Stack

The Forward March for Martech: Tool Selection

Karina Schuelke, Martech Solutions Manager
#Software Architecture | Posted

Technology is supposed to solve our business problems, right?

But it can’t begin to help us solve the challenges we face until we select and implement the right tools for our organization, the ones that empower us and help our digital ecosystem to be stronger than the the sum of its parts.

No matter what type of martech you need, deeply understanding the needs of your users and following a thorough vetting process greatly increases your chances of acquiring a piece of technology that will serve your business well.

Our approach—preparation, selection, decision—will help you contain scope, narrow down your choices, and ultimately choose and implement a tool that will integrate well with your existing tech stack, your team, and your organizational needs.

Contact us directly for a consultation on your martech stack.

Preparation

Understand The Need

At the outset, you'll need to understand how the team uses their martech stack today and what the business needs are:

  • Which team members are in which tools?
  • What do they depend on?
  • What are they regularly asking for?

Consider why the organization needs this piece of technology:

  • What will it achieve for the organization?
  • What success criteria will you use to know if it fundamentally meets your needs?

Stakeholder interviews are key to this process. Line up people who use the current technology, people asking for the new functionality, people working on the bigger picture & business need questions—anyone you can speak with affected by the new tool will have valuable inputs.

(The caveat: if there are too many people, this could quickly become unmanageable, so at that point you will need to do the work of identifying key stakeholders and/or bring in a digital implementation shop to objectively align teams.)

Take time to deeply understand the tech stack this new piece of technology will fit into: 

  • What new functionality will it bring to the table?
  • How will that impact your customer experience, empower your team, or deliver new information to your stakeholders?

"The foundation of any successful software selection effort is a solid understanding of the business needs that the software is supposed to support. Without that grounding, you're just evaluating in a vacuum. The right software is the one that is going to work for your specific organization, with your specific needs, at this specific timeand into the future."  – Jordan Hirsch, Director, Strategy

UNDERSTAND THE SPACE

Today, it’s almost impossible to avoid some degree of overlap between related types of technologies. Maybe you have two or three different systems which track prospect behavior on your website as a part of their overall functionality, and you have to figure out which one is the system-of-record or how to reconcile differing data.

Or maybe you deliberately chose that overlap. For example, you might have a marketing automation tool where the landing page system doesn’t meet your specific needs, or you might prefer a different way of managing your social media. So, even though your marketing automation has those capabilities, you maintain a different piece of technology to handle those functions.

Understanding the space helps you manage these overlaps successfully, along with the reverse problem: gaps.

When you understand the space where your desired new piece of technology fits, you will understand the overlaps and the gaps you need to avoid vs. the ones you can live with. You will know which technologies are complementary and which ones are direct (or mostly direct competitors). And you will know a lot more about which types of technologies in this specific space are the most likely to solve your true business need.

DETERMINE OWNERSHIP

Before you buy the tool, know how you will make it a part of the normal workflow it modifies. Some key questions to consider:

  • Who will own the tool?

  • Who will use the tool?

  • Who needs information the tool provides?

  • Is any aspect of the tool client-facing? If so, when will people likely interact with it and why?

The answers to these questions will deeply shape tool selection and implementation. For example, a single point of ownership (even if that individual has a support group around them or a team reporting to them) or a clear plan for who owns what aspects of a given tool makes a significant difference in producing consistency, managing the change to the new tool effectively, and supporting adoption.

Selection

Once you have the above information, the actual selection process should follow a general pattern that looks something like this:

  1. Review the most applicable in the space that potentially address the need. These will most likely be ~6-8.

    1. If there are more than nine, revisit the questions & planning from the Preparation stageit’s time to do some more work, truly understanding the need, and gathering more information on the best approach to solving it.

  2. Select three or four to demo:

    1. It can be tough to narrow the list down for demoing, but it’s important to keep the list of demos small to avoid overwhelming you and everyone else. Some potential criteria to consider as you work to narrow it down:

      1. Company size and/or longevity

      2. User experience of the website, user experience of the tool (as seen in screenshots and/or videos)

      3. Support options

      4. Review sites (like G2Crowd)

    2. Start a functionality detail list as you evaluate: what’s needed, what’s offered, how different items are handled.

Know what you need each sales rep to answer going into the demo and what the deal-breakers are. Probe for workarounds when you hit potential roadblocks. Seek to understand how each tool behaves and the world it’s operating from.

“When choosing software it's important that there is always a mix of standard criteria and the criteria that's unique to your needs. Criteria like features supported, quality, stability, performance and price are always therebut considering how the software is going to integrate with and live and grow in your environment is what makes all the difference.”  – Chris Johnson, VP, Engineering

  1. Try to get down to 1-2 tools for deeper review.

  2. Strive to select a single, final tool to promote to the rest of the stakeholders & decision-makers.

(If there are still two tools in the running at this point, present them to a small audience of two to three power users to get a consensus decision on the recommended selection. Executive stakeholders need to approve moving to this step to ensure they have visibility and there is still commitment to moving forward with a solution of some kind. And, if the need isn’t solved by one tool, then do the same thing with multiple tools that serve the single need.)

The deep-dive information completed prior to presenting the tools to these power users will provide invaluable information for informing the decision.

Decision

Once the single tool has been selected, then discuss that tool as needed with the buying decision-makers. What they need to move forward can vary extensively, often depending on the role the tool will play in the stack.

Here are some different ways this could play out:

  • They just need to know the tool and the price and that’s it.

  • They need to understand the landscape and the advantages of this specific tool.

  • They need to understand how it functions in more detail.

Once the executive(s) involved buy-in to the tool, if there are other power users, ensure it meets their needs. How this works depends on the number of users.

Finally, get the tool!

Next Steps

Once you have the tech, you’re only part-way done. To deliver the transformation you hoped the tool would bring, you need to embark on an in-depth implementation process. Interested in learning more?

Ask me how I applied this process for Phase2’s martech stack!

Karina Schuelke

Karina Schuelke

Martech Solutions Manager