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Marketing Technology Planning: Smart Questions for 2021

The end of the year brings on the introspection associated with planning, and thoughts are turning to what’s on the docket for 2021. To be sure, that could be a refreshing way to put the chaos of 2020 behind us emotionally.

An essential part of planning is an evaluation of the kind of technology you’ll need to meet marketing and business goals. This is the time that clients start to ask around about new options for this function or that function, or we start to get involved in migration plans for new platforms or components. Most of the big players have announced their roadmaps and key features to be added in the coming year, and these raise a lot of eyebrows as businesses consider ending contracts, making the switch over to a new partner, or working on a better deal with the incumbent. But before you head down that road—or if you are already on that road—consider a few essentials about what kind of marketing technology will serve you best.

Ask the right questions.

The biggest players in the game would love to own the whole thing, supposedly creating new features and making acquisitions that seemingly construct invincible monoliths of functionality that all talk to each other and create incalculable value in servicing your customers and growing your business.

Yadda, yadda, yadda—it’s never that simple. To get to the truth, ask these three questions:

1. What’s best for me: an all-in-one or best-of-breed solution?

Do you need a best-of-breed solution for every component of marketing technology? If so, then an all-in-one solution may not be the right direction. Concentrating instead on how key components will work together may be a better solution based on what we know about how most all-in-one solutions (think Adobe, Salesforce, SAP) became all-in-one solutions: through acquisition. Since many acquisitions are based on market entry for the company making that acquisition, understanding how that all-in-one partner can serve your needs in all areas is a critical consideration. If there are deeper considerations like an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that drives that consideration (from the back end forward to the customer experience), the all-in-one solution might make the most sense.

Contrary to the all-in-one approach is a best-of-breed or best-in-class solution—that is, choosing the best component for each function. For best-of-breed solutions to solve specific problems, a deeper technical dive may reveal that different providers for different components may actually play well together—sometimes better than technology that was acquired by those providers later. Those companies may have forged strategic partnerships that were key to survival and nailed their integrations out of necessity so they could stay in the game. They may also be more open and flexible systems, thus making integration less painful.

2. Do I have the resources?

Be honest with yourself when asking if you have the time and resources to manage what you are buying. If you are buying an enterprise-class system or set of systems, understanding the work that goes in to getting the most out of each feature is a key consideration. A simpler way to put it might be: is the juice worth the squeeze, or are you borrowing trouble with a system that is much too complex for your team to maintain?

3. Should I keep up or grow up?

Finally, ask yourself what the lasting impact of each feature is. How does it connect customers to your business and allow you to grow? If it’s a case of buying a feature to keep up with the Joneses, there is a case to be made for not just keeping up—but growing up. Letting the lure of today’s whizbang outweigh actually solving your key business problems would simply put you on the treadmill for buying more and more. Growing up means putting business value into the technology you choose. That business value is derived from:

  • Connecting customers to your business to drive growth
  • Using smart measurement tools to help you understand what your customers want and how to make it happen for them
  • Having a sustainable set of processes that you and your team can actually manage while driving value

Keep the key theme in mind.

Don’t let features that you are paying ginormous licensing fees for sit on the bench because they don’t add real value or are not sustainable within your team’s capacity. These are tough questions to ask and to be honest about, especially while sales teams are offering the fabled “screaming deals” we so often hear about at the end of a quarter. But stay strong and be true to your customers, to business value, and to leveraging marketing technology that delivers on the promises you make.