Let's start with a few sobering martech stats: 56% of organizations report underutilizing their marketing technology; 21% of companies have platforms or tools they've purchased that aren't being used at all; and only 9% of marketing departments say they have all of the marketing tools they need and fully use them.

So is marketing technology really that hard to get right?

The stats imply that it is. Truthfully, though, I think part of the solution is relatively simple: Make a better purchasing decision.

When you buy a product, you buy the company behind the product, too

When we shop for martech, many of us focus way too much on the product and not enough on the team behind the product. I'm talking about the living, breathing humans who work at companies like Salesforce, Domo, Zapier, and so on.

There are plenty of good products out there. And as the competition increases even more (like it has over the past seven years), good products become bad experiences if the company behind the product fails.

I'm sure we markters do a good job at researching the product. But we need to also start evaluating the company behind the product.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you go shopping for martech.

Sales reps are trying to sell to you

Revolutionary stuff here, I know. But, jokes aside, you need to have a gameplan when talking to sales reps. It happens all the time: A smart, personable sales rep runs you through a product demo. And before you know it, you're handing over cash and signing on the dotted line.

Now, that doesn't mean you can't trust any sales reps. But to avoid impulsive decisions, keep the following questions in mind about reps:

  • Do they ask good questions?
  • Are they trying to understand your brand, product, or industry?
  • Would they tell you if their product weren't a good fit?
  • Are they telling you everything you want to hear, not everything you need to hear?

You'll also want to be clear about who your point of contact will be and what the company's customer service policy is. It's fine and dandy if you click with the sales rep, but after you have the product and things break (and let's be real, they will)... who will be there to help troubleshoot?

Assess risk vs. reward

The truth is, startups tend to be riskier. Note, I said riskier market leaders can fail too). But, by the numbers, only 10% of startups make it, so there's always the concern that the company will fold. And what will happen if it does? Pushing all your data to a Cloud technology startup only to find out it's filing for bankruptcy and you have 48 hours to get all your data out of there... is inconvenient, to say the least.

On the flip side, startups do have their advantages. For one thing, they're much more likely to adjust and update product road maps to meet your specific needs. We can't say the same about some of the huge SaaS empires out there. And the obvious reason you might choose an "off brand" martech solution is, simply, that they tend to be cheaper.

So, balance risk and reward. Where can you afford to go cheap? Where should you dish out a little extra money?

Think about support

Remember those stats at the beginning of this article? Marketers tend to struggle with martech. Which means you're going to need support (no matter how "easy" the martech is to implement or use).

When you evaluate a company, ask about its customer support. Or, better yet, test it. Give them a call. Read what other people are saying about them online. It can be as simple as a quick Google search, or you can sift through popular online forums.

Also keep in mind that even if customer support from a larger organization is lacking in that you can't talk to a real human, maybe the company has a ton of content online that can help you troubleshoot. HubSpot, for example, publishes tons of helpful content to help its users navigate its platform.

Research, research, research

Finally, make sure you're doing some basic research into companies before heading into their sales funnel. Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are they getting any sort of publicity? Do they show up when I search for them in the news?
  • What company information (financials, employee count, etc.) can I find using tools like HubSpot Sales or LexisNexis?
  • Where are they geographically located? Does the timezone matter?
  • Are there language barriers?

Some of that stuff might sound obvious, but small things, such as geographic location, can become big annoyances pretty quickly. If their sales reps are vetting your company, you'd better be vetting theirs, too.

Improve your martech success

Let's quickly recap. Once you've thoroughly stalked the potential vendors—evaluated sales reps, weighed risk and reward from startups vs. market leaders, evaluated support, and completed online research of the company—you probably feel pretty good (or overwhelmed).

Martech is messy. Don't become another statistic. Do the work to evaluate the company behind the product, and you'll put yourself in a much better position to succeed.

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image of Mollie Kuramoto

Mollie Kuramoto is the marketing manager at Element Three, an Indianapolis-based full-service marketing consultancy that helps grow businesses through accountable, transformative marketing.

LinkedIn: Mollie Kuramoto

Twitter: @molliemoto