How to Select the Right Marketing Technology Platforms for Your Business Needs

Erin Moloney, Director-Marketing Digital Agency & Digital Marketing, Perficient
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Erin Moloney, Director-Marketing Digital Agency & Digital Marketing, Perficient

Marketers must find technology that supports their goals of acquiring, engaging and retaining customers. This means evaluating multiple software vendors that enable or optimize marketing efforts across search, social, email, websites, and more. And many technologies offer campaign optimization and analytics for conversion rate optimization, web traffic, marketing automation, testing, targeting, personalization, and remarketing. There is so much to do with so few resources to manage the tools available. Where does one start?

Challenges in Marketing Technology Adoption

The first challenge is the wide selection of available tools. Marketing Land estimates that–across the areas of advertising, content, social, commerce, sales, data and management–the marketing technology landscape has grown from 150 companies in 2011 to 3,500 today.

The second challenge is that many of these tools do not talk to one another. To deliver a desirable, positive, compelling customer experience, it’s ideal for marketing to host prospect and customer data in one repository, then enable multiple tools to access behavioral and demographic data about prospects and customers from that database.

Align Your Marketing Strategy and Technology to the Customer Journey

As customers engage with your brand across marketing channels, they do so on a lead-to-sale continuum. They go through much of a typical sales process before they engage with a live person. This means your technology should align to a marketing strategy that considers touchpoints along this sales cycle:

• Awareness: Your prospect begins to consider your company to be a key player in the industry or marketplace by viewing your brand ads, logo placements, and sponsorships in relevant places.

• Consideration: Your prospect begins to click on links to your website or landing page, open your emails, and read your content.

• Intent: Your prospect completes a web form on your website or landing page to download content or register for an event or webinar. Your prospect completes a contact form on your website or calls you to ask questions about offerings.

• Lead: Your prospect has engaged with a sales person and moves along the spectrum of cold lead to warm or hot lead through your own criteria of marketing or sales qualification and prioritization.

• Opportunity: Your prospect has demonstrated some intent to purchase, perhaps by providing some qualifying details about that intent, including Budget, Authority, Needs and Timeline (the BANT model revolutionized by IBM).

• Sale: Eureka!

Prepare Your Team to Properly Leverage Marketing Technologies

Because technologies are becoming available and evolve in their feature sets so quickly, many marketing leaders find it difficult for organizational and corporate cultures to keep up. It’s not enough to have and implement the right marketing technologies. Remember, the mantra of “If you build it, then will come,” doesn’t work for websites or other areas of marketing. Websites don’t acquire traffic without promotional efforts such as SEO and paid search. Similarly, you can’t purchase a marketing automation tool and then tell prospects you have automated marketing. You need the will and the means to leverage these technologies.

Before you invest in a tool or technology, ensure that your team has:

a) The proper expertise in-house to use it,
b) The bandwidth to make time for it,
c) Buy-in from leadership that the tool and its functions are important to the business.

Build Your Marketing Technology Toolkit

To break down the many marketing technology platforms and tools into a more manageable landscape, I think of them as falling into one or more of these five categories:

1. Web content management
2. Customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing database
3. Web analytics
4. Social media monitoring and publishing
5. Workflow and project management

Your marketing team needs some level of strategy and technology enablement in each of these categories. I recommend listing the technology solutions that you wish to evaluate, then compare vendors to one another using this criteria:

1. Cost to implement – Get a quote from the vendor. Put together estimates on the time it will take your team or partner to implement the technology, and record the annual license and set-up fees.

2. Cost to maintain – Record any anticipated monthly mainte­nance fees or ongoing support or maintenance expenses, and any monthly or recurring service fees.

3. Ease of use – Make sure that the employees who will use the technology receive a demonstration and evaluate their level of comfort and understanding with what they saw in the demo. Give each tool a score for how easy it appears to be to configure and use on a regular basis.

4. Ease of Integration – Evaluate each tool’s ability to integrate with other technologies. Determine what data needs to be shared across systems between this new technology and any that your team is already using or plans to use in the near term. For example, is an API available, or will integration require custom development?

5. Product roadmap – Ask whether the vendors are thinking about how the marketing industry is evolving and whether they plan to add features and functionality that will enhance your experience or the tool’s capabilities.

6. Data and reporting – Determine if you can easily report on the results this technology is helping you to achieve, and if the reports deliver data aligned to your key performance indicators (KPIs).

7. Client roster – Determine whether the technology been leveraged by competitors or other companies in your industry or with your company’s unique needs.

8. Availability of support – Ask whether the vendor offers 24/7 support or at least offers support during business hours. What is their turnaround time for issues reported, and how will you report these issues?

9. Features and functionality – Make a list of all the things you want this type of technology to do and then apply a Yes/No value or a score to each competing tool as to whether that capability is covered and how well.

Marketing technology is an enabler. These tools and systems are being built to make your job easier and to help you achieve better results for your business more quickly. Prioritize which marketing technology to invest in by its ability to help you impact the company’s bottom line.

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