Hey Marketer Stop Thinking About Vendors First

Crash Davis in Bull Durham gave the best advice to a pitcher on a baseball mound: Don't think. "You just got lesson number one," the veteran Minor League catcher (played by Kevin Costner) told his rookie pitcher. "Don't think. It can only hurt the ball club."

It's kinda like that for marketers today facing the giant 947-vendor-plus marketing technology landscape aptly documented by Scott Brinker. Don't think about them.

"Stop thinking about vendors and products," said Gerry Brown, senior analyst for customer engagement and marketing technology at Ovum Research. "Think about the business requirement. The products should be treated as a solution to a business need, rather than an end in their own right."

We complete our series today examining ways to approach the thickly-settled marketing software vendor space. Last week, we discussed avoiding the vendor hype and finding your IT champion.

Determining Your Needs

If I'm a digital marketer in the market for technology, what's the first thing I do? Brown walked us through seven steps:

  1. Define your situation/the problem with existing marketing processes
  2. Visualize the technology solutions. Ask where such a solution will save you time and money, and/or improve the quality of your marketing operations (e.g. increase speed to market or the targeting precision of campaigns or new product introductions)
  3. Look to the large vendors (e.g. IBM, Google, Oracle, Salesforce). Do they have products that you might want?
  4. Use the product category names you discover at the site of the big vendors to search for best-of-breed suppliers
  5. Talk to an expert, such as an industry analyst about what you are looking for
  6. Shortlist the suppliers that seem to fit your need. Check their clients, white papers and case studies to validate that they serve customers that look like you
  7. Start a traditional procurement process, but driven by the marketing business need, not by the technology category

What are the best vendors out there offering? Brown said the best vendors offer a range of complementary and inter-linking products and services aligned around the business needs of marketers, rather than what marketing technology can do. 

customer experience, Hey, Marketer: Stop Thinking About Vendors First

They also deliver innovation and thought-leadership.

"In the longer term only those vendors who continue to focus on developing products and services to serve the emerging future requirements of marketers will survive," he said.

And they also bring a strong and credible brand that marketers can believe in.

"The key product groups marketers should look to invest in are: marketing automation, website optimization tools including search, the ability to send and receive communications via multiple channels, and ideally synchronize these operations to mirror the customer requirements, behavior, and procurements timing that customers require."

Marketers should ask potential vendors for proof points: case studies, industry analyst endorsements, sales references, a strong and proven management team that is profiled on the website — and a proven physical presence: not just a phone number and/or an email address.

Title image by iQoncept (Shutterstock).