Marketers need deep knowledge and versatility to keep up with rapidly evolving business channels (social media, e-commerce, mobile apps, etc.). They also have to mine big data, master content marketing, protect and perfect customer relationships, and tactically respond to nimble competitors. To do this in real-time, with a positive ROI, and under ever-increasing scrutiny can be overwhelming.
To top it off, today’s marketers are being inundated with sales pitches from firms that specialize in technology-based digital marketing and advertising tools – known as “martech” and/or “adtech” companies. A massive industry has blossomed (growing to $120 billion within 10 years), consisting of over 1,800 companies - in over 40 areas of specialty – where the leading players are battling for (your) new business. There are even numerous industry conferences, blogs and publications to try and make sense of it all.
How does today’s marketer deal with this non-stop barrage of calls, e-mails, linked-in invites from vendors’ sales people? I wish I had a dollar for every time a mar-tech salesperson asked for “just a few minutes on my calendar” to pitch their “cutting edge technology” that would supposedly “make a huge impact on my marketing KPI’s and ROI” with “just a few lines of java script.” Not only is this stuff time consuming (a few minutes quickly becomes an hour) and confusing (lots of tech jargon), but it distracts from the daily job of executing the business at hand.
How can you know to take advantage of the truly helpful stuff while not blowing your budget on unnecessary technologies, platforms, and tools? I have learned over my career as a marketing leader – often through mistakes – ways to “separate the wheat from the chaff” and engage useful vendors to help propel your marketing efforts forward.
- Know thyself. When speaking to martech vendors (or thinking of taking their calls), make sure you understand the benefits they can provide in the context of your business, its needs, and its constraints. Questions I constantly asked myself: “What do I need vs. nice to have? What are the strategic marketing objectives of our dept and our strengths & weaknesses? What can I afford in my budget? What am I able to measure & analyze? Can I integrate this with my IT resources? Who will run this vendor/platform/tool once purchased?”
- Let your KPI’s guide you. The best way to identify the marketing gaps - as well as if technology that can fill them – is to dig through your analytics and understand what your KPI’s are telling you. This will also help you articulate your needs and formulate strong relevant questions during the evaluation process. This leads to my next point…
- Ask tough, probing questions and learn to say “no” early in the process.You can always come back to a vendor down the road (don’t worry, the salesperson will gladly take your call), but avoid wasting time sitting through multiple rounds of sales calls just to be polite. If their product needs more than 1 or 2 demos to understand, then respectfully pass…
- Compare at least 3-5 competitors before pulling the trigger. This seems obvious, but you would be surprised how many times I have seen marketers get carried away by a skilled sales team, only to learn later that the mar-tech product was a poor fit for their business and/or inferior to cheaper alternatives. I like to work up a side-by-side summary of all the vendors in a spreadsheet, and then get all of the key stakeholders in a room and go through each element to determine the best overall fit for our needs.