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Nine Critical Issues to Consider Before You Buy Marketing Software

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In today's rapidly changing, increasingly digitized economy, marketing software has become the lifeblood of savvy marketers. It can often be the determining factor between success and failure both for your marketing campaigns and for your brand.

But today's marketing software landscape is flooded with thousands of solutions offering varying features and benefits: There were, in fact, more than 3,500 solutions on the market as of 2016, and that number is likely to only go up.

That sort of environment can make it nearly impossible to find the right marketing technology for your organization.

Here are nine valuable tips to help you make the right martech call to enhance your core marketing initiatives.

1. Determine the 'Why'

Before you begin any sort of marketing software selection process, you should ask yourself "why": Why do you need it? Uncover the top five things that matter most to you, which is how you will define success in this process.

Then, those central issues can help you to determine a detailed list of the problems you are looking to solve. How big are the problems? What sort of impact can this software have on your bottom line? Answering those questions can lead you to uncovering the core features you require in your marketing software.

Vendors can then discuss with you how their software can help you. Once that process is complete, companies that you feel comfortable with can compete for your business through the RFP process.

2. Advance what's working

When we're searching for solutions, we tend to focus on what's not working and what we need to fix. But in the case of buying software, you should carefully look at existing behavior and advance what your team is doing instead of starting from scratch.

Analyze and share your current workflow process, and make sure you pay just as much attention to what is working as you do to what isn't. Put it all out there. You want your solution to make processes easier and better, so it's important to zero-in on current solutions that already help do that.

3. Beware of 'walled gardens'

As I noted, there are thousands of marketing solutions available to you. Most often, it's best to combine solutions to solve the individual needs of your business: By working with only "best-in-breed" products, you can create a high-level hybrid solution that can more effectively solve your marketing problems.

That's because there is no Swiss Army knife in marketing software. No one company can provide a universal right solution—and none should make that claim. The only right answer is the one that fits your team specifically.

Accordingly, when looking at potential partners, make sure their software can connect with other software solutions you may be currently using or you're considering using in the future. You'll thank yourself in the long run.

4. Keep it simple

Software should be easy to use and to adopt. If you aren't careful, you could hand over an advanced solution to your team with 50,000 extra bells and whistles that they won't ever use. It's easy to build software that can do everything, but it's much harder to create something useful, concise, and targeted.

It may sound counterintuitive, but the more people you want using the software, and the bigger your team, the easier and clearer your software solution should be to use.

5. Know the trends

A lot of micro shifts happening in the marketing industry are hard to keep track of, but there are also lots of macro trends—which are easier to identify and keep up with. Knowing what they are specifically will help you make sure you pick the right software for your company's needs.

6. Stay in your lane

Unless you are a marketing software company (in which case, why are you shopping for software?) you should not build your solution in-house.

I understand how tempting it can be to want to build something that's customized, or to think that your internal solution might work well. But, no matter how talented your IT team is, there are many factors beyond the initial build.

For example, marketing software companies are continuously building, maintaining, supporting, innovating, iterating, and assessing. Then they do all that again and again. It is highly unlikely that in-house IT teams have that amount of time to give to only one area of your business. Nor would they have the time to keep up with the ever-changing technology.

Your best bet would be to take advantage of the innovations of the marketing software industry so that you can excel in your own.

7. Prioritize adoption

Prioritize adoption, high and low and on all ends, from executives to practitioners. When you understand the business needs of all involved, you'll find yourself in an advantageous position.

Even if you found the perfect software (which, by the way, doesn't exist), it's nothing without buy-in and adoption from the people who are above you and below you in the chain of command.

After you get that buy-in and put the software in place, take care to schedule regular check-ins. Ask these people how it can be better and how it can be evolve; everyone's perspective is valuable. Purchasing software is the starting line, not the finish line.

8. Understand the importance of ROI

Software can be a major investment for your company. You must be able to provide a measurable value to that investment by proving ROI.

The first step is to know the audience you are proving ROI to. Who is the budget holder, and what will affect that person most? For example, if your stakeholder is numbers-driven, then show hard data; show how much money this software is saving. Or maybe the soft metrics of things you just can't quantify will resonate more; that might mean reduction of wasted time, risk-mitigation, and optimizing of impressions.

