The promise of an all-in-one MarTech solution that opens up new capabilities and accelerates growth is alluring, but it’s rare a single vendor can deliver that.
Not to mention your IT and development counterparts may feel wary of the IT lock-in that can occur with all-in-one solutions.
In reality all marketers (and their teams) will employ a dozen or more vendors to help ensure their B2C e-commerce, B2B partner portal, or other web or mobile-based solution satisfies their customers.
SaaS and other platforms have largely mitigated these concerns by creating robust development partner ecosystems. These can be effective and create more choice, but choice among large teams with distributed decision makers generates an additional layer of complexity.
After you establish your goals — but before you begin to assess vendors — make sure to ready you and your team for success by finding the right internal partners in the vendor review process.
Align Your Team for Marketing Success
A MarTech procurement process involves a lot of moving pieces, but the following are particularly critical to address:
Assess Your Business’ Lifecycle
Is your business at an inflection point, whereby not adopting more advanced systems will hinder growth?
Each industry has these milestones. For example, my previous e-commerce workplaces required more robust platforms at the $25 million and $75 million annual sales milestones. The additional functionality enabled a better promotions engine and greater merchandising capabilities.
Secure a Champion
Is there a senior leader that will champion this investment for you over the long term? This is typically a vice president, a CMO or, in SMB environments, the president or CEO.
Architecting for Stakeholder Agreement
Are the correct leads at the table during the planning, assessment and decision sessions? Does your CFO have the information needed to make the go/no go on the investment?
Be aware that sometimes payment terms and customer data security concerns (rightfully) slow down the process.
Have IT and Development at the Table
Third-party solutions always require some development and IT resources. If they don’t, closely evaluate their potential effectiveness.
You’ll be tying in existing data, systems and networks regardless of whether the system is on-premises or cloud-based.
Time to Value
Are the required internal resources aligned from a timing perspective, or will you be paying for the service for many months before you see a return on the investment? Even platforms that have mutual-success payment structures (think e-commerce platforms that are paid based on gross sales) have a minimum payment schedule.
Tuning After Launch
Many services require a fair amount of tuning before they are truly effective.
Have you built in tuning time and set that expectation with both the Champion and other internal stakeholders that are expecting benefits — especially benefits that help them meet annual or quarterly goals? Six months is typical, but it can take more time for large-scale systems.
Ongoing Support and Evolution
You’ll want to budget for external support or internal staff to help continuously drive benefits from the platform. The makeup will likely consist of technical staff, design and UX personnel, as well as a customer experience lead or customer-focused marketer.
Assess Your MarTech Vendors
Go back and look at your short and long-term goals to prioritize which MarTech resources need upgrading, replacing and/or are new.
If you are on a SaaS platform that has a partner program, that’s a natural place to start looking for MarTech vendors, as is the partner’s trade show or webinars.
Be wary of firms that have no experience on your platform or who will not staff their teams to meet your needs.
The big analyst firms (Gartner, Forrester, etc) review vendors in waves or batches that help with overall assessment, but look at these vendors through a lens that takes your specific business type and firm’s capabilities into account.
In addition to evaluating whether the vendor has experience in your vertical and with your current technical stack, you’ll also want to understand if they can scale with your business needs.
Determine their privacy protections are as well (as related to customer and competitive data), and what happens to your data in the event they are acquired, cease business operations or you sever the contract. With some content management systems, a severed contract means that entire segments of your website become unavailable.
Manage Expectations While You Build
Set a few programs that have a quick time-to-value in place while you architect the new initiative.
For example, if you’re currently emailing all customers the same communications because your CRM isn’t tuned to capture details such as product category, purchase frequency, geography or other, explore using website browsing data to insert recommendations into marketing emails. If this isn’t possible, explore allowing the visitor or customer to send themselves product details, which you can follow up on by sending a message with complementary planning content or a quick note about your customer service team’s ability to help with product selection.
To increase the robustness of customer profiles, use a customer data house such as Epsilon or a marketing agency that does comprehensive persona profiling to help define who you are currently reaching and how they differ from the customer you think you have. This will allow you to create multiple audience segments with which to test content, promotions and more.
These smaller efforts will improve performance and give you a story to tell while you’re working on larger infrastructure efforts such as a CRM, new functionality or other related initiatives which will build into your longer term success.