According to Marketing Land in March 2016, "almost 4,000 companies are now part of the marketing technology landscape, a huge leap from the 150 itemized back in 2011." There's also no sign of a slow down in this industry. New companies, technologies and innovations are being created almost daily. In this growing web of services and tools, how does a company choose the right ones? We've put together this list of the 10 most important things to consider when choosing technology tools for you.
It would be hard to argue that anything matters more than support. Having a team readily available to address your needs is critical for any service provider with whom you do business. Every minute you spend waiting on service is a minute taken away from being able to make timely deliveries to your clients. You need a company that understands this and will respond to your requests as quickly as possible.
Just because you don’t need it today, doesn’t mean you won’t need it tomorrow. The needs of businesses and agencies grow with the needs of their current or new clients, and with trends in the market. Choosing a platform with your future growth in mind is a lot easier than moving from one system to another when you need more tools. Companies that don’t plan ahead often add one tool at a time and end up with a dozen. Forward planning gives you the ability to choose a single platform that could have all the features you need today, and further down the road.
You want to provide the best marketing services to your clients. In order to do that, you need the best marketing software. In this competitive environment, you can’t settle for less. Choosing the right software is similar to the process of buying a big ticket item, like a house or car. To get started, make a list of the features you need, the “nice to haves”, and what you may need in the future. Compare different platforms and find the software that meets or exceeds your requirements. You can use sites like g2crowd to read reviews and side-by-side comparisons of software platforms.
Reading reviews before choosing software is one of the best ways to clarify which is best for you. Keep in mind that not all reviews are completely accurate. Some businesses ask personal contacts or pay individuals to leave positive comments. With that in mind, read through all the negative and positive testimonials for good balance. Of course, no one pays for negative reviews, but it’s useful to know that people are much more likely to leave a review only when they’ve had a bad experience. So, there’s always a “negative bias” with feedback. Additionally, keep in mind that the business giving the statement may differ vastly from you own.
- Setup and integration
One of the most critical items that is often overlooked is the initial investment for onboarding. Read the fine print carefully. There are many tools that require significant time and/or cost at set-up. Reviewing these details manages your expectations about the process, and helps you avoid choosing a tool that requires more technical expertise than you have on your team. If you know you need a simple tool, or one that requires little effort to set-up, make sure to take this into consideration. The right tool will be one that strikes a balance between setup costs and time, price, features and service.
- Learning curve
There is a learning curve with using any new tool or developing a new skill. Carefully evaluate the complexity of the new software and the training needed when choosing the right one. This also relates to the set-up fee, as it makes a big difference if training your employees is included in the initial costs and time required. If training is included and provided by the company, this greatly impacts how easy it is to integrate the new tool into your current business practices. For leaner organizations, or those with less technically skilled members, easing the learning curve is an important factor in the decision making process.
Many marketing platforms offer a low-cost, entry level package to win new clients who may not be ready or able to invest much. Even with these low-cost packages, it’s important to consider your current and projected marketing needs when choosing. As your company grows, you could lose time and money switching to a new platform or adding tools because the larger packages are beyond your budget or don’t meet your needs. Some major factors to consider when evaluating the features and volume you may need now, and in the future, include: 1) number of contacts, 2) number of outbound emails, 3) number of users, 4) number of domains and pages you’ll want to track, and 5) marketing per impression (ex: limits on your popups or landing page views to a certain number per month).
- Bug threshold
There is no such thing as bug free software. At times, even the largest enterprises have bugs for a team of quality assurance managers to fix. This is the nature of software, which is still made by humans, at least for the time being. Since finding bug free software is impossible, you should be most concerned with the threshold of bugs. This basically means how often you find them, and how quickly the QA team cleans them up. Bugs are very serious as they slow down your work for clients and could result in lost business.
- Updates and new products
Technology never stays the same, as new things are invented and introduced almost daily. When choosing a platform, make sure you choose one that continuously rolls out updates and new tools. This shows you the company and developers are incorporating the latest and greatest innovations in marketing for their clients. You can find this out by looking at their blog posts and announcements about software updates. If there’s a free trial, test out the software to assess how often updates are made and evaluate if the tools were improved. Also, test drive a few platforms to get a sense for which feel modern and which seem outdated.
- Partnership opportunity
As a company, you provide value to software companies with feedback on their products. Not only are you a paying customer, whose feedback is always important, but you are also industry experts well-versed in new marketing trends. You learn new techniques on a regular basis, and your opinions help software companies improve. By choosing a platform that values you as a partner, you work with a team that understands when you grow, they grow. You and your clients deserve the best, so look for software companies that provide partnership opportunities. Each will offer different benefits, which generally include: 1) dedicated support and customer service, 2) premium product rollouts, 3) training, 4) phone support, and 5) commission or reward for referring clients. This could be in the form of discounts or recurring commissions deposited directly to your account.
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