New Isn’t Always Better: A Case for Evaluating Existing MarTech First

evaluating current marketing tech systemsPrep Tools for 2016 Planning

It’s 2016 marketing planning season. Time to strategically rethink your marketing initiatives and tech investments to meet next year’s business goals. This is a golden opportunity to look at your marketing technology roadmap and add new solutions to make you and your team better, faster.

While new can be awesome, many times what you have on hand may be good enough and even better if you focus on optimizing its application. 

This is not an anti-new, kick-ass technology – quite the contrary. Rather, what I see working is prioritizing your choices. If you can be creative with using the tools you have today AND make sure your new tools work with what you’ve got, you can invest in the right new, game-changing tech and processes.

In fact, according to many marketing pros I talked to, the focus on these two “filters” can make your new tools and processes that much better.

I bantered with my marketing peers to get a reality check on my thinking. All agreed that it’s easy to fall into a common trap – ignore the existing stuff and look for new stuff instead. There’s actually a name for this: “Shiny Object” syndrome. 

This marketing disease is only exacerbated by the proliferation of marketing technology, where we show-off our cool tools and fancy analytics like Academy Awards.

Ben Staley of Rackspace succinctly paints a picture of the current marketing environment:

"Executives are much more aware of what marketing is contributing and spending today. There’s a bright light shining on every marketing investment so we better be able to justify and show crystal clear value.”

With that in mind, here are some observations and words of wisdom from highly respected, successful marketing leaders.

Start by Examining Your Current Tech, Processes and Needs

One effective way to jump start this work is to develop a MarTech Blueprint to evaluate your current marketing and tech environment based on your 2016 goals.

This methodical approach allows you to take inventory, identify gaps and potential areas of consolidation. Most importantly, it helps you document your processes, data flows and core systems integrations (or disconnections).

The blueprint becomes a clear visualization that maps business requirements and goals to determine both new investment priorities and where to optimize and integrate with the tools and processes you use today. We do this for our own planning at Integrate and with each of our marketing customers to make sure our solution has business value.  

Ben shares his example with the rollout of a new content management effort:

“When we recently evaluated content marketing platforms, we established a best practice to have a working, manual process in place first. This allowed us to have clear goals identified, process impact scoped and an understanding of the value offered by a solution. In the end, we were very clear on what we needed and how it was going to be used to deliver value to the marketing team and the business."

Look Inside Your Own MarTech Portfolio

Our natural tendency is start our research on what’s new or what’s out there to solve our marketing need or challenge. Before you look externally to the industry and start drafting your RFP, take a good, strong look at your existing technology and vendors’ capabilities. It may be – perhaps with a bit of tweaking – faster, good enough, better ROI and/or cheaper.

Tom Kahana, Marketing Ops leader at Imprivata, suggests focusing on optimization versus replacement first. The list is already long enough on new tools needed to advance your capabilities. Tom shared a very good example with me recently around conversion forms:

“Prior to joining Limelight Networks, I’d never used Demandbase for form augmentation. I had my own preferred solution. My instinct was to onboard the ‘shiny new car,’ so to speak, that I was comfortable with. I vetted the existing solution, went with it, and it worked very well. In fact, we saw a 30% improvement on form conversions.”

Another example comes from Adam New-Waterson, CMO of LeanData:

“When I first joined LeanData, I was evaluating technologies for my sales colleagues. I couldn't find something that met all of my needs as a marketer and fully facilitated my sales colleagues. I was concerned about allocating my budget to something that might not see full adoption. Instead I reconsidered my options and realized that I could meet the same need by utilizing a technology I had already purchased. It certainly wasn't as good as a standalone solution; however, I was able to save resources and expend a minor amount of effort customizing my existing solution to meet my new needs.”

Think Through Unintended Consequences

Bringing in new stuff may complicate things, not make them better. In a conversation with Beki Scarbrough, VP Integrated Marketing at CA Technologies, she amplified an important point often forgotten in our haste to find new technology.

“You not only have to think through ‘Is the technology solving a problem?’ But, in addition, ‘will it create a whole new set of challenges that may not be worth making an addition or a switch?’”

Beki shared an example for a very important technology that is near and dear to all data-driven marketers – personalization:

We use personalization tools that are now full of rich data we’ve developed over time to better target, personalize customer experiences, and make important marketing decisions. As we developed a new website, the selected web provider also offered personalization tools. If we make this switch, we could be forced to start over on personalization data – an unintended consequence that could seriously impact our effectiveness. The good news is we have smart people who are passionate about our tech and, even more, our success. We were able to meet as a bigger team and find the best path forward.”

Don’t Just Buy the “Next Thing” Because It’s Available

Another trap we marketers can fall into is buying too many tools or features from our core systems providers, simply because it’s available through their suite or platform. This is especially true when you have something already in place that’s working well and doesn’t require moves, additions or changes that can slow down your marketing efforts.

Our team at Integrate is going through this right now for 2016 as our Salesforce.com instance has a current list of five new features that are being evaluated for onboarding. What we’re finding is that most of these we have through other tools, such as data appending and campaign personalization. We’ll likely put our effort into making these existing tools more effective, so we can add more budget to customer acquisition. 

Look at TCO, Especially on “Rolling Your Own”

The other dilemma we often face is to buy or build. There has been much written on this topic and it’s best saved for its own blog and debate. However, the lesson here is to make sure you understand the true short- and long-term costs of a solution.

Adam shares this view:

“There are times that you can build your own ‘in-house’ solution, but one that comes with a horrific total cost of ownership (TCO). I’ve seen companies attempt to save money and end up spending more in internal resources dedicated to prop up poorly customized solutions. You need to do a cost-benefit analysis to determine whether a new solution can dramatically impact metrics over utilizing existing technologies. ‘Penny wise, Pound foolish’ is something I think about all the time.”

During this golden era of marketing and the abundance of technology, it’s really easy to get caught up in the latest and greatest tools. Depending on your goals, this absolutely may be the right play. However, before you pull out your corporate titanium card to purchase, it’s critical to take a fresh look at what we already have and see how we can get more out of it or re-deploy in a new way for more value. Getting this right will make a big difference on you and your team’s impact in 2016.

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