You should also seek to match ROI to the earlier "why" list—the key requirements you wanted from the software. Doing so can help determine real value.

In addition, remember that investment returns require investment in the first place: Don't go for the cheapest software just because it's the cheapest. You are likely to get what you pay for. When determining the budget, measure the potential impact the software could have on your bottom line.

Finally, continuously prove ROI by scheduling regular check-ins with your key stakeholders.

9. Go for it: Avoid paralysis by analysis

Although making deliberate, calculated decisions likely makes you a responsible business leader, in this case that approach may not be to your advantage. Make the decision to go for it, and jump in with both feet.

Technology changes so rapidly that you can't afford to allow the sheer volume of the choices and your analysis of them slow down or paralyze your decision-making. Make speed and adaptability your friends. That means allowing your processes to account for both quickness and the constant change of technology.

And, perhaps the most important thing to take into consideration here: If you don't like it, you're just renting it, and so move on to something that may work better for you.

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I hope that these tips can help you navigate the marketing software purchase process a little more easily.

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Chris Gomersall is the CEO and founder of ATOMIZED, provider of visual marketing calendars for brands and agencies, including editorial, marketing communications, brand planning, and publishing calendars.

LinkedIn: Chris Gomersall

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  • by Ksenia Newton Mon Jun 19, 2017 via web

    Chris, such a great article! Thank you for sharing. You have made a really good point about marketing software becoming “the lifeblood of savvy marketers.” We live in a fast - paced world, and even 48-hour-days are not enough to execute upon the many marketing initiatives we have on our to-do lists. That’s why more and more marketers are leaning toward agile marketing that helps them stay organized and grow. And getting the right marketing tools and software is an integral part of growth strategy.

    Just like having a personal organizer can improve your efficiency; having a business calendar that identifies, outlines and manages various marketing activities, can supercharge your organizational efforts and drive better results.

    At my firm, we recommend to think through the following questions before considering purchasing a marketing calendar software for your business:
    1. Are you currently using multiple spreadsheets to manage marketing calendars for your different marketing departments?
    2. Do you have several divisions or brands maintaining their own marketing plans?
    3. Are you a global organization seeking to share and communicate your marketing plans for different regions to various stakeholders?
    4. Do you have several marketing departments managing different marketing channels?
    5. Do you have challenges communicating your marketing plan to internal and external stakeholders?
    6. Are you having challenges managing and communicating the changes to marketing plan as well as controlling who and when can make those changes?
    7. Do you see a need to communicate a marketing plan in a single standardized format to ensure consistency?

    Answering Yes to these questions can signify that your organization or business has a need for a better way of consolidating and executing your marketing initiatives. For more advice on how to scale your marketing operations, consider reading [comment modified by MarketingProfs]

  • by Chris Fuelling Tue Jun 20, 2017 via web

    Great article Chris. I especially like the "Walled Gardens" reference. It's essential to have a platform that encourages an ecosystem of outside apps and also connects your companies main CRM & marketing tools. Many marketing automation platforms today are doing a good job of that.

    We learned that the hard way couple years back, by building an ESP platform with phone triggers that connected reps with warm prospects that recently opened or clicked a CTA link in an e-mail. The companies that liked the phone-triggers strategy wanted it to work inside their sales & marketing stack, and not have to manage a silo application, no matter how great it was.

    So we rebuilt the application as a middleware/microservice (in tech speak) that plugs into ANY CRM, E-mail, or marketing automation platform without having to use APIs. Connecting 3rd party apps in this way continues to get easier and easier and is no longer a job required by IT departments. [Comment modified by MarketingProfs.]

  • by Stephen C. Wed Jun 21, 2017 via web

    Great article! Having run marketing at a number of tech startups No. 8 is very important. To fully leverage many MarTech products, make sure you bake into your ROI the cost to run the product/service. The cost of the software and the head hours have to be factored in and often, in the case of marketing automation, that cost will include expensive external resources.

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