Have you invested in a MarTech solution or tech vendor that sucked your team’s time, budget or resources? Or one that simply didn’t fulfill on its grandiose promises? If so, was it your fault, the provider’s responsibility, or equal share? It’s a perfect time for a gut check.
There are thousands of marketing technologies and even more service options available to boost your ability to: acquire new prospects, nurture ongoing relationships, analyze and measure marketing performance, personalize experiences, automate all forms of media buying and social sharing, manage the gigs of data….and the list goes on. The number of product “pitches” you get could fill your calendar for weeks, taking valuable time away from you and your team.
Over the last five years, as technology has become essential to successful marketing, I’ve seen firsthand how high-performing marketing organizations, and marketing software sales pros, use an important criterion to assess MarTech products and services: Business Value Alignment (BVA). The good news is that BVA can be done early in your research process, before you invest too much precious time on budget-scoping, assessing and implementing a misaligned solution.
Business Value Alignment Defined
While not a new business concept, BVA refers to the business value created for both you as the buyer and for the prospective MarTech solution provider when you buy and implement a solution. To identify martech business value, you should first categorize your needs and the various solutions available that will improve marketing results:
- Filling a critical gap in your existing systems and processes (e.g., implementing data validation to your prospect/lead acquisition processes)
- Adding a new capability to your marketing/sales effort (e.g., installing predictive analytics or content marketing software)
- Consolidating existing systems/technologies to provide an inclusive, more efficient solution (e.g., moving from an email provider to a marketing automation platform)
- Developing new systems from scratch (e.g., a start-up venture onboarding website to CRM connections)
Any business arrangement with your tech provider should be beneficial to each party’s business. And, both must have skin in the game to increase the odds of success for all parties. This effort requires equal diligence and commitment by marketing leaders AND the prospective MarTech providers. You’ve likely heard the mantra, “Fire your sh*^^y customers” — this is software community slang for “Only work with customers who are good for business.” Well, the same goes for ridding yourself of weak providers that simply don’t add business value to your top or bottom line. In other words, double down on those providers that have BVA.
How to Apply BVA
While not rocket science, it’s very easy to ineffectively identify, scope, select and implement a MarTech solution. Here are some hard-earned tips on rapidly getting to BVA between you and your prospective provider(s).
- Discover your basic needs and requirements Most of the time you know these because you and the team are feeling the pain. These can also be gathered and verified by interviewing stakeholders within your company or asking marketing peers at other organizations what they’re doing to advance their capabilities (specifically, what has worked and what hasn’t). These don’t need to be exact specs, yet — that would be a waste of time. Formulate your best informed guesses and ideas; you can validate and get more precise later.
- Create a MarTech blueprint for all visualize: One of the most effective ways to illustrate BVA is to create a MarTech blueprint. This is a simple visual diagram that outlines your current tech, systems, processes and data flow, allowing you to identify the gaps, overlaps and chokepoints. The blueprint shows you where you need to improve, bring in new solutions or consolidate existing processes or technology to achieve your desired goals. This approach gives you a baseline to work from with a visual for easy communications.
- Bring in a short list of prospective providers for education, verification and added value: Give them your goals and ideas in advance to make this an optimal working session. See who challenges your thinking and proposes different approaches. Ask them to include discussions around “How do they see the market playing out in the next 12-24 months?”, “What are their customers doing to succeed?”, “What makes a good implementation?” and “What makes a ‘tech gone wild’ scenario?” (also ask the provider to share what hasn’t worked and why). These topics often unveil new insights about the prospective providers. You’ll see their culture, how they think and how they work; in MarTech, this attribute can be just as important as the technology or service they offer.
- Scope both a proof of concept and a full adoption model: The ultimate BVA test is to put the tech or service to work in your environment. This controlled process has several advantages, including: experiencing firsthand how your team responds and uses the technology or service; determining how much change in talent or process is really required; identifying power users and champions who will pave the way for the rest of the team; and assessing true BVA for the investment and commitment you are about to make. In addition, sketch out what full adoption will look like; this will help the solution eventually scale.
- Determine joint success metrics: Ask yourself, your team and stakeholders what success should look like in one month, a quarter or at the end of the first year. What are the key results to measure ROI? You’ll want to capture these questions from both your organization and the provider to determine BVA. This effort underlines the need for ‘skin in the game’ by both companies, increasing your odds of success and more rapid time to value.
Business Value Alignment is not a new concept, but in my experience, one not regularly practiced in the MarTech world. Applying BVA is a simple approach that has significant upside for your marketing department and builds further credibility with your business stakeholders. It assures them that you’re making smart investments before you invest already strapped resources and budget. As a fast-growing MarTech providerwe’re working hard to make this part of our process at Integrate, both for our marketing department and for our customers. So far, so good.