Getting Business Requirements Right For Your Marketing Technology Build

Posted on by Beth Negus Viveiros

If your marketing team plans to take on a significant marketing technology upgrade this year, your most important first step is to build smart business requirements to guide the team.

The best path to success is to create a plain-English document that clearly spells out what you are hoping to accomplish. This business requirements document or “BRD” focuses on “what” you want your new system to do, rather than “how” it must work. The “hows” come later in functional or technical requirements documents aimed at more technical audiences who will ultimately build the solution.

The 3 Technology Investment Drivers

There are three main reasons marketers invest in new technology, and your reasons should be at the core of your requirements document.

·      Driving more revenue– through more efficient customer acquisition, better customer retention or growth is a top reason to build.

·      Capturing missed marketing opportunitiesthat your current solution cannot react to is another.

·      Improving your marketing operationsbecause of a lack of access to data or insights, poor integration, or hard to use technology is a third reason to build a new solution. 

Laying down specific improvement goals in each of these areas will strengthen your business case for the technology investment.

Line up with Marketing Objectives

Your business requirements document should specify the marketing objectives for your new technology.  Is your most important objective the acquisition of new customers?  Or, are customer retention, loyalty and growth your primary concerns?  Very often we see marketers make technology investments with customer acquisition in mind, when the greatest benefits and the biggest payback actually can come from reducing attrition.  Carefully articulating the marketing objectives you expect the technology to meet is your starting point. 

Create a detailed list of the specific types of marketing activity you want the technology to manage, including the volume and frequency of marketing efforts and campaigns. Think about the level of automation you will want in your marketing efforts.  Will you need to trigger email communications based on changing data or events in the customers’ relationships? Many marketers chart a number of very specific and repeatable campaigns they hope their marketing technology will accomplish—along with the results to be measured. These are your “Use Cases” and can be a practical way for your stakeholders to understand new capabilities that may be impossible today. Do not make the mistake of creating super-complex campaigns just for the sake of using all the features of your new technology.  Create good, solid campaigns that you think will work better than what you can do today with a “crawl, walk, run” approach.

Find the Stakeholders, Line up the Data and Identify the Risks

Think next about your marketing organization and who will use, or be impacted by the new system. Identify their roles and responsibilities clearly. You may find you have a skills gap and that the new system will require new hires or the support of a services provider.  Identifying the skill level of your users is important.  Too often, systems are built for very sophisticated users and then sit dormant because they are too intimidating for the exiting team to use – a huge waste of investment!

Nothing will sink a technology build faster than bad or missing data.  The business requirements should include a major focus on what kind of data will be necessary to make your campaign use cases possible.  What source systems will feed data into your new solution? How good is the data you can get from source systems? Whose help will need to help you get the data from the source systems? What data is missing that can be acquired from third parties? Include each of these in your requirements.

You and your team will make a series of assumptions in the BRD. Write them down and include them in your document, because assumptions are also risks. What happens if the assumption is wrong or something does not happen the way you believe it will? 

Collaboration is Critical.

Finally, building business requirements is a team effort.  You will want to start by identifying all the stakeholders in your technology solution including people that will use the solution, those who will benefit from it, and those who will support it. Bring these groups together, explain your vision, and get their input.

Clearly written requirements, numbered and understood independently, will allow each to be prioritized, planned-out and checked-off as the system is built. Getting your requirements right is the best hope for a marketing technology build that will deliver a successful long-term solution for your organization.

Martha Bush is senior vice president of strategy at SIGMA Marketing Group.


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