Vetting a Consumer Activation Platform? Use this Guide

Susan Frech, Co Founder and CEO, Social Media Link
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Susan Frech, Co Founder and CEO, Social Media Link

Chances are your company’s Marketing team is investing in consumer activation—strategies that inspire consumers to act on behalf of the brand and influence others to use it. According to an Association of National Advertisers study, brands will spend around 60 percent of their entire budget on activation, more than media and trade promotion combined. The study finds that brand activation encompasses six marketing pillars–relationship and loyalty, influencer, promotional, content, experiential and retailer marketing. As part of their activation push, more marketers are looking to establish a brand-owned ‘home’ for their most loyal consumers—the “power users” who are more likely to be engaged with the brand and advocate for it among their friends, families and social networks. Your Marketing colleagues may explore building a brand owned community with a consumer community activation system to help build and manage this community. As these platforms range in features and sophistication, you may be asked to weigh in from a technical and usability perspective. Here are areas you should advise your Marketing team to consider in the evaluation:

Offers Proven Martech & Reliable Support Team

The partner should offer a feature-rich SaaS platform built on scalable cloud technology—it is data secure, has a proven server performance record, and can evolve as marketing needs and metrics do. To support consumer sharing and influencer reach, the platform must seamlessly integrate with multiple social networks, and offer flexibility as new networks emerge.

  ‚ÄčThe vendor should demonstrate a high degree of responsiveness to all internal stakeholders along with a proactive approach to get the information on time  

Next, consider who will comprise the partner’s support team once the contract is signed. During the sale phase, many vendors are responsive and communicative, but that may not necessarily be the case when the relationship moves into implementation and beyond. Have the vendor detail their implementation process and the structure of their support team. Is there an account manager? A project manager? A technical lead? How is each responsible for ensuring project success?

Encourages and Maintains Positive Cross Functional Client Team Involvement

A partner experienced in successful consumer activation platform implementation understands that all relevant stakeholders in the process should be at the table as early as possible and stay involved through launch. To provide an achievable plan, the partner must know the requirements and goals across Marketing, Brand, and Tech (both from an internal systems perspective but also usability). The vendor should demonstrate a high degree of responsiveness to all internal stakeholders along with a proactive approach to get the information on time that they need to ensure success. They also must facilitate communication between stakeholders so that everyone is speaking the same language and has a shared understanding of the project progress against goals. So take notice of whether they actively advocate for stakeholder involvement. Assess how they react to questions and requests for documentation. Did they respond with a sense of urgency while providing thoughtful answers with clarity and detail?

Balances Turnkey with Customization

Even for an intuitive, ready-out-of-the-box SaaS platform, a reliable vendor will offer a generous amount of hand-holding and customization. The best partners see a client’s success as their success and are vested in making sure everything goes as smoothly as possible. Bringing experience working with Marketing and IT teams that are increasingly spread thin, the vendor must be able to deliver a solution that’s easy to implement despite tight timelines, scarce resources, and a multitude of clients. Also, they should be capable of supporting the idiosyncrasies of the brand, as well as the challenges presented by each client’s unique technical systems and data sources. To verify this, be sure the Marketing team understands the importance of asking questions about APIs that enable your systems to ‘talk’ to the external consumer activation platform. How do they connect the systems together from the data side, in addition to closely coupling the user experience side? And if even more specific customization is required on your end, does the partner offer a software development kit to handle further tailoring internally?

Demonstrates a Culture of Product Innovation & Development

Marketing moves fast. Marketing enabled by technology moves even faster. So align with a consumer activation technology partner that is always innovating and evolving their product. As this particular area of Martech expands, some vendors have grown very quickly, and their recent investments have been in their marketing, while product development has gone neglected. Encourage your Marketing team to look for a company that has a tradition of continual innovation, and one willing to share their product roadmap to verify that they are actively improving what they offer. What new products and features are in the pipeline and how do client requirements inspire product development? Additionally, explain to your Marketing team the benefits of an agile development model—is the partner’s process iterative where adjustments and pivots are made quickly in response to fluid requirements?

Exhibits a Commitment to Optimizing User Experience

The ideal consumer activation partner recognizes that there are two types of users of the platform: the internal client (i.e. the Marketing team) and the consumer who will be interacting with the platform as a brand community member. A white label consumer activation platform will be a dimension of the brand experience–choosing a partner who delivers the wrong user experience will reflect poorly on the brand. Consider whether the consumer activation system can be seamlessly ‘embedded’ to your company website, to offer a frictionless consumer user experience. Ask questions about their approach to usability testing. Does the partner engage actual consumers in evaluating the experience?  Does their approach include focus groups or A/B testing to optimize the interface? Is theirs a mobile-first approach to ensure responsive design?

Supports Marketing KPIs & Quantifies ROI

The partner should understand key marketing performance metrics and how their solution delivers against these goals. If the system offers a standard set of reports, are the areas of measurement relevant? Can the partner quantify the return on investment from other implementations through detailed case studies? Can they provide evidence of increased consumer engagement in the form of social shares and purchase behavior uplift?

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