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3 questions no one asks before talking to tech vendors

A marketer questions tech options

The marketing tech landscape has expanded so much over the last decade, as this LUMAscape shows. It can be overwhelming when you’re looking for new tech providers.

First, figure out “must-haves” versus “nice to haves”.

The most important thing to remember is that when making any martech decisions, looking at what you need is the obvious first step. But, beyond that, you must know the difference between your “must-haves” and your “nice-to-haves.” You need this before you try to put together a request for proposal or call your first vendor prospect.

Your “nice to haves” drive innovation and help you take the next step in your business. Your “must-haves” are the functional requirements you need to maintain your current business.

Before you start your selection process, create a list of needs. Also, note who in your company owns each requirement and rank it in relation to every other need on the list. Don’t assume you can assign an equal weight to everyone’s request.

Besides helping you clarify your goals and writing your RFP, this list will come in handy when you’re sorting through your vendor evaluations down the road.

Beyond that first step, look at these three top-level considerations that any marketing tech platform must excel at:

1. What’s the mobile plan?

Mobile is a force you must reckon with. Most vendors should incorporate mobile into the ability to push messaging and tech. Mobile has penetrated everyday and even “every-minute” appliances. If you’re considering a martech vendor that doesn’t think about mobile, you might be moving in the wrong direction.

Any vendor in the tech LUMAscape, from ESPs onward, needs to offer a mobile experience. Look at your statistics that show how many of your customers are accessing your own products, services or information on mobile – and not just phones but also tablets, wearables and devices we don’t even know about yet.

Also, figure out how many of your sales come from mobile. Quantify the presence of mobile on your own marketing stack. Understand that mobile will not diminish in usefulness but will continue to increase exponentially. So, ask what each vendor is doing to accommodate mobile.

2. What customer service and resources does the vendor offer?

I don’t know about you, but I went to college to become a psychologist rather than a marketer. In fact, I know a lot of marketers who didn’t take any marketing classes. We’re all learning as we go.

Even if you did major in marketing, you probably didn’t take courses on predictive analytics, or artificial intelligence or pay-per-click or email or affiliate marketing.

Most marketers are deficient in some knowledge of digital marketing just because we’re moving so fast today. So, customer service becomes critical. You must be able to count on your vendor to get you the answers you need. You need fast access, quick response times and strong thought leadership.

Ask about the vendor’s response times. Would you have a dedicated account manager? Would you have your account manager’s cell phone number if you have an off-hours emergency? How long is the delay in accessing information about your account?

Every minute you wait for answers or service is a minute you aren’t making money.

Also, look at the information the company releases on its blog, in its email newsletters and white papers and other content-marketing efforts. How does it help you grow your own knowledge base? How knowledgeably could your account manager help you manage your program successfully, identify deficiencies and suggest ways to do things better?

These are intangible assets that most companies don’t think about when developing their RFPs. They don’t quantify the intangible assets in content marketing and the quality of the information the vendor shares with its clients.

3. What integrations will you need with this vendor?

Forrester talks about the impact of integrations. This was a major topic at the Cannes Lions in June. How does this platform integrate with your other systems? Focus on key access to data and tying all your systems together.

The hallmark of a First Person Marketer is building a marketing stack with best-in-class technologies; a stack that should surround and play well together with the CRM system.

Your list of “must-haves” and “nice to haves” should include essential integrations. Pull it all together, such as your API guide, URLs, an app store and more. Pull together all the integrations you need so that your prospective vendors can see what they’re working with.

Don’t assume, however, that your prospective vendors will have an out-of-the-box integration for every one you need. Be sure they can integrate the way you need, however, and that they will pay for that integration or have dedicated resources to get that done in short order.

Ultimately, you will need to cut through the clutter. These kinds of conversations can be overwhelming because of the vast numbers of vendors. Your internal lists and expectations help you cut through the clutter and reduce the vendor LUMAscape to a manageable number.

Come into the process as an educated buyer, and you’ll walk away with a product that services your innovation schedule and drives your business forward.

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