How many automated marketing software products does your team use? Seven? 15? 32? Not sure?
If you’re like most CMOs and CEOs, your mind likely started with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, then your e-commerce system, your Content Management System (CMS), social media, email marketing, marketing automation, programmatic advertising, paid search bid management, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) tracking, Google Analytics and reporting software. The list keeps going and growing.
Don’t worry. You don’t have a rare, undiagnosed condition for purchasing software. The market is simply rife with individual software solutions for every possible scenario any marketing organization might encounter. If you’re like a lot of marketing people with a technology budget, you end up purchasing the latest, most talked-about software for the specific problem you’ve been tasked to solve:
Want to analyze where your competitors are advertising? Add software.
Want to embed surveys into your digital ads? Add software.
Want to run pre-recorded webinars on auto-pilot? Add software.
To illustrate how fast the marketing software market is growing, the annual marketing technology landscape infographic published by Scott Brinker, founder of the annual MarTech conference in San Francisco, included about 150 marketing software vendors when he first produced it in 2011. Today, Brinker estimates there are nearly 4,000 active technology vendors offering some variation of marketing software product, across dozens of categories.
With so many choices, you’re bound to seriously consider at least a few software products to add to your marketing stack every year. Before you do, however, there are three key questions you need to ask yourself:
1. Does the tool’s promise fit within my overall marketing strategy?
Every piece of software in the market has some kind of value proposition – often sounding so compelling that marketers forget the most important part of the equation: Even if it works, will this tool fit within my overall marketing strategy?
Keep in mind, tactics are not strategy. Purchasing a software subscription because it resolves a standalone tactic you’re deploying today or for this quarter, could lead to a much bigger problem later. For example, you could discover that the software interferes with your customer tracking functions, that your contacts aren’t automatically flowing into your marketing automation or CRM tools as they should, that new solution interferes with other software on your website or creates the need for additional – expensive – manual work on your part.
Who doesn’t want software that tells them where their competitors are advertising? We all do. But if you won’t be doing anything more than deploying a tactic to take over ad space on a single blog, does it really makes sense?
Streamline and focus. Long-term thinking will take you much further than adding unnecessary software infrastructure in the short-term.
2. How well does the tool integrate with my existing marketing stack?
Another critically important question marketers fail to ask themselves before they add software to their marketing stack is: Will this new tool integrate with my existing mix of software?
Just because you like one software offering over another doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best solution for your business. Choosing the second-best software could potentially be your best option because of its integration capabilities alone.
Here’s a critical analogy to keep in mind: As one of your organization’s lead marketers, you’re like the conductor of a massive orchestra. Your job is to somehow get all the instruments to play at the right time, pace and sequence to make music.
Your composition represents growth; don’t add anything to the mix that stems your progress.
3. How will the software impact the user experience?
Ultimately every consumer-facing business must answer this question: How will adding this software to my marketing stack impact the way prospective and existing customers interact with my business?
A common example of a software-driven poor-user experience is a website that launches pop-ups ads that aren’t connected to the company’s customer database. Sure, you can get up and running with a pop-up in minutes on your website. But if the software doesn’t recognize the source of traffic, store it in your main contact database and connect to your pay-per-click engine, you won’t be able to track where the traffic came from, nor will you be able to customize an experience for users based on their journey.
Your users expect you to have thought through all of these questions. Every time they engage with your company online, they’re comparing what you give them with the experiences they’ve had with world-class companies like Apple, Disney and Tesla.
The whole is greater than the sum of the parts
In an ideal world, you would want your entire marketing stack to help you grow, fit in with your strategy, be completely integrated and deliver an exceptional user experience. To get to that point, you need to start by asking and responding to the right questions.
Adding new marketing software is easy but getting it all working together is challenging. Integrated correctly, each layer in your stack will work together to create a system where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
A version of this article originally appeared on Media in Canada.