Buying the wrong marketing technology can cost brands a pretty penny—or rather an ugly couple grand. To prevent marketers from making the wrong investments, here are eight mistakes they should avoid when purchasing mar-tech.
1. Failing to develop a strategic framework. Before making an investment, marketers need to establish a clear, strategic framework that prioritizes which services and functionalities are most important to their business, says Scott Brinker, cofounder and chief technology officer of content marketing solution provider ion interactive.
"You should never evaluate a marketing technology product in a vacuum, but rather in the context of your marketing strategy," says Brinker, who is also the editor of the mar-tech blog Chief Marketing Technologist.
Indeed, Matt Gehring, VP of marketing for Leaf Group (home to media brands LIVESTRONG.com and eHow), encourages marketers to identify which problems or opportunities they're trying to address, how addressing them will add value to the organization, and whether implementing new technology will actually help meet these objectives.
2. Not specifying what you need in RFPs or demo requests. Once marketers have outlined what they need in a system (see mistake number one), they must clearly communicate these needs when sending RFPs or scheduling demo requests, notes John A. Caldwell, president of Red Pill Email (the email consultancy behind the "Email Vendor Features and Functions Guide").
"Know what you need, then what you want, before wasting anyone's time sending and reviewing RFPs or product demos," he says. "Product demos are for seeing if the technology meets your requirements and if the company with that technology is a working match with your company."
3. Ignoring the need to learn the marketing lingo. The vendor pitch is similar to a standard employee interview, notes Ahmed Elemam, digital transformation consultant at Web and business solutions provider AKN Solutions: "It over indexes on the presentation skills and under indexes on the core needs of the competencies required for the job."
So, how are marketers supposed to know whether a vendor is truly the right fit for their company? Elemam says it's important for marketers to learn how to speak the "new language of marketing technology" to ensure that the people, processes, and solutions all align with the company's current and future ecosystem.
"It is ‘marketing technology literacy' that would allow us to read the ecosystem questions carefully and write the right marketing technology solutions that will help improve and impact the full ecosystem (people, processes, technology)," he says.
4. Failing to ask the right questions. Elemam knows that assessing marketing technology is no easy feat. So, he recommends asking detailed questions that will force the vendor to prove how a technology solution will satisfy the company's unique needs.
5. Assuming that new technology will seamlessly integrate with the existing stack. Building a technology stack is like assembling a puzzle: Marketers need to incorporate pieces that fit well together and help complete a broader vision—not jam them in on an ad hoc fashion. That's why Gehring advises marketing professionals to consider the "broader implications" around integrating a new solution. Failing to do so, he notes, can lead to team issues, timeline extensions, and even the inability to fully leverage the purchased product due to system restrictions.
Eric Stahl, SVP of product marketing for CRM platform Salesforce, also says having a disconnected technology stack will lead to disjointed channels—making it difficult for marketers to deliver the "right message, at the right time, and in the right place" and provide tailored customer experiences
6. Relying too heavily on crowdsourcing. Every marketer has his or her opinion about which platform works best, but that doesn't mean that buyers should take each one to heart. Every marketing department has its own unique needs and skill sets, which is why Caldwell discourages marketers from relying too heavily on crowdsourcing.
"What value is the opinion of an unknown group of individuals with unknown qualifications that know nothing about your needs and requirements—and may not be learned or skilled in those requirements even if they did—to your purchasing decision of technology to market your business or wares?" he says. "My dentist and my mechanic each have an opinion; which is better qualified to give me advice on marketing technology?"
7. Having isolated data and silos. Having siloed data storage solutions, budgets, and software can lead to departments having different priorities and success metrics, Stahl says, making it difficult for teams to cooperate or be transparent. Sales representatives might not have access to customers' online behaviors, he notes, and customer service agents might not be able to track followers on social media and monitor their concerns. Therefore, it's important to break down these barriers.
8. Forgetting the exit strategy. Not all investments work out (hence, this article). Sometimes companies outgrow their solutions, Brinker says; other times the technology fails to meet expectations. So, as a precaution, he recommends having an "exit plan"—one that outlines contractual constraints companies may face with vendors, such as what data will be retained and what will be left behind when unplugging a solution.
"If there's too much lock-in, either technically or legally," he says, "you should ask why."
—This article first appeared in DMN.