Navigating the crowded seas of marketing technology solutions
With an exhaustive list of martech solutions to choose from, how do you decide which will work best for your business? Contributor Alicia Wiedemann sets you on the right course with these tips.
Marketers everywhere totally freaked out last year when Scott Brinker published the 2016 edition of his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.
They had every right to: The list of marketing technology companies exploded to 3,874 from 1,876 just the year before. That’s incredible. If you spent just one minute Googling each one of those companies to try to get some idea of what each actually does, it would take more than 60 hours to complete — and you still wouldn’t have a very good idea of how the tech actually works.
It’s no wonder things were a little quieter when the 2017 graphic was released. It contains 5,381 different solutions, and you could almost hear a collective sigh of, “Whatever. I give up!” from corner offices everywhere.
But deep down, marketers know that they can’t afford to lag behind. The explosion in marketing technology solutions is reflective of how quickly the marketing landscape is changing, and to give up due to its sheer volume would be lifting your finger off the pulse of customers.
So, how do you face this swelling array of marketing technology solutions? Slicing and dicing between the true game-changers and the broken promises of entrepreneurs hoping to make a buck is overwhelming. And the dangers of implementing a bad technology are as damaging as remaining stagnant.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do that will help you stay on the right path and avoid making wrong turns or getting lapped by competitors.
Start at the top with a business mission and objectives
It’s easy to fall into implementing the shiniest new tech just because others are using it or because you want to impress clients, higher-ups, partners or other stakeholders. This can be a fatal trap because the reputation of a solution or the fact that it works well for others is a poor barometer of how well it will work for your company and its unique needs. If you are wowed by a new technology and trying to figure out what it can do for you, then you are seeking a question to an answer — that’s backward.
Instead, focus on your overall core value proposition and business goals. Most companies come up with some sort of statement every couple of years or so, but the market landscape is changing so rapidly today that it is really something that should evolve much more frequently.
Analyze what the market is telling you, and update your marketing strategies accordingly. Then you can evaluate technology solutions based on whether they fit in with where your organization is trying to go instead of picking a destination based on the available transportation.
Join the conversation online
You already know that your customers are more empowered than ever and use online reviews, social media and word of mouth to make purchase decisions. You are more empowered than ever, as well, and there is a universe of conversations happening every day that can help you identify the ideal solutions for your biggest business problems. The key is tapping into them and separating the mindless banter from the perspectives of people you can trust.
The chatter on social media channels can seem overwhelming, but once you engage in a little stratification, the cream quickly rises to the top. Use your favorite internet search engine on a query like, “social media marketing tools,” and you will quickly find a handful of solutions that can help you identify important conversations that are relevant to you.
Twitter is the best platform to start with, but you can expand to others based on what you find there. After a few days of monitoring tweets, retweets and hashtags, you will home in on the information that you need to keep you up to date on what is making waves in the industry.
If you don’t have the time to begin identifying the most relevant influencers, start with these four and begin sifting through their activities to find the best trails to follow:
- Ray Wang (@rwang0) — Founder of Constellation Research
- Vala Afshar (@ValaAfshar) — Chief Digital Evangelist at Salesforce
- Scott Brinker (@chiefmartec) — Editor of Chiefmartec & Chairman, The MarTech Conference
- Travis Wright (@teedubya) — Author of Digital Sense
Tip: You can also use the content marketing of partners and competitors. They often feel obligated to share what they are doing to showcase that they are on the cutting edge. What are they blogging about?
Join the conversation in person
When was the last time you scheduled lunch with a colleague just to discuss marketing technology? Not to purchase it, implement it or fix it — just to discuss what’s out there and what might be useful.
This is an extremely important conversation to have, and you can get good information quickly by tapping your network of colleagues. That includes business partners, other professional connections and people in your own company (Don’t limit it to executives; junior associates often know more about the technology marketplace).
Some of the best conversations happen at conferences. Attend sessions, visit booths, and just talk to people on the expo floor. You can often learn more about what’s happening in any industry by wandering a show floor talking to people for an hour than you can in a month of reading articles like this one.
Go see what’s out there and find out what people are using and what their experiences are — people are generally very upfront about sharing their experiences, even with competitors.
Invest time in formal training
How much time do you reserve in your calendar for training? If it isn’t at least four hours per week, it isn’t enough. That’s the bare minimum of what’s required just to keep up with the new technologies and ideas in the market. You should fill this time with a variety of activities like taking certified courses, attending webinars and reading articles in industry publications.
Keep this reserved time sacred; it’s easy to cut into when other seemingly more important business matters demand attention, but resist the urge to cut into your training time. It will prove its worth in propelling your business faster than just about any other way that you can spend a few hours a week.
By setting time aside to monitor conversations, engage with people and conduct your own research, you can identify the best marketing technology solutions much more quickly and efficiently than you can by spending a minute reading about each one.
Start the process now, and before you know it, you’ll be implementing new technologies that are best suited to help you achieve your specific business goals.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.