Just as in the Olympic Games, marketing technology implementations don’t always go as planned. A spectacular dive might be ruined by a big splash on entry, or a rough landing on a triple axis might compromise an otherwise perfect performance. Likewise, marketing technology solutions that seem great at first don’t always deliver. Your ROI could be negated if you end up growing your staff to support the technology or spend more than expected in incremental support costs. Whether searching for a marketing technology solution for the first time or looking to replace a solution that has fallen short, here is a checklist of considerations you need to address up front to avoid marketing technology pitfalls.
1. Number of users
The number of users on a platform will not be static, and it’s important to consider how scalable your marketing technology solution will be over time – both from a licensing standpoint and also from the perspective of training and supporting users. While Marketing and IT may lead the technology acquisition decision, Sales, Customer Service, Technical Service and Support, and Operations may all benefit from the dashboards and reports available in SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platforms – and with shifts in the consumer decision journey, every employee has a stake in the Customer Experience. Consult with cross-functional leaders in the beginning of your technology evaluation process and plan early on for what kinds of licenses may be needed in the future. On that note, your users may each require different license permissions and different annual fees may apply (e.g. administrators versus users who can only interact with content). Be sure to clarify with your vendor up front what kinds of user licenses will be needed and budget accordingly.
2. Implementation timeframe
SaaS-based marketing technology platforms have the benefit of being comparatively quicker to implement over full-scale ERP systems, and are often leaner in terms of the time and resources required for implementation. However, it will be important to understand whether an out-of-the box solution will be acceptable for your purposes or if your solution requires advanced customization, features, or development work (either in-house or in coordination with the vendor’s IT staff). Your business needs should guide your decision in selecting a marketing technology partner (shorter or longer implementation timeframe), but don’t forget to clarify time to rollout and internal resource requirements. How many hours will be required of IT? How much time will marketing staff spend mapping out processes?
3. User interface and training
It may be helpful to create a set of criteria to measure user-friendliness of the technology solution. Additionally, you should clarify with your vendor what training will be included with the cost of technology implementation and the costs and timing of any incremental and/or specialized training. Depending on how intuitive the solution is, more training may be needed for knowledge transfer, for instance if there is a long lapse in time between user logins. What complementary training and support for software updates will be available? If ongoing training is not complementary, what is the cost?
4. In-house administration
You should determine if it will be necessary to designate an in-house contact or group of contacts to administer your SaaS platform internally. This is where the lines can blur a bit between marketing and IT. Even if the SaaS platform is administered by Marketing staff, you will need to determine whether it will be Marketing or IT’s responsibility to troubleshoot user technology issues and train users as well as how your vendor will support you.
It’s also important to reasonably estimate the amount of internal time required to administer and manage the software (set up and manage user permissions, upload content and data, and run reports) after rollout. This will be dependent on the complexity of the solution and the service-orientation of your vendor. Depending on complexity and the level of support provided by your vendor, you may need to dedicate someone as a full-time resource or distribute administration responsibilities to a team of employees. If your administrator(s) needs to be certified, what is the cost? Finally, if you are unable to dedicate a full-time resource to administration, will you need to grow your staff?
5. Support options
No matter which group owns administration, support beyond initial training and basic support will inevitably be required in the future. Evaluate all vendors against the cost of support options, channels available for support (website, tier 0/self-help, tutorials, email, phone, and chat), and your business support needs. You should also clarify the average response time for standard service or support requests and the cost for escalating your issue or request for priority support. Other important considerations include the location of your vendor’s support team (U.S. versus abroad) and how intimately your vendor will know and interact with your account. For example, will you have a dedicated account manager or team for support? Sometimes, a smaller company will be able to respond more quickly to support request, and that is definitely a factor to consider in your marketing technology decision.
1. Asset and campaign management
Marketing resource management systems provide a robust toolset for managing and standardizing marketing messaging, but the extent to which users capitalize on the full benefits of an MRM system is also contingent on investing time before rollout to upload templates (HTML and print) and prospect lists to the system. It’s important to be prepared in advance with these core brand resources and prospect lists and to understand what support your vendor will provide during this process.
2. Marketing fulfillment
When partnering with a full-service marketing service provider, campaign design, printing and fulfillment, and execution can be managed end-to-end, simplifying campaign distribution and reducing staff time to coordinate marketing efforts.
3. Pre-press review (brand management, colors)
A full-service marketing service provider can also assist with brand consistency beyond the built-in brand compliance that is afforded by an MRM software system by helping to ensure the integrity of printed colors and in coordinating final pre-press review before brand materials go to print.
Above we’ve provided a checklist to help you avoid the pitfalls of your marketing technology implementation, including several questions to ask up front to help select the marketing technology partner best suited for your business needs and to help you understand and plan in advance for the front-end work required to capitalize on the full benefits of your solution. Additionally, with Marketing taking greater ownership in marketing technology decisions, it’s still important to collaborate with IT and other cross-functional stakeholders early on in the technology evaluation process.
What is your experience in avoiding marketing technology pitfalls? Which of the above strategies have been most successful for your organization?