Taking your first steps towards acquiring software to better engage your customers and prospects can be confusing and overwhelming to the most seasoned marketer.
To help cut through the noise, here is our handy step-by-step guide to finding the perfect solution for your organisation.
Navigating the martech ecosystem
According to Chief MarTech, there are currently a whopping 6,289 providers of marketing-related technology. To put the size and growth of the industry into perspective, this is greater than the total number of providers in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016 combined.
The more than 6,000 solutions extend from advertising platforms and e-commerce gateways through to analytics and data visualization and everything in between. And that’s not to mention the all-in-one platforms which span any number of features and categories.
It’s important to understand that there isn’t a single solution that will solve all marketing problems being faced by your organisation. You simply can’t traffic a display ad, send an email, post to social media, sell products, and measure the success of your campaigns in a single tool.
Depending on the complexity of your problem and your organisation, you may require a number of solutions working together - also known as a “stack”. For example, here at Squiz we sell Squiz Matrix CMS, Funnelback Enterprise Search and Squiz Cloud, all of which can be integrated to each other and pass information back and forth - otherwise known as a Digital Experience Platform (DXP).
Step 1: Define the problem you are trying to solve
This is the obvious place to start, but often not where most organisations begin their technology procurement journey.
Rather than start with a solution in mind, make sure you first define the problem you are trying to solve and the overarching strategy of how you will achieve it.
Less “we need a marketing automation platform” and more “we need to increase sales to prospective first homeowners by 5% this financial year. This will be done through engagement to educate them on the purchasing process and inform them of financial assistance available through our Home Starter program.”
Notice that through this definition we can begin to pull apart requirements that will help find suitable solutions:
|Increase sales to prospective first homeowners||Demographic and psychographic segmentation of audience|
|By 5% this financial year||Campaign attribution and analytics, CRM integration|
|Educate them on the purchasing process||Targeted content delivery platform|
|Inform them of financial assistance available||Personalised communication and integration/workflows with call centre team|
Step 2: Create your checklist
It might seem like another annoying step, but creating a checklist of your requirements will make life easier when it comes to narrowing down available options (to make things even smoother we’ve created a handy template you can use).
Your checklist should not only include your requirements, but also things like your organisational size, number of users, and size of your audience. This is because many solutions are priced by audience size, traffic, or the number of employees using the platform.
Human resources can also play a major part in which solution you eventually acquire, with different platforms requiring different numbers of employees and levels of technical knowledge to operate.
|Operational requirements||Scope and exisiting infrastructure||Organisational capabilities|
|Audience segmentation||250 total employees||4 marketing employees|
|CRM integration||50,000 leads in database||1 dedicated digital marketer|
|Attribution modelling||Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn accounts||Advanced HTML and CSS skills within organisation|
|Campaign analytics||CRM||Moderate graphic design skills within organisation|
|Email sends tailored to individual audience members|
|Social media posting|
|Actionable workflows to CRM|
Step 3: Understanding software types
Now you have your requirements, it’s time to start narrowing down potential solutions.
Depending on where you look, there are as many as 50 different categories of marketing technology solutions currently available. Having so many solutions means that regardless of your problem there will be a vendor for you, but this is alway why it is important to clearly define your problem and create your checklist.
Sure, there are platforms where you can create a landing page, and there are others that let you send emails. Even better, there are some landing page and email platforms which speak to databases so you can store your information. But alternatively, you could purchase a marketing automation platform which does all of the capture, storage, and engagement in one place.
Unless your organisation has very niche needs, your MarTech stack will generally revolve around five key pillars; your website, database, engagement/email system, social media, and analytics and reporting.
Content management system (CMS)
A CMS allows an organisation to manage their digital content online, generally through their website. Through a CMS, web developers, publishers, and content authors can post written content and rich media to websites, as well as change site styling and navigation.
Depending on the number of pages, publishers, and functional requirements of the website, different CMS solutions will be more appropriate. As sites become more complex and there are requirements for more advanced features and regular styling changes, an enterprise-level CMS like Squiz Matrix will be more appropriate.
Related software categories and add-ons
- Optimisation, personalisation, and testing - helps deploy online content that achieves organisational goals and is most effective for visitors
- E-commerce - allows for the selling of goods and services online as well as manage inventory and shipping
- SEO - optimises the use of keywords on pages to attract more traffic from search engines
- Chatbots and live chat - allow site visitors to ask real-time questions to customer service employees or automated programming
- Forums and comments - provides site visitors the opportunity to interact with employees and other visitors within an organisation’s website
Customer relationship management system (CRM)
Better known as a CRM, a customer relationship management system is a database of all people and businesses your organisation engages with. The CRM helps to keep contact details up to date, record sales or services used, and track all points of engagement including face-to-face interactions, emails, phone calls, and events attended.
CRMs are vitally important to not only ensure that they can contact customers and citizens, but to also provide a well-rounded picture of their relationship with an organisation, regardless of when and where interactions occurred. CRMs also allow organisations to complete high-level reporting that make significant impact on business decisions such as employees loads, services used, products sold, and financial projections.
