Evaluating Marketing Technology for a Startup

The amount of technology available to marketers today can no doubt be overwhelming. The well recognized Marketing Technology LUMAscape proves this at a glance. While the marketing technologies used by enterprises and startups have converged in recent years due to tiered SaaS applications, marketing teams of all sizes present very different risks and require different mindsets. Today we will take a look at the most important factors for startup marketers to prioritize when building a marketing technology stack.

Marketing a startup is nothing like the popular Netflix series Mad Men. It certainly requires a similar level of creativity (and cocktail drinking), but it’s crucial to have additional skills that compliment that creativity. Some of these skills include:

  • Design – Being able to produce content and documents from conception to production without help of a dedicated designer.
  • Web Development – Being able to design and develop your company’s website and landing pages, as well as micro applications like automated dashboards.
  • Database – Having an understanding of relational and non-relational databases and being able to make inferences from complex data sets (CRMs, MAPs, etc.).
  • Writing / Journalism – Being able to produce all types of copy including blogs, research articles, online ads, and website copy.
  • Video Production – Video is becoming a much more popular channel for content marketing, so having this skill is a big bonus.

It’s not essential to be an expert in each one of these skills, but the more you can do yourself the more you can save your budget for things like ad spend or lead generation. Having a general understanding of all these disciplines is also going to help you more effectively seek out and hire the right people when you can add more bandwith to your team.

These core skills are also going to have a heavy impact on technologies you choose to evaluate and eventually implement. Startup marketers need to be scrappy and as resourceful as possible with budgets and time because the risk of messing up, or signing a year long contract for a technology that doesn’t work, could cause the company a lot of damage.

To give you an example, I was recently evaluating a number of dashboard applications to automate Jebbit’s marketing and sales reporting. I started by asking fellow marketers what they have used with success and established criteria for what features fitted our specific needs. Then I put together a list of about 15 different applications via referrals and my own research – and narrowed it down to 2 or 3 I eventually wanted to demo based on price and functionality. Ultimately it came down to 2:

  • InsightSquared had great looking dashboards, predictive metrics, and a professional services team that would basically do everything for us.
  • Klipfolio had a self-serve platform, a helpful knowledge base, and the ability to customize the style of dashboards in way we wanted.

Ultimately the decision came down to price and flexibility of features. InsightSquared was great and I certainly saw the value, but I was hesitant to sign a year contract and the cost per user was almost as much as are paying for Salesforce users. Klipfolio had great price point and no long term contract but would require more time and technical implementation to create the dashboard views we needed.

We ended up going with Klipfolio for a number of reasons. But the biggest determining factor was that I had the technical and database skills to successfully implement the application and all of the integrations myself. I certainly had to dedicate more time to learn how to use Klipfolio and build all the dashboards manually, but the cost was about 20 times cheaper and I wasn’t locked in to a year contract. Had I been a marketer working at an enterprise, we would have given InsightSquared more consideration.

This is just one example of how we were scrappy in order to accomplish this specific objective, though the methodology truly varies based on the type of technology you are evaluating. The most important thing to consider is that you need to protect your burn rate in every way possible. Budgets can easily be blown on technologies that provide no value to an organization, and that’s a good way to get fired or drive company into the ground. When you are able get your hands dirty as the lead marketer at your startup and make the best possible technical decisions, it’s easy to prove value to all of the stakeholders involved.