Rethink How You Evaluate Marketing Technology

March 4, 2016
Contributor: Chris Pemberton

Every marketer should ask these five questions before choosing a new marketing technology.

When evaluating marketing technology, buyers often start with a list of desired features:

  1. “We need integration with all our other systems.”
  2. “We should have automated reporting.”
  3. “Email notifications are important.”

Yet too often this list will not actually help achieve important marketing goals such as increased lifetime value or increased awareness in key markets. Be careful what you wish for, the old adage goes, because you might just get it.

Rather, try the technique of asking “why?” five times to uncover and document the most important needs, timelines and risks associated with a desire to buy marketing technology, noted Kirsten Newbold-Knipp, research director, Gartner for Marketing Leaders.

Challenge assumptions and dig deeper

Too often the marketing technology decision train has already left the station before the underlying need is clarified. Even simple new technology requests can mask a gap that exists between the capabilities marketers think they need and the capabilities they actually need. Asking why five times crystallizes the need and surfaces the best solution, which may not be technology-related at all.

Rethink How You Evaluate Marketing Technology

1. Why do you need a (new) ______?

Force yourself and your marketing team to define the problem you are trying to solve. That seemingly simple ask for an off-the-shelf segmentation system might be just one symptom of a larger need for better marketing analytics in the organization.

2. Why will a (new) ______ solve this problem?

Is the defined issue a problem that technology can even solve? People often turn to technology because they don’t want to wrestle with a political or process issue.

3. Why is this important?

Many marketers seek new technology to meet operational objectives (such as social media fan growth) that may not necessarily impact business outcomes. Trace the connections from any new system to the true goals of marketing and the business.

4. Why is this important now?

In a world of expanding technology options and choice, opportunity costs are an important part of every decision and assessment. You must demonstrate why a particular technology investment deserves a higher priority today than other potential investments and show the opportunity cost of not investing now.

5. Why might a (new) ______ fail to solve the problem (now)?

Dig into the key risks and dependencies before evaluating vendors and products. What happens if a small vendor gets bought or goes out of business? How might seasonal or strategic timing delay implementation?

You can’t ask “why?” often enough. Use the answers to draft a list of prioritized business capabilities mapped to outcomes that shape requirements documents.

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