We have shared a great deal of learnings about the importance of “Creating a MarTech Blueprint” to guide your technology investment and integration decisions. And, we have outlined successful formulas for adoption such as “Crawl, Walk, Run.” Today’s post is from Mary Wallace, a Marketing Ops leader who outlines how to identify the best tools – in the endless landscape of marketing tech providers – to meet your business and customer requirements.
“Don’t buy the horses until you understand the cart they have to pull” is a phrase from a bygone era that has never been truer, even in the current state of all things automation.
There is a plethora of tools available for managing and optimizing marketing programs and processes: content marketing solutions, marketing automation platform, deliverability management tools, data management platforms, and the list goes on. With all these options, how to do you determine which tools – if any – should be worked into your current marketing operations to help produce optimal business results?
The decision to purchase a tool or to upgrade an existing solution should not be based on which tools are hot in the marketing industry, or even which have really neat features and functions. Rather, a good, hard look at what’s needed from a business perspective is what’s critical to making a decision on what to do. So many times I’ve been asked by clients and colleagues for my opinion on a particular tool. My response is always the same, and it’s actually two questions lobbed right back to them: “Which business need will it solve?” and “Does the price of the tool exceed the cost of NOT making the purchase?”
Once you have determined business need, how do you select the right solution for your company? Here are 3 essential questions you need to answer in order to make an informed, impactful decision:
1. What’s the problem/need/opportunity?
The first step in making sure you select the right solution is to define your business needs. In other words, nail down what exactly needs to be fixed, what needs to be optimized, and what can accelerate your impact. Once the business requirement(s) are known, evaluate each of them to understand WHY there is a business need. Is the issue process, resource skill, technology gap or maybe a tool missing from the marketing tool belt? Determining the issue is the first step.
2. What does the solution need to do?
For those business requirements that are not process or resource constraints, but rather a tool/feature/function you need for your marketing efforts, put together a Marketing Requirements Document (MRD) that defines your current state, business and marketing goals, what success looks like, and expectations. Here are some key elements that may be included in your MRD:
- What functions need to be performed?
- What throughput (number of transactions, volume, etc.) is needed?
- How many users will use the tool?
- What does it need to integrate with your current technical and business environment?
- What are the technical requirements, including security and service level agreement (SLAs) terms?
- What are the key procurement terms, costs, payment, etc.?
- What training, services and support are available?
- What does the product roadmap look like?
This MRD, which can be formatted as a document or a simple spreadsheet, should be reviewed with the key stakeholders. Once the document is solidified, it will function as the benchmark by which you evaluate the available solutions. Aligning the features and functions of each option against your list of requirements will essentially reveal the tool that best meets your needs. It will also illustrate if there is a solution or it will unveil the need to develop a custom solution.
3. Who is this new player on the team?
Understanding the company – and the people behind it - that produces the product is also essential in the decision-making process. Customer service, access to technical support, uptime reliability, and company reputation are key parts of selecting the right solution. A really flashy and cool product that has constant system issues doesn’t do anyone any good.
With a winnowed down list of options, take your preferred solution(s) for a test drive. Ask for a demo version of the software and/or pilot it taking it through a series of real-life paces in your environment. You wouldn’t buy a car without a test drive; you don’t want to buy software that you will work with every day without first seeing if it lives up to your requirements. If it does…go joyfully!
And congratulations: you have found a new solution that will enable Marketing to create more business value.