In an overwhelming sea of marketing platforms, one must choose new marketing technology (MarTech) wisely according to organization size, marketing goals, and leadership expectations. Two decades ago, MarTech was as simple as published media contact lists or basic database systems that captured client and project information, but little else. In recent years, things have changed, and rapidly.
These major advances have ushered in an array of technology platforms and systems to choose from—and it’s easy for a marketer to become confused. According to Sylvia Jensen’s post, “10 Surprising Statistics About Marketing Technology,” published on the Oracle Marketing Cloud blog, 66 percent of those investing in MarTech don’t have a clearly defined budget. Even more shocking is that only a mere 10 percent of companies are using it to improve the customer experience in totality.
Today, marketers of professional consulting services use technology in a variety of ways—to manage client information and touchpoints, build brand awareness, automate digital media functions, and streamline analytics and performance. However, the end goal is the same as it has always been—to better position our firms to enhance client service, win additional work from existing clients, or capture new clients or projects. To help us achieve our goals, a technology exists for virtually any task a marketer or communications professional needs to execute.
No matter what a professional services marketer hopes to achieve, it can be more easily accomplished by the right technology or platform. So how do you know what software or service is right for your organization? And, which ones will address your resources, budget, and timeline requirements? Most important, where do you start in understanding how to select the tool that is right for you?
Begin with a needs assessment.
Each firm is different, so it is essential to clarify your strategy, structure, processes, and end goals to help your team perform at an efficient level. Establishing a strong foundation now will allow you to create a shortlist of technology options and eliminate the frustration caused by too many solutions.
Consolidation is key.
There are individual service providers and applications that can assist the diligent marketer in performing a variety of functions. But why select individual applications when you could consolidate and look to “platform ecosystems” that provide the options you want under a single umbrella? Take Salesforce as one example—it not only offers a robust client relationship management system, it also has an entire suite of plug-in apps (i.e., analytics, chatter, geolocation, human resources, etc.). It also partners with services like Pardot, which facilitates marketing automation and drip campaigns.
And, consider WordPress, an all-in-one web builder used by many firms (MGT included). It has more than 54,000 plug-ins, which is impressive but could be costly. Make sure you identify goals up front to reduce the price tag, regardless if you purchase individual services or an entire platform.
Focus on account-based marketing verses a one-size-fits-all marketing approach.
Long gone are the days when you could push out an email marketing campaign that appealed to the masses, generating a high volume of leads. Today’s world requires personalization, and an answer to the client’s question, “What’s in it for me?” If you employ account-based marketing, coupled with the right campaign technology, you will flip the funnel and start with a smaller subset of your client base to nurture relationships, customize content, and turn emails into real opportunities—and ultimately, real project wins!
In the eye of the storm, a few key MarTech players emerge.
Once you conduct your needs assessments, investigate platforms, and employ a strategic approach to client management, you will see a few key players in the technology space emerge. Some cost-effective solutions I’ve encountered include Hootsuite, Canva, Constant Contact, Campaign Monitor, WordPress, Wix, and HubSpot. If you are a small-to-medium sized business, these platforms may be beneficial as many offer free subscriptions and only cost as your campaign sophistication grows.
Always embrace a learning mindset.
Finally, there’s one way to prepare our teams for the advancements in technology that will inevitably occur. We can equip them with access to the latest and greatest literature and expertise in the space, along with offering to provide further exposure, training, and specialization as it makes sense for your organization. A good practice is to encourage your teams to monitor MarTech blogs and conferences. You can also institute a “technology moment” on team calls to encourage group discussion and sharing of best practices on a regular basis. As we continue to see the consolidation of MarTech platforms, take heart that your organization has customized its approach from the very beginning, and can now pinpoint exactly what applications will further its marketing and business development goals.
There are many marketing technologies to choose from, but with a solid strategy as the foundation, it will be easier to navigate and select the most cost-effective solutions right for your company. But don’t worry, there will be more platforms to choose from next year should your goals or strategy shift! And, always embrace change—technology in our space is a good thing—one that can provide real competitive advantages if employed with thoughtfulness.
Note: This article first appeared in ©Marketer, The Journal of the Society for Marketing Professional Services, August 2019, www.smps.org.