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Marketing technology has ballooned to a $34 billion dollar industry and has become a critical line item in marketing budgets today.

Small- and mid-size companies have a million options to upgrade, automate, and integrate their systems. But before you sign a three-year contract on a new tech tool, take a peek at what some of your peers are up to. We surveyed 20 marketing decision makers, asking what drives them to make technology upgrades. Here’s what stood out.

1. Disaster Relief. Several marketing managers said that they typically reconsider their tech tools and platforms when they need to solve an immediate problem. “We attempt to be proactive, but it does usually end up being some sort of mistake or misstep that causes a review of processes or tools,” a marketing manager in the insurance industry said. Another manager, in an entertainment company, agreed, citing poor ad performance as the type of problem that might lead to a search.

2. Competitive pressure. “We recognize the value in modernizing our tech stack to keep pace with competitive pressures and relevance to our customers’ needs,” the marketing director of a software services company said.

3. New Goals. Shifting goals and new challenges — often the result of growth — leads to a search for new solutions. For example, one manufacturing marketing manager told us that when her company acquired another firm, a new customer base required her team to explore web-based marketing solutions and find tools to leverage data better. 

4. Customer Service. One C-level marketing exec talked about meeting clients’ requests for new metrics. Others make technology upgrades to improve the customer experience — for example, making the buying process simpler or offering new support tools like a knowledge base.

 

Before you invest:

Talk to other marketers. Hearing that someone else has had success is often a great reason to give something new a look, and many in our survey said other marketing professionals through word of mouth were their first go-to sources.

Involve your entire  team. Follow the lead of one retail marketing director who told us, “Everyone on the team is responsible for looking for tools that will help us improve. We find out about new tools at conferences, blogs, LinkedIn, webinars, professional publications.”

Recognize you can’t be an expert in everything. One leader in the insurance industry explained that he’s found experts are the best way to evaluate and introduce new tools. “I’m a believer in letting the experts guide us rather than thinking we can be on top of everything,” he said.

Pilot it first. Ask a small group to pilot a new solution, then present their findings to the full team

Seek multiple bids. Don’t be afraid to lean on product reps and demos until you have a thorough understanding of the solution, costs, and benefits of each option. And as a marketing director in manufacturing helpfully added, make sure you “give reps enough information to show [you] how they would address [your] challenges.”

This post was originally published on the Executive Insights Exchange.