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How to select the right online marketing tools

How to select the right online marketing tools

Seven top tips from Omniture

Whether you are looking for a single component or a whole suite of products, selecting online marketing tools can be a treacherous process.

There is a tool for every aspect of the industry:  ad serving, email marketing, site analytics, bid management, marketing planning etc, and a large number of vendors for each of these categories.

Furthermore, most competitive products are hard to distinguish by simply looking at the feature lists or speaking to the (very convincing) sales executives.  How then, does a marketer go about making the right decisions?

This article will not tell you what the best tools are or what features to look for, but will highlight some basic principles that could save you from making the wrong decision when you are drowning in technical specifications and proposed contract terms.

Rule 1:  Understand the tech

You need to understand the technology and its implications before purchasing any online marketing tools.

Saying that you are ‘only a marketer’ and therefore don’t need to understand the tech is like claiming to be a CFO and not knowing how to use Excel.  It simply doesn’t wash anymore.

You need to understand the difference between an ASP and a hosted solution, between tags and log files, between cookies and key values, between unique users and page impressions.  And if you don’t know, then hire or pay someone who does to advise you.

Rule 2:  Know your objectives

It is vital that you define and prioritise your objectives for implementing any piece of marketing technology even before you start the search.  Are you looking for an ad server to improve your trafficking efficiency and manage keyword bids or to serve rich media and do time-lag to conversion analysis?

Are you looking for an email tool to push 100 million emails per month or one that can do advanced CRM integration and conditional content segments? The honest and considered answer to questions such as these will ensure that you do not get distracted along the way.  Once again, if you don’t know what objectives are possible, hire an expert.

Rule 3:  Avoid commoditisation

There is a dangerous tendency for marketers to commoditise volume-based marketing tools (especially ad serving and email marketing tools).

Inexperienced marketers will often argue that they don’t need all the high-end sophisticated features, all they need is to serve a billion ads or 100 million emails per month.

In an era of spam and increased ad clutter, real value and personalised customer relationships can only be created using those high-end features.  The little extra you might pay is well worth the increase in impact. 

Rule 4:  Don’t create a “value gap”

The other dangerous tendency is that inexperienced marketers over-estimate their use of a tool and consequently commit to higher fees than the value they can extract from the tool.

When such a “value gap” is created the tool will soon be resented by everyone in the organisation (especially by the CFO).  So be realistic about your monthly ad impressions, email transmissions and site traffic and don’t over-commit.

Rule 5:  Integration and automation

Make sure your various online marketing tools are well integrated on a technical level.  The benefit, for example, of being able to remarket to site visitors via email based on on-site behavior (and being able to do so easily!) is enormous.  If you are not using tools that are part of the same suite, then make integration part of your contract terms.

Also make sure your tools can be integrated easily with your site and CRM system.  In email marketing, for example, tight integration of your email tool and your CRM system is a vital requirement to ensure CAN-SPAM compliance.  An open API is a must – case studies of integration projects done for other clients is highly recommended.

Rule 6:  Self-service

This rule is very often ignored by marketers, mainly because the people making the decisions will never use the tool hands-on, but is essential for your long-term efficient use of any tool.

Make sure it is possible for you to manage most aspects of the tool on a self-service basis.  It is fine for your supplier to perform some or all functions for you initially, but this will soon become a hindrance.

Rule 7:  Commit to training, the Golden Rule

Whatever online marketing tool you choose, you need to commit to an ongoing training program and your supplier needs to be able to provide it.  Initial introductory sessions are not enough to become an expert.

Most end-users can only absorb basic functionality on the first day. You will need an advanced training session after 2-3 months, and thereafter an ongoing supply of best practices.  It is only through investing heavily in training that you will be able to unlock the maximum benefit of your online marketing tools.

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