Creating holistic digital experiences is the name of the game for marketers today. 

But delivering those holistic experiences can be a challenge if you're using disjointed legacy digital marketing platforms.  

Why You Need a Lean Selection Approach

Marketing, sales, customer service and even product development must share information, structures and workflows in order to engage customers along the entire sales journey. 

As a result, organizations find it increasingly necessary to invest in platforms to help them break out of those silos. This is a good thing. 

Integrated digital marketing ecosystems make it easier to implement buyer engagement strategies and, when properly deployed, increase an organizations chances of success.

There is (of course) a problem. As the experiences become richer, the landscape of solutions becomes increasingly crowded.

Telling the difference between those solutions and matching those difference to your organizational needs can be complicated, drawn out, and all too often give puzzling and misleading results. 

However, by cutting the fat out of the process you will have a better chance of implementing a solution that fits your needs and budget.  

A Lean Selection Approach Requires Vision

Complicated processes cause many organizations to select a platform or software that never realizes their key objectives.

Various reasons can explain why this happens, but it usually occurs when organizations take an approach that’s disconnected from their vision and their business needs. The endless lines of requirements that result are better suited to designing a software solution than to choosing one. 

Examine Value to Cut the Fat

The core to any lean process is prioritization.  

Understand your key issues before diving into the nuances of finding a DAM with paginated search results or a CMS with built-in social components. 

Can you identify the 10 or 20 things your organization needs to do every week? Who are the real users of the system and what are their goals and skill sets? What is your vision for future customer interactions and do you have the organizational wherewithal and budget to support that vision?  

Once you've answered those questions, the nuances of feature sets and interaction design become easy to quickly decipher. 

What a Lean Selection Process Looks Like

Let’s look at some key factors to executing a lean selection process:

  • Users — Who are the users of the system and what are their authoring needs? How technical are your users?
  • Process — What are your workflow, review and approval needs? Organizations with heavy compliance and legal review needs may require much more advanced workflow support. However, most other industries want to create a locked down workflow system that is rarely supported by marketing software and likely will be more trouble than it is worth 
  • IT Support — Do you have the IT bandwidth to support this or do you want to consider hosted or cloud based solutions?
  • Technical Requirements — Are you a .NET, Java or PHP shop? If you plan on your IT organization taking on the long term maintenance, this is a key factor
  • Integration — What systems need to integrate with this environment, both in the sales and marketing organization as well as the enterprise as a whole?
  • Digital Marketing — Do you plan to do personalization, segmentation, multivariate or other advanced digital marketing?
  • Cost — What is your budget for software and services? Do you have a CapEx versus OpEx constraint or preference? Is your budget sufficient to support the key needs above? Using a common metric such as “Services = 3X Software” will likely end in a mismatch between expectations and reality

Beyond the Requirements Doc

After you understand your requirements, the next step is understanding what platform will align with those requirements. 

Choosing the right platform is about finding the best fit, not the best product. Understanding that fit can be difficult. Even clear requirements leave room for interpretation and a slick software demo can often times bring confusion along with clarity. 

Leveraging a requirements document helps you take control of the entire selection process. Instead of allowing vendors to interpret your needs, give them succinct and specific guidance.  

Try using scripted user stories that highlight common use cases or tasks that you currently have trouble completing. Create stories around painful workflow or assets. We all have a spreadsheet or two that could use converting — ask the vendor to demonstrate how to convert and set up a new more agile process. 

Having a quality, relevant script on hand will help you keep the vendors on task and will provide your team with a normalized view of the different solutions and how they will fit in your organization. 

In addition to normalizing the script, normalize scoring methodologies. This doesn't have to be complicated, nor should it be the sole data point for a decision. However, they should give you a quick understanding of where your team has consensus and what products are top contenders. 

Scoring can also help highlight deficiencies that you may ask vendors to solve when following up or you may use in price negotiation. 

Don’t Go it Alone

These are just a few of the techniques you can use to streamline the platform selection process. Focus on what you need to implement a customer engagement vision, and the rest will follow. 

And remember — digital marketing platforms and software are designed to help you implement a strategy, not create one. 

Build off of established marketing strategies, use real world examples to demonstrate efficacy and normalize your measurement process. 

And finally, while it’s often advisable to bring in some outside expertise to help, these techniques will give them direction and clarity much the same way they will for the solution vendors. Having a simple and actionable understanding of your needs will always increase your chances of success.