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Technology ROI starts with a win-win

How to create a value partnership with vendors

CMOs are accelerating their investment in marketing technology; research firm IDC says that from 2014 to 2018, organizations cumulatively will spend $130 billion on software for marketing departments. Despite this investment, proving ROI still remains a significant challenge.

One critical factor is that marketing organizations are overwhelmed with technology options and rarely consider business value alignment (BVA)—the business value created for both the marketer and for the solution provider—before investing in software. Most marketers are diligent about researching potential value they’ll gain from any marketing tech investment, but they all too often neglect the importance of ensuring there’s adequate value in it for the tech vendor.

ATechdeal lack of vendor-side value has several repercussions that eventually decrease ROI for the marketer: fewer available vendor resources, decreased vendor focus on marketer needs and the consequent hindrance to the rest of the marketer’s tech stack. A symbiotic relationship must exist if there is to be continual growth and gain.

To ensure marketing BVA, start by interviewing company stakeholders and marketing peers about what they need to advance their capabilities. Then create a marketing technology blueprint to more easily identify procedural gaps and overlaps, as well as chokepoints in data flow. A blueprint is a simple diagram that allows you to visualize your current technology, processes and data flow at once, illustrating precisely where your organization can bring in new solutions or consolidate existing processes to achieve desired goals.

Next, provide prospective vendors a list of key goals, strategies and requirements (including the tech blueprint) in advance of meetings. Effectively communicating your needs is what enables potential vendors to intelligently decide whether a partnership will provide required value for both sides.

Ask vendors to discuss the ways they see the market playing out in the next 12 to 24 months, what their customers are doing to succeed and the keys to a smooth implementation. These topics often unveil new insights about the vendors, offering important visibility into how they think and work. After all, technology can’t reach its potential without the right partner, services and implementation.

Finally, testing BVA by putting the selected technology to work in the true environment with a “Proof of Concept” allows the marketing organization to experience firsthand how its team responds while also determining how much change in talent or process is required. It’s critical to set metrics with both the marketing team and the vendor, on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis, to continually reassess alignment, make necessary tweaks and increase odds of success.

With marketing budgets growing in 2015, there will be even more pressure to provide results. Organizations must be strategic so that all investments will garner positive returns.

This requires a new mindset, one focused on ensuring all systems work together to support a common goal, rather than on how one technology solves one problem. Poor alignment with a single tech vendor not only compromises ROI of that investment, but it can also negatively impact the entire tech stack utilized by marketing.

Success today depends on marketers fully understanding their resources, objectives, strategies and requirements and communicating these ideas to vendors to ensure alignment. No business can afford to keep throwing money at failed marketing and technology initiatives.