It’s funny how we buy all of this technology to make it easier for us to do our jobs and generate revenue, but that hardly seems to be the case once we’ve made a purchase and implemented that technology. It’s no surprise that 67% of marketers replaced a MarTech application in the past 18 months according to the 2021 MarTech Replacement Survey done by MarTech and Third Door Media. And it’s easier to buy technology than ever before. Buying processes for marketing and sales technology are becoming more and more user-driven rather than sales-led. This has led to smooth, near-frictionless purchasing experiences. But, removing all of that friction isn’t necessarily a good thing. It’s okay, I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw up off the floor after reading that blasphemy. That’s right, there is such a thing as “good friction.” If we want to buy technology and be able to implement it successfully, we need to create a little “good friction” by asking and answering some questions.
1. What are we hiring this for?
You don’t buy technology. You hire it. It has a “job” to do. There are actual, real-life things that should happen as a result of the technology you “hire,” just like when you make a hire for a position at your company. This question is the single most important acid-test for whether you should buy/hire a piece of technology. If you don’t have a job, or jobs, for it to do, that means you don’t need the tech you’re considering. If you’re creating a “job” for a piece of technology, just to accommodate it, you’re simply adding unnecessary complexity and friction to your processes and tech stack.
2. How are we doing this now? How have we been addressing this need?
When you have a “job” to hire new technology for, it’s clear that there are underlying business needs it should help you address. Usually, it takes an acute pain point to make a need clear. Chances are you’ve been experiencing a need for a while if you’re considering buying technology and you’re able to figure out the “job” it’ll perform. People, in general, are really bad at ignoring pain points and needs, so you’ve likely taken some measures to address the pain and the need already. That, right there, is what we call “existing process” and it’s what has to drive which technology you buy. When your need is fresh, the process to address it still must come first. Have an idea of what you need to do to address your need without technology. Remember that it’s the process that addresses your needs, and the technology should enable that process.
3. What aspects of our business does this affect?
You wouldn’t need the tech if the status quo was sufficient. You’re probably buying the tech because of its potential to improve your business. You can’t achieve that potential without change occurring. Buying and implementing technology is a change initiative requiring change management, pure and simple. Just like any change initiative, you need to predict the areas and aspects of your business that are affected by the change. If you can anticipate where the change “monster” will rear its ugly head, you can take measures to mitigate the disruption it causes. By thinking about the things the new tech touches ahead of time, you can hypothesize its impact. And, if you know what behaviors, processes, and activities might be affected, you can understand what the new tech might enable, support, or even discourage. You’re able to actually measure the impact of the technology you’re considering by establishing these baseline expectations.
4. Who will be using this and what will they actually be doing with it? How is that different from the current state?
If you take one thing away from this blog, let it be this: Real people, who probably aren’t you, will use or rely on this technology to do real things in the real world. Often, they’ll have to use or rely on the tech to do their jobs.
The theory and promise of tech can be extremely alluring but it’s hardly ever the reality. It’s likely your situation is not as clean as the demo was. More often than not, you are not the user of the tech you’re considering. So, even if you had a great trial period that you really enjoyed, that doesn’t mean your implementation will go off without a hitch. Be clear about who will use the technology, in terms of both the role and specific people. You need to know what duties and activities are affected and how the future differs from the way things are handled currently. Only then, can you set accurate expectations with the real people who will need to adopt the future state.
5. What does “success” mean and what does that actually look like?
Time to do some visualization. Look into your “crystal ball.” Try to see what it actually looks like when the new tech is working beautifully. What insights about your business and process(es) will you have that you don’t currently have? What are your employees, the real people who use the technology, telling you about their experience? What has the new technology enabled them to do? What are the tangible effects of the implementation? You need a clear picture of “success” to measure against. By visualizing what that looks like, you can start to draw the path to lead what’s in your imagination into reality.
6. Why won’t this “work” for us?
You can’t implement technology without acknowledging the chance it’ll fail. After all, no single thing works in all situations all of the time. This is evidenced by the 5-10% customer churn rates that enterprise-targeted SaaS companies experience, and the 35%-50% churn seen in the SMB SaaS space, according to Kaya Ismail’s research in his CMSWire article. With churn like that, failed and dissatisfactory implementations almost seem purposeful. The fact of the matter is, there’s a decent chance the tech you’re thinking about buying won’t deliver. Understand that upfront and temper your expectations. It’s crucial to keep your “new-toy” excitement under control so you can make measured decisions that move towards success. When you accept that there’s a chance the tech will fail, you’re more able to determine its actual value to your business.
7. Where does this fit into the rest of our stack?
Your company probably already uses technology of some kind. In that case, you definitely have a “tech stack.” It’s likely a particularly big or complex tech stack, given that companies have an average of 88 apps in their tech stacks according to Okta’s 2020 Business at Work Report. Nearly all of these apps store unique data, enable different processes, and serve different purposes, just like the tech you’re thinking about buying right now. Adding new tech affects your whole stack, and therefore your whole business. A successful tech stack needs to “solve for the whole” of your business to enable growth. Without that kind of consideration, you’ll only be adding complexity and friction, and you probably won’t be happy with your implementation.
MarTech, SalesTech, and SaaS companies in general are increasingly putting the buying process in your hands. You have the most agency you’ve ever had when it comes to buying technology. But, this also means it’s almost entirely on you to make sure you’ve made the considerations and answered the questions that set your expectations for the technology’s impact. Do this before your purchase and you can avoid ending up unhappy with your implementation like 90% of CMOs (according to Dimensional Research & BrandMaker’s 2021 State of Marketing Operations report).