By Scott Vaughan
There are thousands of marketing technologies and even more service options available to boost marketing performance today. The selection ranges from technology to acquire and nurture customers to tools to analyze and measure performance and to personalize experiences. The list goes on and on as new solutions continually crop up to meet the demands of marketers’ mandate to bolster their companies’ bottom line. Navigating a sea of technology solutions and finding the right provider isn’t easy.
While technology has become essential to successful marketing, it has also surfaced the challenge of yielding and proving results. According to Hubspot, 25% of marketers say proving ROI of marketing activities is a top challenge. As a CMO, I have seen this challenge first hand. The mass adoption of marketing tech solutions has brought with it a time suck for marketing teams along with wasted budget and resources. Sometimes, the technology simply just doesn’t fulfill its grandiose promises. If this sounds familiar, it’s time to determine where the problem lies and how to avoid it in the future.
When assessing potential tech products and services, a set of important criteria should be used. This is what we call business value alignment (BVA) and it’s something that can be done early in the research process, before too much precious time is invested on budget-scoping, assessing and implementing a misaligned solution. BVA refers to the business value created for both the buyer and the prospective marketing tech solution provider. To identify business value, it’s critical to first categorize needs and the various solutions available that will improve marketing results. For example, is adding a new capability to marketing efforts the main priority? Or is it more important to consolidate existing systems?
Any business arrangement with the technology provider should be beneficial to each party’s business. This effort requires equal diligence and commitment by marketing leaders and the prospective providers. To arrive at a mutually beneficial BVA, CMOs and marketers should keep the following five steps in mind:
- Identify Basic Needs and Requirements: While some pain points might be apparent, also take the time to interview company stakeholders and marketing peers about what they need to advance their capabilities – specifically, what has worked and what hasn’t? These don’t need to be exact specs just yet, but formulate informed ideas that can be validated later.
- Create a Blueprint: One of the most effective ways to illustrate BVA is to create a marketing technology blueprint. This is a simple visual diagram that outlines the current technology, systems, processes and data flow, making it easier to identify the gaps, overlaps and chokepoints. The blueprint shows where to improve, bring in new solutions or consolidate existing processes or technology to achieve desired goals. This approach also provides a baseline to work from with a visual for easy communications with internal stakeholders and marketing tech providers.
- Develop Discussion Points: Give the prospective vendors a list of key goals and ideas in advance to make this an optimal working session. See who proposes different approaches and ask them to include discussions around “How do they see the market playing out in the next 12-24 months?”, “What are their customers doing to succeed?”, “What makes a good implementation?” and “What makes a ‘tech gone wild’ scenario?” These topics often unveil new insights about the prospective providers, including their culture, how they think and how they work. In the MarTech community, these attributes can be just as important as the technology or service they offer.
- Scope a Proof of Concept AND a Full Adoption Model: The ultimate BVA test is to put the technology or service to work in the true environment. This controlled process has several advantages, including: experiencing firsthand how the team responds and uses the technology or service; determining how much change in talent or process is really required; identifying power users and champions who will pave the way for the rest of the team; and assessing true BVA for the investment and commitment. In addition, sketch out what full adoption will look like as this will help the solution eventually scale.
- Determine Joint Success Metrics: Ask the internal team and stakeholders what success should look like in one month, a quarter or at the end of the first year. What are the key results to measure ROI? Capture these questions from both the organization and the provider to determine BVA. This underscores the need for both parties to be dedicated to the effort and increase odds of success.
While business value alignment is not a new concept, it’s unfortunately one that is not regularly practiced in the marketing tech world. Applying BVA is a simple approach that has a significant upside for the marketing department and builds further credibility with business stakeholders. With 2015 planning underway, marketers should ensure BVA is practiced now before any further time, resources or budget are put to waste.
Scott Vaughan is the CMO of Integrate.