Marketing technology (or MarTech for short) is becoming an increasingly critical component of an A/E/C firm’s overall marketing strategy.
The growth of the MarTech industry continues to explode, with more than 7,000 marketing software vendors providing a wide-range of tools to support today’s modern marketer. And as MarTech increasingly commands more time and budget from A/E/C marketers, it’s essential for marketers to properly evaluate potential solutions. Here are some key questions to ask before moving forward with A/E/C MarTech.
As exciting as many MarTech tools are, or as persuasive as a sales person or demo may be, marketers need to first ask the question regarding how this particular tool or software aligns with your A/E/C marketing strategy. In other words, what challenge or goal, specifically, does the software addresses? How will it help you solve that problem or achieve that goal?
Like the growing number of tech gadgets for the home, not all MarTech tools are essential and some may fall into the “want” category more so than the “need” category. In other cases, adopting the MarTech tool may be a tremendous idea, but one that needs to be put on hold. If adopting the software was not part of this year’s marketing plan, it could actually distract from other initiatives that may be more valuable to the firm this year.
Sometimes, marketers can be so focused on the tool and enamored with the benefits of the functionality that we fail to consider the implications on clients and our internal colleagues who are not in the marketing department.
In a perfect world, technology should be seamless and transparent to the client. But sometimes a change in platforms or a new technology altogether can cause some temporary growing pains. You need to consider any and all impacts the MarTech will have on clients and colleagues and assess how to best mitigate risk and diminish impact as much as possible.
If the adoption of the MarTech has the potential to cause disruption (or even outrage), your strategy for dealing with this should be thoroughly addressed in the rollout plan. In many cases, it will be the internal staff who make the most noise, so be prepared to communicate the coming changes and address their concerns proactively.
Some tools, like adopting Vimeo to host video content, will have negligible impact on people and process. But other tools, such as marketing automation or CRM will require a significant amount of human resources and may also require the hiring of additional staff to support it. Undoubtedly, larger MarTech initiatives will require thorough processes to guide and manage the application of the technology.
Before jumping into adopting a new tool, in addition to looking at people and processes, you need to also stop and assess whether or not your firm has or is willing to make the time required to successfully learn, launch and maintain the technology. The more sophisticated the MarTech, the steeper the learning curve and the more time-intensive the launch will be. Most firms are fully aware of the effort needed to launch a CRM tool such as Salesforce, Deltek or Cosential. But many marketers underestimate the learning curve and time needed to successfully implement a tool like HubSpot.
One of the many benefits of the growing number of MarTech tools is their ability to integrate with other platforms. Integration allows your MarTech tools to essentially speak to one another, and share data in a push/pull environment. For example, MailChimp has a native integration with Salesforce, allowing you to easily connect the two platforms and sync contacts and lists to support your email marketing efforts.
As you evaluate a new tool, take a look at what native, built-in integrations exist and make sure that the most essential integrations are covered. If a native integration doesn’t exist, you may be able to leverage a tool such as Zapier to make the connection.
In many cases, the adoption of one MarTech solution may negate the need for one or several other tools your team already uses. Look out for overlap in what the new tool provides with what tech you already have in place. Sometimes overlap is a sign for consolidation. Other times, upon further consideration, it might mean that the new tool is unnecessary. Prior to making the decision on a new tool, it’s important to make sure your team clearly understands the features, functionality, integrations and value of your existing MarTech solutions.
While there is a danger in purchasing a tool that far exceeds your needs and level of sophistication, there is a similar danger in adopting technology that fits you now but may not suffice in the near future. It’s best to look for solutions that you can “grow into” and provides a level of scalability and functionality that you can leverage as your firm, team or marketing strategy grows.
When evaluating new A/E/C MarTech, it’s important to understand the complete, big picture when it comes to the cost of the technology. Depending on the type of solution, there may be one-time, monthly or annual costs. Some vendors charge you an implementation fee, and others require a support plan in order to get the level of service that’s needed. Larger MarTech solutions such as CRM or marketing automation may require the services of a 3rd-party implementation consultant to get you onboarded and up and running. Another consideration is how the contract is structured, as some vendors will sweeten the deal for year one and then escalate costs in year two and beyond.
While this should go without saying, it’s important to make sure you have thoroughly considered your options prior to making a decision. For small, task-oriented tools that require little time and investment to get up and running, you may choose to try them out one at a time. However, for larger investments such as a digital asset management platform, it’s better to do your due diligence and set emotion aside. Don’t just be swayed by the most persuasive sales person, nor the big name in the category.
Be sure you create a ranked wish list for the MarTech before beginning research and carefully consider all viable solutions. Read online reviews, talk to other marketers who use/have used the platform, and assemble a list of questions to ask of each vendor you are considering. And take advantage of demos — multiple demos if necessary. Most people look at a house more than once before making an offer, so be sure you give the software a thorough look as well. Choose the best option or decide that the timing isn’t right to move forward. Just don’t make a rushed decision that you may regret.
Any A/E/C MarTech investment that’s going to demand staff time and firm dollars should be ultimately tied to helping the firm achieve their strategic objectives. While some won’t require leadership approval, others with larger price tags and broader firm impact will require a green light from firm leadership.
Before asking for their blessing, it’s critical to make a compelling business case for adopting the MarTech. Marketers need to be able to demonstrate how the MarTech will specifically work to address a particular goal(s) or strategic objective. If you really want to get buy-in for the technology, don’t start by explaining the cure, start by describing the disease.
As exciting as MarTech can be, and as enamored as marketers can become at the prospect of a powerful new toy, we have a duty to thoroughly vet both the need and the solutions prior to committing your firm’s time and dollars to adoption. By asking these (and other) questions, marketers can avoid making uninformed or ill-advised decisions related to A/E/C MarTech.
This article originally appeared in the August 2019 Issue of Marketer from the Society for Marketing Professional Services.
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