With so many different marketing automation, business intelligence and customer management tools on the market, it's easy to get carried away and lose sight of what's valuable to your organization on a daily basis. We've laid out four fundamental rules for assessing your tech stack, so you can ring in the New Year with renewed confidence in your software budget.
Rule #1: Never buy a tool just to buy it
You've likely heard this from your Mom before, but it turns out she's right about a few things. Buying a shiny new gadget simply because you're hoping it will be a quick fix or exciting change isn't going to cut it. Take the time to research and demo a product before you purchase it. Does it have an intuitive interface and organization? Does it improve your efficiency and effectiveness in a significant and measurable way? Does it compliment your existing software tools? How easily will it integrate with your current systems? Before you commit to an annual subscription, consider the "stand up" time for that particular product; how much effort and time will you need to invest in its implementation before you see a return on your investment?
Secondly, consider whether all the tools in your repertoire are filling a unique niche or purpose. If your tech stack includes tools that overlap significantly in function, then they probably aren't all as necessary as you'd like to believe. Apply the same rules as when cleaning out your closet — if you haven't worn a shirt in a year, then it's not worth keeping around on the off-chance that you'll decide to wear it in a future period or parallel universe (and it's just becoming more dated with time). Nothing's worth keeping if it's not being used consistently.
Rule #2: Crunch the numbers
Conducting a cost analysis is a surefire way to tell if a tool is worth the investment. What will you be using the tool for? Consider how much time (and at what rate) your reps currently spend accomplishing that task, then compare that to the cost and potential payoff of automating the process.
Conversely, if you can identify that a tool is causing operational inefficiencies, it's usually time to reevaluate its use. If your team is logging hours struggling to use a feature, then dig deeper into the root of the problem. Is it a user or tech error? Some software tools take more time and attention in order to produce a return, but be wary of how much time you pour in a tool if there's no payoff on the horizon. If a product simply isn't performing up to expectations after you've invested in its adoption, then there's no shame in jumping ship and moving on to something better suited to your needs. That said...
Rule #3: Don't shirk commitment too quickly
Although not all tools are created equal, even an exceptional product is only as good as the time you put into it. That doesn't mean blind commitment — it simply means putting forth the effort to understand how it can best be leveraged to meet your needs. Take the time to analyze what's coming out of a tool — if you're ignoring the reporting features of your CRM or BI software, for example, then you're definitely not getting the most bang for your buck.
Making a commitment to a tool often involves designating an individual or team to manage its upkeep, organization and continued productivity. That means staying abreast of feature updates, managing other users access, taking responsibility for reporting, understanding how the tool integrates with your other software systems and learning how to leverage different features to provide the level of granularity with reporting that your organization and growth requires.
While having a designated in-office software expert can help ease the stress of rolling out a new product or feature, it's helpful for all users to take advantage of educational resources available within the platform (feature tutorials or classes, for example) or reference online assets published by other established users (like product webinars and guides). The best educational resources will not only tell you how to use a tool, but also offer insight into why it's valuable to your growth. Providing this context ultimately leads to better adoption and greater long-term ROI.
Rule #4 Reference a Map
There's nothing worse than migrating all your data to a new platform only to learn that the feature you've had your heart set on is about to be axed. Referencing a product's roadmap is a good way to ensure that you're not in for any surprises down the line. Product roadmaps detail how a company plans on changing its platform in the upcoming year and should include things like proposed new feature rollouts and any other significant system modifications in the works.
Product roadmaps can also give you a good idea of how to plan out your workload in upcoming months. Are there a couple new features rolling out in February? Make sure to proactively plan for any interruptions or additional stand up time that might be required during this period. Check out the product roadmap for a sneak-peek of new features and how they can be used to the greatest effect, so you're one step ahead of the game when they go live.
Whenever you're choosing what technology to invest or reinvest in to provide the most value to your company, there's a lot to consider. Take your time to do the appropriate research and make sure to frequently reevaluate the ROI provided by each tool in your tech stack. Not sure where to begin? Check out this easy-to-use marketing software selection template: