There Is A Method To The Madness When It Comes To Buying MarTech Software
I’m a big fan of Scott Brinker. Anyone who can maintain and track over 7,000 different MarTech software companies at a single time and keep a chart like this one updated on a regular basis is clearly highly intelligent.
But when it comes to making software purchase decisions for your company, this amount of information is overwhelming. To help you ensure you get the right tools for your company, you’re going to need more than a big list, more than reviews and more than references from friends who might already be using some of the tools you’re considering.
What you really need is a selection methodology. How do you evaluate and prioritize your sales, marketing and customer service technology needs? How do you evaluate the foundational tools and the add-on products that best fit your needs, strategy and in-house abilities?
Here’s how we help clients select the right set of MarTech tools to help them generate more revenue.
The best way to think about marketing, sales and customer service software is exactly like you think about your financial software. Most companies use something to manage their books, payables, receivables, financial reporting and analytics.
Most smaller and medium companies use QuickBooks; larger companies might use NetSuite, Oracle or Sage. You would never run your businesses or be part of a company that handled its finances with paper and pencil, or even on a set of complex spreadsheet farms.
And now that time has come to sales, marketing and customer service. Today you need these foundational platforms. CRM, marketing automation and customer service management platforms are now nonnegotiable. You have to have them to run a successful business in 2018.
Some examples of foundation software are Salesforce for CRM, HubSpot for marketing automation and CRM, and ZenDesk for customer service. Each of these platform companies is working hard to stretch across the entire front office. For example, HubSpot now offers marketing automation CRM, and as of a few weeks ago added Service Hub for customer service applications.
While having HubSpot as your entire front office platform might work for some companies, others might prefer to keep their platforms separate and use one platform for CRM, one for marketing automation and a third for customer service. This is going to be 100% dependent on your requirements and your budget.
Basic Or Advanced Requirements
Speaking of requirements, they are critical for making the right purchase decision. When it comes to our approach, the requirements are where everything starts. If you have basic requirements, then we can look at basic, less expensive and less advanced options that still give you the functionality you need in today’s world.
If you have more advanced requirements, then we have to look at more expensive, more feature-rich offerings. These also usually come with the need to do more training (because the tools are more advanced) and potentially the need to do some integration (so the tools talk to each other and share information).
These decisions are big and will affect your strategy. If you have complex CRM requirements, Salesforce might be the right CRM for you. If your requirements are slightly less complicated, HubSpot might fit the bill. If your requirements are extremely simple, Zoho or Infusionsoft for CRM might be fine.
The same application of requirements can be applied to marketing automation, with Marketo typically being the most configurable and SharpSpring the least configurable (and least expensive). HubSpot offers a midrange product that has a lot of interesting features at a very attractive price point.
Does one software platform that does it all interest you? Then you might be willing to lower the bar when it comes to requirements, in order to get one application and one bill. HubSpot now offers CRM, marketing automation and services software all in one. But that service module is not as robust as a stand-alone services application such as ZenDesk. It’s not that one is bad and the other is good, it’s what works for your and your business.
Add-Ons For Advanced Tactical Solutions
Once you have your platform and foundational solutions worked out, you have to see what’s missing. For example, if you are focused on driving organic rankings and organic visitors for selected keywords and you use HubSpot, you’ll learn that they no longer have a keyword tracking tool. This might not bother some, but for those that want this insight, you’ll need to add on a software solution such as SEMrush, Moz or SpyFu.
Since this is important to you and your efforts, you should not be shy about investing in advanced tools for this one slice of your go-to-market strategy. To understand this approach, consider this example. If you’re using Salesforce, Marketo and Zendesk as your integrated platform software and want to do more advanced email marketing campaigns, you’d add a solution like Seventh Sense on top of all three. You’d have the advanced email schedule intelligence to send emails when people have shown to be more apt to open and click through.
You can literally go through every single marketing, sale and services tactic and find a collection of advanced software solutions supporting specific slices of your execution. These solutions include Vidyard for video, Engagio for ABM, Databox for analytics, Atomic Reach for content creation, Drift for chat and Hushly for advanced conversion attribution modeling.
Operationalize The Software
The CFO’s worst nightmare is buying software and never using it, or never realizing the value for the investment. Unfortunately, that fear is real. In some cases, the company never even turns on some of the software it buys; in more cases, companies don’t operationalize the new software enough to drive revenue.
The way to prevent this from happening at your company is to create an operational plan to go along with your software. Who is going to use it? What do we train them to do? How do we train them? How do we monitor and track? How do we optimize over time? How do we measure the success?
Let’s look at Drift, the chat software for companies that need advanced chat features on their website and as part of their sales process. You can subscribe to Drift, install the code on your website and configure the software in an afternoon.
But then what? Who gets the notifications? What are they supposed to do when they get them? Do they need response scripts? Workflows? Who else should be notified? What is the monitoring schedule? What if someone is out? Who is the backup? What are the company’s expectations around response time? What about a handoff from marketing to sales, or new business reps to more senior reps?
All this has to be thought out and communicated to everyone involved. You need a playbook for chat, and that playbook needs to be owned by someone in particular who updates it regularly. I guarantee that what you’re doing with chat on Day One is not going to be the same on Day 30 or day 90. Your playbook on handling chat-generated leads needs to be owned, maintained and updated on a very regular basis. This is how you get some of these separate tools to continue to be part of a well-orchestrated marketing and sales strategy.
Maintaining Your Tools
Most of the software we use and evaluate is so well designed that the upgrades and updates are barely noticeable. Even the more significant ones, such as the HubSpot navigation redo, are so intuitive that you start using it and it feels like it’s been in place for ages. You barely notice.
This section isn’t about stuff like that, it’s about the new stuff you find that you want to add. With so many new software and artificial intelligence products finding their way into the market, you’re going to want to pay close attention, so you don't end up having too many tools, doing similar tasks but not working together.
To prevent this from happening, consider creating a MarTech road map that shows what you need, how you’re currently covering those needs with what software tools, and what’s missing. Now you’re constantly evaluating what you have and what you need.
You might realize you need to upgrade a platform option, or you need to supplement something specific around a particular area of the buyer journey. For instance, maybe you need to enable electronic signatures for the very end of the buyer journey.
Once you have the road map and the rhythms to constantly evaluate your software tools, you’ll settle into a more sustainable and scalable way to prioritize what you have and what you need to fill in performance gaps affecting your ability to drive revenue.
If you go back and look at some of Scott’s previous MarTech maps, you would see that in 2014 there were 947 companies and in 2015 there were 1,876 companies on the list. Today there are over 7,000. The speed at which new products, new software and new tools are flooding into the marketplace is going to continue to make it increasingly more challenging for people to know what’s right for them.
You won’t be able to buy and try every new piece of software. You’re going to need a more structured and systematic way to evaluate new tools, look at your current tech stack, identify weak spots and look for upgrades. You’ll also have to make sure that there are native integrations between add-on tools and your platform software.
There may even need to be integrations between add-on tools. You're going to want open systems like the one Salesforce created and HubSpot is in the process of creating. This means the plug-in tools and add-on products will work out of the box without custom integration work.
You’ll have software companies developing applications to the specs provided by the open systems companies. While the number of software options and applications is going to increase, you can keep sane by sticking with the methodology described above. It’s OK to look, but don’t buy until you’ve worked out the details associated with how you’ll operationalize the new software and how it will help you generate more revenue or accelerate your existing revenue generation tactics.
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