There is a marketing arms race out there.
I'm sure you've noticed. So many vendors pitching so many amazing capabilities.
There's a lot of pressure on businesses to gear up and spend a lot of money on capability. that feels like it's necessary for business success.
The truth is there is no one-size-fits-all marketing tech stack, and you really need to think through what you need. Don't believe the hype that everybody needs the best. You can do a lot with the right technology for your business.
Case in point: CRM
Let's talk about CRM as a case in point. It's an important investment and I want to talk about it broadly, including the entire customer acquisition technology stack.
What CRM stack choices do you have?
How do you decide what's right for your business?
Things have changed in the last few years.
It used to be that you really didn't have a quality option below a very high price point.
That has changed with some of the new technologies and platforms on the market. You really do need to decide what level of capability is right for your business.
Let's start at the high end.
The stereotypical customer acquisition stack is something like this:
Salesforce for managing your contacts and company database
A Marketo or Pardot for marketing automation
Integration into a seamless lead flow and sales process
Typically companies that do this are investing hundreds of thousands of dollars in the software, and then they need two, three or more people to manage those applications and get the most out of them.
All in it, this could cost a half-million dollars every year.
There are also additional integrations like data cleansing and website integrations that are often added on. It can get really complex.
I've lived through this scenario a few times.
In some cases, this level of investment and complexity is necessary. It scales to a high level, and it provides a very high level of customer experience.
But things have changed, and there are now options on the market that go down from there with many of the same features, just at a slightly lower capability level.
Some of these solutions start with a complete, basic solution that is free.
One example is Hubspot. There are others too with similar features.
You can actually start for free, and even when you move up to their paid solutions, the cost can be hundreds or thousands of dollars a month. They can grow above that, but it's typically not half-million dollars.
Just as important, a fraction of a staff person can get started in managing these basic CRM solutions.
If you don't have a CRM today, you can get started with something like Hubspot with a very low financial risk and adapt that solution over time.
There is a time and a place for a Salesforce/Marketo Enterprise-style CRM stack, but there are now real options for you to forego the hype and start with a simple experience that's automated and easy to grow.
What's the right solution for you?
So how do you decide?
It actually is harder now because there are multiple ways to go here. You have a couple of things to think about.
For one, you don't want to do this at any level unless it will pay for itself.
It's hard to know what it will do for you financially, but you want to understand how your CRM solution will increase your revenue and/or your profit over time.
It's also important not to think of this within a narrow time horizon; one year is too short an evaluation timeframe for several reasons.
First, even a simple implementation - like Hubspot starting at the most basic level - takes a long time to adapt and evolve. For the solution to be what you need it to be and become valuable enough to pay for itself takes time.
You need to acknowledge that if you win a customer today and it's a subscription business, for example, and your average customer lifetime is 10 years, you're going to get a lot more value than just that order you got this year. Look at the overall customer lifetime value and how the CRM adds to that value.
Financial value is important, but you also want to look at the strategic value.
As an example, there is a company that has struggled to get into a new market. Having the right CRM solution and the better customer experience it creates gives them entry into a market that they frankly couldn't get into before.
A growth opportunity like that might be enough to justify the CRM investment even without looking at the revenue or profit lift estimates.
It goes back to your strategy, your target and your opportunity. You need to figure that out first and then decide what you need this CRM tool to do to help get you there.
Then look at all the options. There's new math out there, and it no longer starts at the high end.