The process of purchasing and implementing marketing technology can be daunting. There are many stakeholders, budget implications, and thousands of technology options for every marketing need. It can be easy to get overwhelmed by the process before you even start it — and even more so, it can be easy to get lost in the excitement of looking at new technology, shiny demos, and forward-looking statements.
Similarly, it's not uncommon to get caught up in the process of evaluating new martech because you (or someone on your team) is enamored by the latest "hot" tool or maybe even because you're not properly using your existing tech stack for maximum effectiveness.
Investing in the right martech is paramount to the success of the modern-day marketing team. But the truth is that knowing which tools are the right ones actually to invest in is really hard. With so many platforms available (MAPs, ESPs, CRMs, CDPs, etc.), understanding how each tool impacts your ability to meet your goals is important — but so is understanding how to evaluate these tools to ensure they're the right ones for you. Otherwise, you risk poor ROI, lack of adoption, or wasted investment.
To avoid these common mishaps, here are five important steps that are often missed or overlooked when evaluating martech. By learning from the mistakes of others, you can remain focused on the task at hand to help ensure you're wisely investing time and money into the process.
'What challenge are we trying to solve for?' is the most essential question you should be asking yourself, and one you should keep coming back to over and over again as you begin discovery and discussions with various vendors. Are we trying to update inadequate or outdated software? Are we trying to enable journey orchestration for the broader marketing team? Are you looking to get more out of your email program that your current platform just can't provide now that you've scaled? Or would you consider the root of the issue to be more upstream, and maybe you're actually trying to solve a data problem? Or is it even possible that perhaps you are just not well-enabled on the capabilities of your existing tools?
It's too easy to blame software across your martech stack for poor results or lacking a feature you've seen at a keynote, but you have to take a step back and really get to the root of the issue and figure out what you're trying to address. It helps to narrow down to 3 main challenges to tackle. Once you have the big 3 – the non-negotiables – you'll have a better idea of what you actually need to address from a software and implementation partner standpoint. Once you know what you're trying to solve for, you're ready to move to the next step of the evaluation process.
This question is similar to the first question we addressed, but it's slightly more focused on where you want to go and not what you're currently struggling with.
Marketing technology is an investment in every sense: monetarily, organizationally, and strategically. So it should not only alleviate the challenges you're facing today but unlock new capabilities that set you down a path of success as more challenges inevitably arise tomorrow.
If your marketing strategy is well-defined and established, you should be able to pinpoint where this technology fits in your roadmap and if its functionality is required before adding it to your stack. If not, we recommend getting aligned on your strategy first — defining your goals and how you will get there — before evaluating new tools. Technology should be the vehicle, not the end destination. Think of your people as the driver, data as the fuel, and processes as the map.
One of the most important aspects of adding or replacing technology in your marketing technology stack is, does it work well with your existing marketing technology stack. It seems obvious, but it's often overlooked. Every martech stack is unique, so it's important to vet the technology and how it will work with what technology you're already leveraging (and how it will scale with future needs)! You wouldn't hire someone for a critical role if they had the skills to get the job done but weren't a company fit and didn't get along with the rest of your all-star team, right? Marketing technology is no different.
One of the ways to evaluate tech stack fit is to dig into the technology's integration capabilities and work with the vendor and partner to determine how it will integrate with the existing stack. You should also consider the new technology's impact on the existing infrastructure, such as the impact on data flow and security. By taking a holistic approach to integrating any new marketing technology into your stack, you can ensure that you're leveraging the full capabilities of its tools to drive better results. Some of the questions you can ask to get through this stage are:
Another critical piece of understanding how this fits into your stack is digging into the roadmap of prospective vendors. Is it possible that a new feature they're rolling out will allow you to consolidate your tech stack further? Are they continuing to add features that will be relevant/usable to your team? Are they sunsetting functionality that you planned on leveraging? By becoming familiar with a vendor's roadmap, you can ensure they will be a viable long-term partner.
You've done it! You invested in a new tool that aligns with your goals, alleviates your challenges, and fits into the rest of your stack — and now the real fun starts. It's time to implement and learn how to maximize your investment. It's officially a race to a positive ROI.
One of the biggest mistakes we see — and ultimately help fix — is when a company decides to implement with minimal-to-no help from the vendor or a partner. They have engineers on staff capable of figuring it out, and it'll save money in the short term. Both are true statements, but this kind of short-sighted thinking ultimately leads to costly delays, fractional workstreams, and a rocky start to your vendor relationship. Working with an implementation partner — especially one that has deep expertise in the platform you just invested in — will help accelerate time-to-value, ensure that you're correctly implementing the platform and setting yourself up for success, and help you understand how to maximize the various features of the platform to achieve your goals.
Along these same lines, the final step of any successful implementation is training for your team. Strong enablement is the foundation of your ongoing commitment to this technology — and of course, this is much more difficult when following a poor implementation.
What is your plan for training the various teams that will interface with this new tech? The plan should include an assessment of the existing knowledge and skills of the employees and identify any gaps that need to be addressed. It should also detail the different types of training that will be provided, such as online tutorials, in-person workshops, and on-the-job coaching, as well as the timelines and budgets for each type. Partners can also offer ongoing enablement and support as you grow within the platform.
You devoted time and resources to the acquisition and implementation, and now it's time to start seeing results. Measuring marketing technology's success and return on investment (ROI) can be challenging, but it is crucial to justify the investment and ensure that it delivers value.
Before your investment, sit down with the necessary stakeholders and chart out what success looks like in both the functionality this technology enables and the implementation of this software. What KPIs do we measure from a marketing standpoint? For a marketing automation platform, it could be measuring the increase in lead generation, conversion rates, and, ultimately, revenue. Or even reducing tech spend but maintaining existing functionality? You may measure success by how much time your team has saved or how quickly you can deploy new marketing activities. The ultimate question is: how has this piece of technology-driven tangible results?
For implementation, how quickly did we go from zero to one, methodically knocking out our main challenges while constantly grooming a backlog? If we're migrating from one platform to another, are we completely off our old platform? Do we still need to include any key functionality now that we're live that we still need help with? Is our team equipped to administer this technology full-time?
If you know what you're measuring and how you're measuring it, you'll have the baseline guide – and be able to spot potential pitfalls to get you back on track – to have a successful acquisition and implementation. And, of course, this all starts at the beginning, when you understand what challenges you're actually solving and establishing how a new piece of technology will help you achieve your goals.