How to buy marketing technology
We’re going to lean on David Raab’s suggestions for this part. (To get the full story, – including the common mistakes to avoid – get the When Marketers Buy Technology white paper.)
1. Understand your business needs and define your business goals.
Look first to the programs that drive revenue, such as advertising or email nurturing campaigns. Make your definitions clear (such as an improved customer database) and make your goals SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound (such as a 10% increase in opportunities in a given quarter).
2. Spell out your existing processes and create a system requirements list.
This will help you understand (and communicate to vendors) what the new system needs to do to make the goals achievable. If you’re buying technology so you can change a process, be as clear as possible about your expectations.
Understanding the process allows you to create system requirements.
Use case: Let’s say you want to move from an email marketing program to a marketing automation system, in order to be able to do a new process: lead nurturing.
Steps in the process might include:
- List maintenance and management, including segmentation by multiple factors
- Workflow design, including early exit
- Email and landing page creation
- Lead scoring
- Automated transfer of qualified leads to CRM
- Reporting capabilities
Define your steps in detail. For example, know precisely which characteristics and fields your lists must be able to accommodate. This lets you specify what the system will need.
3. Consider a wide range of vendors.
Do the research, and build your list. Look for the vendors and systems you can eliminate, based on information on their website and reviews (on G2Crowd and Trust Radius, for example). Read case studies of companies similar to yours. As David Raab notes, the point here is to consider a large number of options and narrow it down quickly. Keep in mind that along with industry leaders, your research may yield a less well-known solution that is actually the best fit for your needs.
Usually, the marketer finds that some features are available in every product, and many systems will be able to meet your basic needs (e.g., email for those looking at marketing automation). But look to your requirements, and see which require capabilities not standard in all systems. If you need something and the system doesn’t have it, it’s the wrong fit.
Be wary of those products that have more than you need, offering ALL the bells and whistles. This might please a purchasing agent who wants to be sure the company is getting everything it might need, but if you are not prepared for the technical challenge of learning and using all those additional features, it might add undue stress and hinder your effective implementation of the tool itself.
Again, David Raab has useful advice: “You may choose to create a formal scoring matrix to compare vendors; this is an excellent tool for building consensus within a team. Just be sure that you set meaningful weights for each factor, so the most important items are weighed the most heavily.
“One effective approach is to require that weights sum to 100%, since this forces trade-offs that reflect relative priorities. Weights can also include negative values for features that will add complexity or otherwise get in the way of using the system. For factors like data volume and response time, you may need to set up a test system of some sort to ensure the system will scale as required.”