As the name suggests, marketing automation platforms help marketing and communications teams automate tasks that were previously completed manually. This can include anything from sending emails to testing which landing page variants convert better with visitors.
The end goal of marketing automation is to provide prospects and customers with an integrated and personalised experience across all digital platforms to tailor their experience with an organisation to their individual needs.
Like CMS platforms, the size and scope of marketing automation solutions vary greatly depending on the number of customers and prospects an organisation wishes to contact, and the features included. More advanced platforms can also integrate with CRM systems to sync contact details and update interactions, as well as CMS platforms to publish personalised and predictive content to site visitors.
Related software categories and add-ons
- Email marketing - send emails to your customers and subscribers using single blast emails and basic autoresponders
- Events, meetings, and webinars - collect registrations and run communications related to organisational events
- Content marketing - distribute thought-leadership and brand awareness content to the public to spread the word about your organisation
- Display, native, mobile, and search advertising - drive targeted traffic to your online properties through banners, video ads, and search engine results
Analytics and attribution
While marketing automation, CMS, and CRM systems all provide analytics about activities within their individual platforms, analytics and attribution software allows organisations to combine data from multiple sources to gain a 360 degree view of their customers and gain deeper insights to inform campaign decisions.
Attribution software takes campaign analysis to another level, allowing an organisation to see which activities influence engagement and sales. This view provides managers with a view of ROI on each activity to better understand areas for future investment.
Social media marketing and monitoring
Social media marketing and monitoring platforms allow organisations to post to social media platforms, respond to mentions and comments, and monitor overall audience sentiment.
By posting, commenting and scheduling posts all in a single platform, organisations are able to gain an overall picture of their social media activities across all channels. This not only reduces man hours of manually posting on different accounts, but also helps with the delivery of integrated, cross-channel campaigns through scheduling and placing content on the most appropriate channel.
Social media monitoring gives organisations a rating of their engagement and reach, as well as measures the general sentiment of public posts and comments. This can be especially helpful in identifying incidents of bad publicity or how products and services have been received by the public.
Reviews and advocacy allow past customers to leave feedback on their experiences for prospects to view. Previous customers can also be incentivised to leave reviews and refer friends.
The rise of the DXP
If by now your head is spinning and you’re wondering how your organisation could ever handle so many different solutions, you’re not alone.
Because of this, many vendors - including here at Squiz - are developing digital experience platforms (or DXP). These platforms aim to bring together an organisation’s many different channels into a single management tool, providing visitors with a personalised and consistent experience no matter where they interact with an organisation.
Currently, solutions do this with varying degrees of success. But it is certainly worth remembering that when you start finding solutions in step four, one platform may tick more than one box.
Step 4: Find the software you need
Now we know our organisation requirements and capabilities and have an idea of which software does what, it’s time to begin searching for solutions.
Using a checklist, list all of your requirements down the first column before listing each relevant software type across the top row. From here, you can map the capabilities of each platform with your requirements to see how each fits.
Using our earlier example, we gain an overall picture of how different solutions may work individually or together as a stack to meet our requirements.
|Requirements||Marketing automation||Email marketing||Attribution software||Social media management|
|Integration with CRM||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|Email sends tailored to individual audience members||Yes||Limited||N/A||N/A|
|Social media posting||No||No||N/A||Yes|
|Actionable workflows to CRM||Yes||Limited||N/A||No|
|Social media integration||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Can be used by small team||Limited||Yes||Limited||Yes|
From this checklist, we can see that a marketing automation platform is the best solution to most of the requirements. However, we will also need a social media management platform to automate social posting, and we may need advanced analytics software depending on the level of attribution reporting we wish to do.
Of course, there are also often concessions.
While a marketing automation platform may be the best overall solution, an email marketing platform might be a better organisational fit depending on your staff resources and budget.
Step 5: Begin looking for individual product solutions
You’ve successfully narrowed down the platform type it’s time to compare different vendors.
A simple Google of the software type can often leave you in a world of buzzwords and marketing spin, so it’s sometimes best to start with independent review and recommendation sites to narrow your search to high-quality providers who are a good organisational fit.
Like Amazon or Yelp, G2 Crowd and Trust Radius aggregate real user reviews to rank solutions. This can be especially useful if you’d like to read about real use cases from those who have been there before.
If you are investing a lot of money in new marketing technology, it is worth purchasing reports from independent reviewers like Gartner, Forrester or Ovum. These consultants review and compare solutions and are considered the authorities on technology platforms.
Once you have a short list, it’s best to start speaking to vendors. This can be overwhelming as you don’t want to begin receiving sales calls, but an hour meeting an demonstration of a product can save you hundreds of hours in research, and let you take a real look inside the platform you might be buying.
Finally, it’s time to make another checklist where you will rate each of your shortlisted vendors against your organisational requirements to see which comes out on top and is the best value for money.
We hope this in-depth guide is helpful as you begin your search for martech solutions. If you are interested in talking to Squiz about any of the software solutions mentioned, including Squiz Matrix, SugarCRM or Marketo, please get in touch.