How to Evaluate MarTech in an Ever-Growing Landscape

6 minute read

Upland Admin

Did you see the “super graphic” published this April?

If you’re like me, you saw it attached to a snarky blog about how it’s ridiculous that the MarTech 5000 included almost 7000 vendors (because it is). Hopefully, it gave you a chuckle and you kept scrolling through your feed, blissfully untouched by the reality of what this means for marketing organizations.

Tragically, reality must set in at some point. For me, that was when I downloaded the graphic approximately 30 minutes ago, enlarged it quite a bit, and set about searching for my own company. I knew the category, of course, so I assumed it would be a simple logo-style word search.

It wasn’t. I couldn’t find it—the logo I see at least 100 times a day. Fear flashed through my head—do I work at a lesser tech company? Do we not have the recognition to be on this map? Most importantly, who else did they miss? How many vendors are there really?

Fast forward to me turning to my deskmate and we scoured the landscape together, ultimately finding Kapost. Alright, so my initial panic wasn’t justified—but it proves a pretty significant point (apart from a potential need for me to visit the optometrist).

Even when I knew what I was looking for, I couldn’t find it in the MarTech landscape.

Imagine when it’s not your own company you’re looking for. When there are literally thousands of options. Some of them are knocking at your inbox, some of them are yet to be Googled.

How Do Marketers Determine What MarTech to Even Consider?

The fact of the matter is, we all have limited resources. Taking an hour demo, a 30-minute call, or even watching a five-minute video is already an expensive use of time.

So how do marketers determine what technology gets time and what gets sent straight to spam?

Here’s the thing: Truly effective technology isn’t just a tool. It’s a partner that works with you to solve foundational gaps in your strategy you might not know even existed. Sure, automating processes and other convenient tool functionality can help make your team more efficient, but that should not be all you expect from a tool, particularly with the ever-increasing price tags.

As the MarTech landscape has filled out, there’s a range of offerings, from out-of-the-box SaaS tools to custom-built software. It shouldn’t surprise you that a customized solution is more effective, but it’s also often much more expensive. It’s usually worth the resources to find a highly configurable software platform that has the right customization and integration options, but it requires that the business evaluate the true ROI of a technology.

So, what are the ultimate decision criteria for marketing leaders? Here are four tips to prioritize your (likely) very long list of MarTech options:

1. Look for Leapfrog Opportunities

The goal of any business is not to simply do a little better than competitors.

Consider business as a game board. Gaining competitive advantage is only accomplished by not being satisfied with simply being one space ahead of your opponent. Their next roll might bring them five spaces ahead of you. With that in mind, your organization’s goal should be to blow competitors out of the water. Lap them and leave them wondering how you rolled doubles four times in a row.

Leapfrog opportunities are those things that will help your organization do everything:

  • Better
  • Faster
  • And/or cheaper

Technology that touches at least two of these—though ideally all three—is your mark. Don’t settle for a point solution that only tackles one. Out of nearly 7000 options, I think it’s safe to say you can do better.

2. Tools that Automate Previously Manual Processes

As the Harvard Business Review claimed nearly four years ago, time is your scarcest resource. That means anything that wastes time is ultimate draining your company—probably faster than you can even realize.

Manual processes like spreadsheets, emails, status updates, and solving visibility issues are more of an organizational drag than many realize.

Think about it: You’ve likely made your day-to-day processes as efficient as they can possibly be. But if a technology can cut down your most-often performed task by 50%, you’ve likely saved hours every day. Hours that previously were a mental drain of cyclical and mind-numbing tasks.

Across an entire team? This cost reduction multiplies exponentially. Look for tools that do just that, and suddenly justifying budget is pretty simple.

3. Core versus Periphery Technology

When you’re evaluating technology, keep in mind that there are two key buckets of technology:

  1. Core technology is central to the functioning of your marketing organization and optimizes key processes
  2. Periphery technology aids in executing limited strategic functions

For example, marketing automation has likely become a core technology for your organization. On the other hand, a user-friendly design platform that enables your blog writers to also be makeshift designers is probably more peripheral to daily functions—though not to be discounted.

Identifying which type of technology you’re assessing helps you know how to act with them. With periphery technology, move fast and experiment cheaply. Stay agile and feel more comfortable trialing different options, as they typically are quick to learn and implement.

However, core technology requires commitment, because it usually requires more extensive onboarding. That means that in addition to the cost of the technology, you’re paying in the most valuable resource: time. Asking your team to relearn core systems will be demoralizing and expensive—so take care in the decision process so that you only change core technology when absolutely necessary.

4. Be a Skeptic

My last piece of advice when evaluating MarTech is to always—always—be the most skeptical person in the room. Ask for proof of all sales claims, and don’t be convinced until you see those proven facts. Anecdotal evidence can be valuable, but don’t be fooled into expecting all case studies to be replicated in your unique use case.

Good salespeople are willing to address skepticism straight on. Even better, good salespeople offering a great product have the information to convince even the most skeptical buyer.

How often do you hear an amazing pitch, sign a contract, and experience major buyer’s remorse when the product doesn’t live up to its clout? By maintaining a healthy skepticism, you’ll ensure that sales brings their A-game and you get the product you were sold.

Final Thoughts

When you’re evaluating MarTech, don’t underestimate the cost and productivity loss that comes from changing tools frequently. Too often, leaders can get overly excited about experiments that don’t have grounded strategic purpose.

These frequent changes in an organization’s MarTech stack lead to tool fatigue, making it even harder to roll out critical new tools to support proven strategies, like ABM. It’s critical that leaders invest in change management, find vendors to partner with rather than purchase a simple point tool, and maintain the credibility of good ideas. This eases the process around technology and make the entire marketing organization more effective.

So, best of luck in your technology endeavors. And, one last tip to handling the massive MarTech landscape: get a magnifying glass, or you might end up missing your own logo.

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