Do not buy the monorailRevered animated sitcom The Simpsons is back in the news lately, due to the rollout of the Simpsons World app. I recently re-watched one of my personal favorite episodes; ‘Marge vs the Monorail’. After coming into a financial windfall, the town of Springfield must decide what to do with their newfound funds. Marge, the practical voice of reason, suggests filling in potholes on main street. However, out-of-town salesman Lyle Lanley convinces the town (through song and dance) to buy a monorail for the town. This shiny, new fangled system ends up being a disaster; the townspeople saved only by Homer’s uncharacteristic quick thinking.

What does this have to do with Marketing Automation? There are in fact, plenty of parallels. Like the town of Springfield, you find yourself with a new, hard won-marketing budget in hand. And with the money burning a hole in your pocket and flashy vendors from Dreamforce calling you with promises of a utopia of one-click reports, it will be hard to resist.

There’s nothing wrong with most of these tools – but are they ultimately the right fit for your team? We compiled some tips to consider before purchasing a new marketing tool:

Start simple with research and reviews

Many of these tools have reviews on Marketo’s Launchpoint, or on Salesforce’s Appexchange or Microsoft CRM’s Pinpoint; see what are the best and worst of these reviews; do these reflect issues that your team may face? If possible, always request a demo and/or a free trial so you can see if the tool addresses your issues head-on.

Is it Scalable?

Is this a stop-gap measure, or a tool that you see staying with your organization as it grows and changes? If your team and your organization grows, can the tool grow with you?

Are you confident handing this tool to the folks that will use it?

I’ve had clients implement plugins for Outlook or other email providers, and because their team wasn’t properly trained, they ended up syncing personal contacts like their dentists or carpool group into their Salesforce instance. Something that was simple turned into a headache that took additional time to fix.

Will it be adopted by those who need to use it?

Of course you can make a tool mandatory to use, but if it isn’t something that the team can start to fit into their current routine, it will be a slow process.

Adoption is best when you show, and relate the new tool to benefits to the team.

In her article on the Sirius Decisions blog, Ashley Paris suggests demoing the new technology with use cases familiar to your team. If you’re implementing a social listening tool, show the lead generation team how they can find conversations about your company or product and create content around that. If it’s a data enrichment tool, show your Analytics team how they can populate a lead record with data from LinkedIn. Pair these examples with best practices and ‘healthy fear’ – these tools won’t work to their intended potential if you have dirty data, or don’t follow the protocol in place.

Will you have someone to support you when things go haywire?

It is natural to have hiccups when implementing something new to your business, but who will be there when it’s not working? As the champion of this tool, are you in charge of the vendor relationship and contacting support? Will you be able to have a dedicated staff member or consultant assist on demand?

What’s in it for me?

What about this tool or add-on will ease the stress on a part of your business (like a deduplication tool), fulfill a need that you don’t have (such as a data appending tool), or bring a new element into your business to enhance KPIs (like a social listening tool). As the champion of this enhancement, be prepared to answer these.

  • For a deduplication tool, it should merge current and prevent future duplicates, which eases the stress on your CRM and additional database(s), which will ease or eliminate dirty data. This is especially helpful if you have employees manually uploading leads into your system(s), or have leads coming from multiple entry points. This increases segmentation accuracy.
  • For a data appending tool, it should provide you with additional information on leads and contacts that you don’t gather currently or previously via web form or list upload. Examples are company information and title from LinkedIn. This can enrich your database and allow you to create personas, as well as segment and market to your current and potential customers better. This should increase campaign responses and allow your content generation team to create more targeted assets.
  • A social listening tool provides better insights into what your current and potential customers are saying about you. In can increase quality of customer service, thus increasing your net promoter score (NPS). It will also allow your marketing team to create content responsive to public sentiment, and add another layer of analytics for current and future marketing campaigns.

With every Dreamforce and every Marketo Summit there are new and improved tools that could fit in with your ideal mode of operations, which run the gamut from free to enterprise-level pricing. Ultimately, you must feel confident and comfortable championing this new technology to your peers and to management. Fix the potholes before you buy the Monorail; a smaller tool that promises to solve your data issues may be more valuable now, than spending months implementing, troubleshooting, and training a larger tool. It is a buyer’s market, and new and better tools will be available when you are ready to adopt them. Tell us about your tips on purchasing new technology in the comments below.

Image Credit, (C) 20th Century Fox.