This blog was last updated in August 2020.
Taking your time to choose the best technology for your project pays off big in the end. When deciding which marketing automation tools you need, it’s OK to hit the pause button and take a measured, careful approach to understand new technology.
In the era of COVID-19, companies large and small alike have had to make the most out of a grave situation. Today, everyone uses a hodgepodge of video conferencing software (e.g., Zoom), cloud-hosted marketing tools, and mobile business productivity applications.
Even before the pandemic, integrating software across platforms was time-consuming and expensive to implement, but if you got it right, the productivity benefits spoke for themselves.
For those who made it work, technology turned into an enabler of prosperity and not a roadblock or a necessary evil.
To help fellow entrepreneurs like yourself choose the right tech for the job, here are three manageable steps to take when sorting out which technology is best for your project.
Step 1 – Know your workflows and processes front to back
You may think you know your daily work processes like the back of your hand. You use them every day; you rely on them every day, yes? But you can’t honestly say that you know them until you can map them out with a simple diagram.
It’s widespread in small to medium-sized businesses to have documented processes in place for years. They’re codified and given the blessing from C-suite executives of yesteryear, so that’s the end of it.
The truth is that everyone cuts corners and circumvents workflows from time to time.
For example, let’s say that your business email account is working perfectly fine, but you accidentally logged out before sending one last invoice to a new client.
What’s the harm in sending it through your personal Gmail account, right? What could go wrong with a simple email?
The answer is a lot! A lot can go wrong when you skirt workflows casually. Even if you’re emailing only one invoice outside of your company’s CRM, you may be exposing your client’s information unnecessarily by using an unencrypted email service.
Most budding entrepreneurs jump right into tool selection before understanding why they need it in the first place. And, without knowing your processes, it’s nearly impossible to implement a marketing automation tool.
Please don’t fall into the trap of implementing technology for the sake of technology itself. Otherwise, you may get stuck with a tool no one uses because no one likes it.
Maybe you’re thinking about revamping a sales process since the coronavirus has forced your entire team to work remotely and at different hours – and while teaching your kids Geometry and Spanish.
First, decide which key performance metrics matter most for the task at hand. For a sales method, do you need a better way to contact qualified leads? For marketing automation tools like ActiveCampaign, do you need to combine social media or Slack?
This list can go on and on, but the basic idea is this: Know the process first, map it, and then drill down to measure progress or failure.
Step 2 – Know the tool’s requirements and yours, too
Each software has specific requirements before you can use it. Sometimes you’ll need to take several steps in addition to the ones you thought you already had to endure.
Ask yourself specific questions to get answers about particular requirements.
For example, let’s say that you want a better tool to automate email campaigns. Fantastic! But what is required of you to qualify for that expense? If you only have 500 subscribers to your email list, you don’t need to upgrade to the enterprise version of ActiveCampaign yet.
Common business sense dictates that you should always be looking for ways to leverage economies of scale, but you have to be ready.
Taken from the opposite view, let’s say that you’re campaigns are so successful that Pipedrive is bursting at the seams with leads and newsletter subscribers. It’s easy to intuit that you require a more significant, more complex CRM, but how do you know exactly?
The answers may surprise you when you start to get into the specific details on why you think you need new technology. In the situation mentioned above, you would probably be receiving sales emails from Pipedrive, again and again, to try to get you to act.
Do your due diligence upfront, or pay big on the back end. Those are your two options, and knowing detailed requirements ahead of time is how you keep risks and technology costs low.
Step 3 – Be a super choosy shopper
No one walks into the grocery store and starts grabbing the first items they come across, but this is precisely how many look for business software.
This organization is your business, so what worked for a friend may not suffice for your ambitions. It’s OK to be a fussy shopper; you just have to shop smarter, not harder.
Once you have all of your workflows mapped and requirements fleshed out, ask your social media following what they think. This strategy won’t answer the million-dollar question, but it may quickly spur other ideas you didn’t consider.
Your Twitter following may not be of much help when choosing new tech tools, but your LinkedIn following is a whole different story.
Next, reach out to the marketing automation tool software companies themselves for demos, and let them do their thing. If you ask for specifics, you’ll get details in return. You’ll look more savvy and knowledgeable, and the company will do backflips to impress you with their solution.
Another thing you could do is look into contacting independent contractors who work with the tools you are thinking about implementing. The honest, candid opinions you’ll get may save you time and money in the long run.
Lastly, do as many free trials as you can to get a feel for the software. Even if you’re not the most tech-savvy person, you can still learn something new and get new ideas by clicking around new software.
By following this easy, 3-step process, you can decide which tech works best for your needs the first time around.
What’s the last piece of tech that you invested in for your business? How did you decide on what tool to use?