My friend and colleague Mark Demeny wrote a great blog post discussing the demands of the marketplace on software vendors and how those demands – and the direction those vendors take as a result – affects you, the buyer.
Here’s the money quote:
“…in addition to looking at a simple technology purchase decision, you also need to consider overall company strategy and plan appropriately. Vendors in different financial positions have varying pressures which may or may not align with your software purchase strategy. Some vendors may prioritize growth and new features over supporting existing clients.”
– Mark Demeny
I can tell you from experience, these “pressures” have been a challenge for just about any company seeking growth through outside investment. Some manage the pressures better than others.
However, as Mark rightly says, in their handling of these demands, some vendors may prioritize growth and new features over supporting existing clients. In some cases, it can be a choice between growth OR new features. That’s where your pressures begin.
Empowering the marketing team
Chief Marketing Officers and their teams are always looking for better ways to keep pace with a customer who moves faster than the brand. They also need strategies to empower their marketing teams to do more with less and do it more quickly than ever before.
To achieve these goals, marketers typically turn to marketing technology. Moreover, when we do, we’re usually in a hurry to solve some marketing problem du jour, so proper due diligence takes a backseat to expedient procurement.
In my 30 years working in the business, marketing and technology space, I’ve observed countless examples of the organizational and career wreckage that occurs when you skip the required up-front work.
Strategic considerations to avoid a martech #Fail
Mark offers a solid list of strategic considerations to help you avoid any potholes on your marketing problem-solving journey:
- Understand your long-term priorities and those of your chosen vendor(s) – For example, are they focusing on innovation, growth and new customers or are they focusing on keeping existing customers happy and prosperous?
- Consider your bundles carefully – Just because the products come bundled together doesn’t mean all of them are right for you and your business and marketing needs.
- De-couple software from services – Sure, the vendor offers hosting or implementation/consulting services, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best fit to deliver those services for your organization.
- Always be thinking about a migration strategy – You’re not doing this to change vendors (in case of technology or licensing changes), but even upgrades can require a lot of planning, consideration and cost.
To add to those gems, I offer a few more proven strategies to help you make better decisions when it comes to choosing and using marketing technologies:
- Organizational fit – It’s never been more important to accurately define and map the features, benefits
andrisks inherent in the components of your marketing technology stack against the needs and capabilities of the organization. Buying tools your team can’t or won’t use is a waste of time and budget. Considering organizational fit is critical not only during the planning and implementation stages but throughout the life cycle of your marketing technology stack.
- Appropriate technology – This is about choosing and using the marketing technology tools that meet a given application most efficiently and effectively. For example, you might deploy an integrated content management system with marketing automation capabilities instead of multiple stand-alone components. The best-of-breed approach often requires manual integration of independent components, which comes at a high cost of time, people and money.
- Usable design – I believe this to be one of the most critical keys to help you make better decisions when it comes to choosing and using marketing technologies. Make sure you select martech software and hardware that fits the needs of your team. Whether it’s software or hardware, considering user-centered design and implementation as a primary driver can help determine the usefulness of the technology. Remember, bigger is not necessarily better, nor is the most powerful, feature-rich system or application the best choice in all situations.
- Manageable and supportable technology – You’ve spent your hard-earned budget on some great martech tools. Now what? Have you chosen hardware and software that can be managed and supported by the people using the technology? Consider robust software management features, vendor support, and the advantages of technology that embraces open and published standards as the drivers of a successful martech selection and implementation process.
Choose your marketing technology vendors wisely
We all know that marketing technology vendors are a dime a dozen, but having the right marketing technology partner(s) who understands (at the very least) your business, brand, and marketing needs are critical to your success.
One of the tips above suggests that you should always be thinking about a migration strategy. It becomes much harder to migrate from a vendor’s platform, system, or tool should you need to when you’ve allowed yourself suffering from the horrible (but avoidable) “vendor lock-in” situation.
Before you move on to actioning the strategies you’ve read about above, here are three vendor lock-in scenarios to avoid:
- Two-Guys-in-a-Garage Lock-in – I once worked with a global organization with many digital properties. For one of their U.S. web sites, they’d connected with a small company owned by a friend of one of the executives (see “Friend-of-the-Family Lock-in” below) that offered a proprietary content management system (CMS). Even though the CMS lacked the features and benefits the organization required, the media company execs were reluctant to move away from the platform because of the time and cost associated with a switch.
- Staff-Augmentation Lock-in – Your budget is limited, and there’s no room for new hires. However, you need the staff, and when the vendor team offers to help cover some of your gaps in human capital to get some of those mounting tasks done, you gladly accept. It’s easier to wean yourself off a relationship like this when the projects are one-off, but once your vendor is embedded in a mission-critical project or more extensive program, you’re locked in.
- Friend-of-the-Family Lock-in – How many times have you seen yourself (or someone you know) in this situation? The CEO has a buddy (or worse, a relative) who owns or is somehow part of a vendor organization. Unless something incredibly wrong happens where the only alternative is to move to a new vendor, welcome to one of the most painful types of vendor lock-in.
So choose wisely, because choosing and using the right marketing technology, and marketing technology partner, can be the difference between creating customer experiences that delight your customers or turning them off completely. It can also mean the difference between your marketing team’s success or failure.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.