Scott Brinker just published his annual Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. First, huge props to Scott – this thing is awesome. Second, I highly recommend his blog, it’s always filled with great information and great observations about marketing technology. Among the many interesting points he makes, this one definitely resonates with me:
Marketing has unquestionably become a technology-powered discipline…To thrive in this environment, marketing should steadily develop its technical talent.
Absolutely. Want a leg up on your marketing colleagues? Learn how to program. :-)
But really, look at that picture. Nearly 2000 companies – and that’s just marketing technology. How on earth can you possibly make sense of all that? Do you stand a chance to make the right technology choices? Where would you even begin?
I could write volumes on vendor assessment and selection, in fact I’ve done several multi-month projects for large corporate clients on that topic alone. Analyzing and choosing the right technology is a huge deal.
But for the purposes of now, maybe a few thoughts will help. So here are things I always tell clients, even if these aren’t on the typical list of selection criteria.
1. The world doesn’t need this much marketing technology
If you need any proof of that, consider the incredible amount of flux from year to year, new players coming in and others fading out quicker than ever before. But choice is the American way, and choice is good. You just need to be even more careful before you buy.
2. Open is better than closed
Ten years ago proprietary software was OK. Today, not as much. Lean heavily toward open source, open standards, open integration, open APIs. Avoid picking anything that’s inherently idiosyncratic. Especially if it’s a small company.
3. Configured is better than custom
When responding to a request for a missing feature, Software companies often respond “yes, it can be done with a customization.” Avoid that. Always look for software that can be readily configured, in addition to customized. You’re a marketer, not an engineer. You should be able to configure it without relying on IT.
4. Self-sufficiency is key
I’m obviously bias on this one: marketing people should be master of their own domain. Configurability is a big part of that, but there’s more to it. Look for technology created by companies that really understand your business, beyond the technical stuff. Look for software where you can actually “see yourself” in the way it’s laid out. But even then it won’t be a perfect fit. So ask them to make specific changes and watch them do it. Is it easy enough that you could do it?
5. Standards matter
As a general premise, you normally want to be “in the general flow” of technology, especially within your business. For example, Apple fans make fun of me because I use ThinkPad laptops. My reply is easy: for my own use, I always have the very latest iPhone and iPad firmly in my hand, but my corporate clients are probably 90%+ Windows. The point is this: if you’re sifting through dozens of technology candidates, the standards in your space matter. You may want to filter by those.
6. Your standards matter too
This is a point I’ve become increasingly militant about in recent years – I’m very careful to follow my own advice on this one. Picking technology means learning that technology. So pick one you’ll want keep in your personal toolkit. Look for technology that you can take with you – that’s usable for multiple purposes, situations, and beyond the current need. Keep a mindful eye on your personal technology portfolio.
7. Consider the community
Technology platforms often have a surrounding ecosystem of consultants, partners and users. How would you characterize that community? Is it largely engineering or marketing people? Junior or senior people? Do they tend to focus on the how or the why? How large and accessible is the community? Technology selection typically focuses on features vs. needs. Look beyond that. The surrounding community speaks volumes about the technology, and whether or not you should embrace it.