporting from an executive’s standpoint, keep in mind the people who must use the system to create that great reporting. How will you convince them to use this technology? Will it save them time? Are they going to have better reporting for themselves? Are they going to have easier access to content they created? Can they reuse their content in new ways? The people using the tools must see what’s in it for them.
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Seek as simple a solution as possible
When you’re considering new technology, look for ways to keep things simple. As Peg suggests:
- Plan no more than one year ahead. No one knows what martech tools will be capable of three years from now. Get comfortable with planning quarterly and annually, and choose your tools accordingly.
- Look for tools that require minimal central administration. The beauty of these technologies is that they simplify complex processes. Don’t get yourself tangled up with a tool that makes it seem you’re going to need an administrator and you’re going to have to do all this work to make the tool perfect. That’s a big red flag, especially if you are trying to be a nimble organization.
- Find tools that work for the biggest naysayers on your team. You might have designers, copywriters, content creators, and people working with social media and analytics. Some may shy away from tools that strike them as overly complex. They may say, “I am not working in this or that tool because it keeps me from doing my job.” Look for tools that the biggest naysayers on your team find helpful in some way. Your early adopters will fall in line.
- Avoid overanalysis. Analyze whatever information you have; don’t wait around for the perfect decision. You’re not making a lifetime commitment. Stay focused on looking for tools that enable your team to do more or to do their jobs better. Be wary of tools that add steps to your process, require burdensome training, or take extra ramp time.
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Ask questions from multiple perspectives
When you’re creating RFPs or otherwise researching martech vendors, ask questions like the ones listed below. Dig for answers until you find a vendor that fits what you need. You’re not necessarily looking for set answers. “You want to know what you’re getting into,” Peg says.
- How long have you or your product been in the market?
- Have you worked successfully with companies like ours (of a similar size, using similar processes, in a similar industry)?
- How have you solved problems like ours?
- How many customers do you have?
- What references can you give us from customers similar to us?
- What’s your retention rate? (Peg notes that the retention rate may predict future success. For example, a SaaS company that’s retaining only 40% of its customers may disappear within a year or two. This information may feel confidential to them, and they may avoid answering, especially if the number is low. As Peg says, “You’ve got your answer at that point.”)
Support and service
- Is support free? If not, what are the fees? What levels of support do you offer?
- Are services free? Do you provide a basic level of free service for all customers? Do you offer an extra service package?
- What is our access to support teams, service teams, and other resources?
- How is the transition from sales to post-sales?
- How experienced are the support and service people assigned to our account?
Analytics and reporting
- What out-of-the-box analytics and reporting features are available?
- Can we easily customize reports and dashboards?
- Does your company help with customizations (either creating them or providing training)? Or are we on our own?
- What kind of snapshots (monthly, quarterly, etc.) and comparison reports are available?
- Can this tool measure success in the way we require?
- How do you receive feedback from customers (bugs, feature requests, etc.)?
- Do you have an active community, a user summit, or other ways for users to share ideas?
- Does the tool require a central administrator? Can our team use the tool without external support?
- How will the tool help us do our jobs better? (Users must be motivated to use the tool.)
- What technical or human resources do we need for planning, budgeting, migrating, integrating? (Don’t buy a tool as a cost savings if you’re going to spend more money on it and all the trappings around it to achieve success.)
- What kinds of content do you provide?
- What do people on social media and on review sites say about this vendor?
- What clues can we get from the way reps behave during the RFP process? (Are they organized? Are they on time? Are they kind? Are they rude? All those are clues about the culture of the company.)
- What can we learn from a test, pilot, or trial?
When it’s time to consider a new marketing technology, the first thing to do has nothing to do with technology: Assess your processes and address any issues you can. When you’re ready to research your martech options, seek the simplest solution possible. And invest time in asking questions – those listed above and others.
Don’t automatically go with the top vendor in the industry or the most expensive, Peg advises, or you could end up buying things that your teams don’t use. “Find the fit for you.”
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