One of the problems facing every company in social media and digital marketing is the crazy number of choices available when it comes to tools, vendors, etc. Not one of us has an infinite amount of time to analyze all that come to our door/phone/inbox. How then do we evaluate ALL the vendors and their capabilities to make best decisions without wasting too much time?
Determine the goals
Understanding business goals is an incredibly important piece of any company’s puzzle for numerous reasons. Knowing these goals and defining the metrics for measuring the progress to reach those goals makes the decision about which of the endless demos to sign up for a lot easier.
If asked to analyze a vendor; consider the offering, consider what tools are already being used and ask what’s missing. Is it affecting measurement of the goal in an accurate way? Can this new offering do a particular job better? Sure, working with anything new will require a time investment for learning and then getting into the habit of doing things the new way. If that new way helps with analyzing and/or meeting the goals, saves time, or makes employees happier, it’s probably a worthwhile investment of time and money to consider.
The only way to accurately answer this part of the equation is by first determining those business goals, defining their metrics and then asking the question re: vendors on a case by case basis.
Understand the technology
Upon making the decision to invest time in a demo of a new vendor, it’s important that the right people are included in the decision-making process. Also, one of the more beneficial features for a business can be access to the vendor/tool API, important access, thus including someone who can speak the language in the initial conversation can help save time and energy.
What are APIs? It’s a way for software to understand how to interact with each other. Think of them like plugs. The electrical outlet in a wall is like an API for the toaster or coffeemaker. Remember Lego blocks as a kid? How a block had different places to connect other blocks to it? Each little connection point is like an API, a place where programs can be plugged together to build something.
For example, Paypal has written an API. Some websites have software, such as e-commerce software, that talks to the Paypal API which communicates with Paypal about processing a payment on a website’s behalf. It’s a software conversation, so to speak.
While analyzing a vendor or tool, it may come to light that they have such an API that could be used to sort and compile data more efficiently. Understanding the benefits will come down to a capability of understanding the technologies involved and knowing if the data outputs of the tool correspond to the business goals/metrics being measured. Invite the IT department or developers to get an idea if the data outputs correspond to your goal metrics.
If you didn’t understand a word of that last paragraph, don’t worry too much, remember to ask questions of each department. One person who answers questions well and quickly should be enough to know if someone should be involved to get a sense of the technical offerings.
A word of caution: Salesmen are often the wrong people to put together with the developer/IT department. Try asking a sales contact to invite a systems engineer or developer on the vendor side to attend the demo as well. Geek can speak to geek, and this will go along way toward understanding the technologies a little better rather than trying to translate after the fact.
Avoid the shiny, Rely on your goals
Evaluating social media and digital marketing tools isn’t rocket science. Take the initial steps to set goals, understand what data each tool offers, and make sure an internal technical team understands the proposed vendors and can work with their technologies. It will save you a lot of time, headaches and money in the end.