How to Avoid Getting Stuck With an Unmanageable Marketing System

Oct 05, 2022

Kandi O'Connor
LinkedIn

GettyImages-1391030725My colleague Martha France recently wrote about how marketing organizations are being asked to do more than ever to contribute to operational effectiveness company-wide. This expanded role requires investments in talent and advanced, often complex, software systems. Choosing the right marketing technology for your organization is essential, but it’s only part of the equation. How you staff, configure and manage these systems correlates directly with the value your organization derives from the technology, which ultimately impacts competitive advantage and the return on your investment.

Not All Marketing Software Is Created Equal

Today’s SaaS platforms have made it possible to bring powerful marketing technology into your organization without having to install or manage the software or hardware required to run it. But there are different levels of complexity for software systems. Some software is easy to use “out of the box” but is limited in its functionality.

More complex marketing systems with higher levels of functionality require greater system configuration support and management. For example, you cannot expect a sophisticated marketing resource management system that operates across a distributed organization, like a bank with hundreds of branches or a franchise with hundreds of franchisees, to be configured in the same one-size-fits-all approach of a file-sharing or instant messaging tool.

Assess the level of configurability and management that you require based on the level of functionality the marketing system offers. The vertical axis of the chart below indicates the level of functionality or features that a software solution provides, with low functionality, cookie-cutter solutions in the bottom quadrants and high functionality/highly configurable solutions at the top. The horizontal axis indicates the level of system management and configuration support provided by the vendor, with low levels of management and support at the left, and high on the right.

quadrant-chart

3 Options for Complex Marketing System Configuration & Management

There are three options for implementing a complex marketing software system: do it yourself with internal resources, outsource to an agency or consultant, or partner with your vendor. Here are some considerations to help determine which approach will yield the best outcome and ROI for your organization.

Option 1 – Do It Yourself: Configure and manage the marketing system internally.

Many organizations that decide to configure and manage software systems in-house do so based on financial concerns. You may think it’s cheaper to manage internally. But the reality is, internal resources are not free.

Determine your capacity to configure and manage an advanced marketing system by answering a few initial questions. Will you have support from IT or will you need to hire a systems integrator (who isn’t familiar with your business and will take time to come up to speed – see option 2 below)? How many of your people can you dedicate to configuring and managing your complex marketing system? Will they be full-time on the system or will they have other responsibilities that will take them away from their system management duties?

There are other hidden costs in configuring and managing complex systems internally, such as time-to-value. The time-to-value is the length of time it takes to get a system configured so that it meets your needs and delivers value. It takes time for knowledge transfer from your vendor to your organization. And you end up losing that internal expertise if your trained staff leaves the company. What’s more, in today’s workforce environment, it may take even longer to replace and re-train. Likewise, if your vendor loses your internal point of contact, you are starting at ground zero with that new person.

Another thing to consider is that marketing technology changes every year. Your internal team needs to be able to pivot to those changes, which are not on your internal timetable. This is one of those areas where you should go against your instinct. If you don’t have the dedicated, fully trained and highly knowledgeable staff needed to configure and manage the system, you end up using the system less because it’s too difficult and becomes outdated over time. By leaving it to vendor experts who have the deep knowledge and the deep bench to configure and manage your complex marketing software, your system will remain up to date and is more likely to be used to its fullest potential, providing your organization greater value and ROI.

Option 2 – Outsource to an Agency or Systems Integration Consultant

Imagine you’ve attempted to configure and manage your marketing software internally. After months spent learning the system and then configuring it, you start to wonder if there is a better way. After launch, you still need people to not only manage the system and ongoing configuration, but also to decipher all of the technical updates and announcements issued by the software developer. Often you get to the point where you need to hire a third-party systems integrator or consultant to get the system to do what you want it to do and then manage it.

This option shifts the burden away from your internal resources, but you still end up dealing with some of the same drawbacks of internal management, like long time-to-value, as it takes time for knowledge transfer from your organization and your vendor to your integration consultant.

Option 3 – Partner with Your Vendor: Work with a dedicated, knowledgeable team

Your investment in advanced marketing technology is intended to give you a competitive advantage. Having a dedicated, highly knowledgeable vendor team devoted to your system ensures you can fulfill your promises to your clients – internal and external – and enables you to realize that competitive advantage.

A vendor-configured and managed system is high on efficiency because highly experienced experts are providing the management and configuration support. A vendor team has long-term experience developing and configuring its software, which eliminates much of the learning curve associated with in-house implementations, accelerating time-to-value. What’s more, your vendor will make sure that your system is up to date with any marketing technology upgrades and changes that may be required over time.

Full-service vendor configuration and management also significantly reduces risk, especially risk associated with personnel. In a self-service model, if you lose your internal technical expert, you are impacted until you can fill the position and train a new person. With a vendor supporting and managing your system, there is built-in redundancy. If someone leaves the vendor organization, there is still a team of people in place that know your business and keep the solution running.

Responsiveness is a concern often cited by organizations that do not opt for a vendor-configured and managed system. Companies often believe they can handle system configuration and management issues faster in-house. But in a rush situation, they can cause harm to a complex system configuration. A well-defined service-level agreement (SLA) can alleviate concerns about vendor response times. With an SLA you can clearly lay out the metrics by which service is measured, as well as the remedies should the agreed-upon service levels not be achieved.

Another advantage of working closely with a vendor partner, is the opportunity to consolidate your technology stack. Investigate what other capabilities a vendor can offer. At Vya, for example, we not only offer a robust marketing resource management solution, we’re also a printer with direct mail and email marketing capabilities. The option to integrate additional marketing capabilities under one vendor relationship can further increase efficiencies, add value and reduce costs.

Think Big Picture and Long-Term

Technology and on-demand business models have conditioned us to expect instant gratification for all of our needs. But doing it fast should not be the primary objective. There are still some disciplines that require long-term thinking and planning. Advanced marketing technology is a long-term investment. It’s important to take the time to consider how to configure the system now and for the future.

When it comes to implementing complex marketing technology, start with a vision for what you want your software to do for your organization. Chances are, you have a lot riding on it. Think through your system configuration and management strategy, not just tech support. Allow your vision to guide you in configuring your system to your specific needs and environment.

And be sure to keep your users’ needs top of mind throughout the process. If the system makes life easier for your users, they are more likely to accept and adopt it, which is essential for you to realize the system’s potential.

With a vendor partner shouldering the intricacies of configuration and ongoing management, you position your organization to derive maximum value and competitive advantage from your technology investment – earning big wins for both you and your company.

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Tags: marketing ROI, marketing budget, MRM, marketing technology, marketing resource management, marketing operations, risk management, marketing resource management investment, Competitive advantage, marketing staff, marketing technology buyers' resources

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