Let’s start with the problem: there are thousands of Marketing Tech vendors right now – each offering a free trial (and the world) for those smart enough to choose it. And when I write thousands, I am not in any way exaggerating: The number of marketing technology vendors quadrupled in the last two years to more than 1,900 at the beginning of 2015, according to Chief Marketing Technologist.

How to choose your next one? Good question, as this meme clearly illustrates:

One does not simply

It can be hard to grasp where to even begin shopping and evaluating, let alone making an educated purchase decision. So here are 5 things we paid dearly to learn – but we now follow them almost religiously:

1] Know exactly how does the new tool solve your problem

Most marketing tools offer to supercharge your funnel, in one way or another. The difference is in the fine print: how the hell does this tool do it.

Ask yourself (and the vendor) the following questions:

[1] Do you fully understand how the new tool solve your problem? Most vendors will display their larger customers on their case studies and “Happy customers” pages. Marketing wise – I understand it: companies tend to try and appear bigger, stronger prettier than they actually are. Sales wise, that might not be so relevant now that you’re the buyer. Call the vendor and ask what the tool does for companies your size. Ask whoever you’re speaking with to avoid buzz and high concept words, and to talk about value, usability, expected outcome, expected ROI.

[2] Do you fully understand how to measure its impact? Who is going to be doing all this measuring? How to measure success – what are the benchmarks for the vendor and its competitors?

[3] Do you know that this tool is right for your company’s size and stage? As a rule of thumb, smaller companies and early stage startups tend to focus on the here and now. Larger companies have the luxury to look into their future and try to preempt new problems.

2. How does the tool help you to tap into your existing data?

New tools are cool. But new tools that use existing data are the coolest of them all – as they save the time of accumulating that data. And your marketing data has lots of potential. Unfortunately, lots of it goes unused, because it is very hard to maximize the use of data, but also because marketers, it appears, actually do too little with the data they already have.

A study commissioned by Sybase and conducted by the University of Texas found that the median Fortune 1000 company could increase its revenue by more than $2 billion a year if it increased data usability by a mere 10 percent. In other words: even the big companies, the ones with loads of resources, manpower and tools, do too little with their data. Why? good question. Some of it is because people just don’t value data as much as we think they do. A new survey concludes that, “More than 39 percent of senior marketing executives question the value of data generated by analytics. They don’t think the information gleaned is useful to their businesses.”

But there are more reasons here:

Even marketers who are in fact very data driven can come up with the wrong conclusions (as I know I have on more than one occasion) or to come up with conclusions that are beyond their company’s means (as I know I have on more than one occasion).

That is why when I am looking into tools that use our existing, hard earned data – I am looking only at tools that are automated, and make decisions based solely on data. Which brings me to my next point:

3. When to expect the value? (or: the time is always right for real-time tools)

Almost all tools claim to be very data driven, and provide unique and actionable analytics. But data is only useful if it is actionable in real-time. For good or bad, we humans simple cannot collect, analyze and act upon large quantities of data. For me, every tool that I am going to purchase (even just to try), its output must be in real-time, which also means an automated tool.

But this does not mean not all automated tools provide their value the second they are up and running, even though such tools should provide value quickly, relatively speaking. How quick? immediate ROI is always preferable, but it also depends on your internal processes. It is unrealistic to think that a tool boosting page views will impact sales within a week. However, setting time table expectations is a critical element which is often overlooked in measuring new tools.

Another important and often overlooked aspect of time is:

4. Know exactly how much time does it cost on day-today basis

Time is money, as the saying goes. No vendor will ever tell you this – so this is something you have to figure out on your own: tools that provide value but require lots of time may hurt the output of other, existing tools.

This means that while winning one battle, you might be losing the bigger. Use this quasi-mathematical equation:

The sum of values from all tools + the new tool must be:

[1] measurable (for example: new leads, new lead scoring capabilities, reduced average time for sale, etc)

[2] significantly higher than before adding the new tool.

Now, let’s look at a one more thing we often choose not to look at:

5. How is the service?

Let me answer this quickly and unequivocally: Service has to be flawless. Whatever tool you’re buying, you have to use it to the max. Documentation, resources and knowledge bases are important – but also time consuming. Make sure you’ve done your research on the service, and while all companies will tell you how easy to use their tool is, you will need help at some point.

3 things to look for when doing your research – was the service:

[1] Quick – how long does it take to get answers.

[2] Kind – marketers have enough on their plate without some service rep being rude or condescending, thank you.

[3] Useful – do they answer the question they were asked? do they use screen shots to facilitate implementation?

That’s it! I would love to learn from you what are you looking at when researching new tools – so just use that “comment” technology to share your wisdom.

…Oh! and if you want to learn more about real-time engagement, click here: