How to Build the Business Case for Purchasing Marketing Technology
August 23, 2016 | Dan Trefethen
Change is hard. If you want to make a change, such as purchasing a new marketing technology, you essentially have two options.
Go rogue, or achieve consensus.
Going rogue – doing whatever you want and begging forgiveness later – might be easier in the short run, but in the long run it’s better for you, your company, and your career to move through consensus.
That means you’ll need to manage both up and laterally to push through the initiatives you’re excited about.
Making a business case is an essential part of growing as a marketing leader. What does it take to get your boss and your team to buy into that new tech you’re so excited about?
Read on to find out the five essential ingredients of a powerful business case and how you can start putting them together for your proposal.
What is a Business Case?
There’s an old stereotype about marketing being a cost-center. Back in the early days, marketing spent their budget and there was no real way to determine what worked and what didn’t. So if the company did well, the marketing team got more money to spend.
These days, marketers are held much more accountable to every dollar we spend. We’re expected to project the return we’ll see on that spend and then deliver at or above that expectation – or face the consequences.
This shift in accountability is one reason building a business case is such an important skill for marketers. If you want to go to your manager or your executive team and ask for more money to buy a new technology, you are now expected to demonstrate how spending that money will either:
- Increase revenue
- Reduce spend elsewhere
With a business case, you’re presenting the reasoning behind making a business change. There should be value to the business in making the change or buying the new technology – if not, it’s time to reassess whether this is the right change to make.
Why You Need a Business Case
Buying marketing technology can feel overwhelming.
There are so many options out there, each claiming to be the next miracle cure for all our marketing pains.
Preparing a business case for your martech purchase will solve two important goals:
- Making sure you’re making the right purchase recommendation; and
- Helping your management team come to an agreement on moving forward (or not).
Thinking through the steps involved in making a strong business case will help you think through your own decision process.
More importantly, a business case is a powerful communication tool. Done well, it distills your thinking about a tool or platform into terms your team can understand, weigh, and get behind.
Elements of a Strong Business Case
A strong business case is built on five pillars: presenting the problem, painting a picture of the future, describing the implementation, offering alternatives, and laying out ROI.
1. Present the Problem
If you’re presenting a business case, you should be solving a business problem.
- Where are there inefficiencies in our process?
- Is there money wasted on people, 3rd parties, or campaigns that could be streamlined with technology?
- Are our customers or prospects asking for something we can’t provide them?
- Where are there missed opportunities?
Possible ways to present the problem in your business case:
- Our team collectively wastes 20 hours every week looking for files in our shared drive.
- 90% of our web traffic bounces because they can’t find our resource center.
- We paid an agency $10,000 for a custom digital calculator that didn’t deliver data anywhere.
- 10% of our email list is unsubscribing every week because we can’t segment and send them relevant content.
Frame the problem in terms your managers (and their managers) care about. While upping email open rates might be your sugarplum vision, your manager is likely more interested in what those email opens mean – more prospects clicking through to a landing page, converting, and eventually turning into sales pipeline.
If you can expand out your granular change into a large-scale shift for the company, your superiors will be that much more likely to buy in.
That’s where the next step comes in:
2. Picture the Future
Prepare a vision for what your marketing could be with this new technology.
No need to paint a beautiful landscape here – state the facts and explain how your team, company, or industry will be affected by this change.
- If the problem you’re solving has to do with efficiency, frame the future in terms of the other activities your team could be performing with extra time.
- If there’s a new opportunity to capitalize on, show the impact making this move will have on your team, department, company, or industry.
Details to consider:
- Staffing or organizational needs/changes
- Tangible results/outcomes
- Cost savings
- New processes/procedures
Integrations and augmentations to existing technologies
In your business case, this shouldn’t be more than a few sentences – but include all pertinent details.
3. Describe the Implementation
Frame your proposed change in terms your company already understands.
This is your opportunity to show you’ve done your research and are prepared for exactly what implementing this new technology will require from you, your team, and your company.
Key questions to consider:
- Does this tool integrate with my existing technologies?
- Do we have the people and processes in place to support it?
- What period of onboarding/training can we expect?
- What ongoing resources (time, people, money) are required to implement?
- Does this replace or make redundant anything we already have?
Look at your existing technology stack and identify where this technology will fit. If there’s not an obvious place – or if there’s a redundancy with technology you’re already using – it might be time to reconsider this investment.
Then, frame your spend in terms of existing budgets. You might say, “I’m going to take $20,000 from our spend in X to do Y, because we will get Z positive outcome.”
It can be helpful, here, to provide an implementation timeline. You can use a handy tool like Teamweek or plain old Excel to plan out your implementation.
4. Offer Alternatives (And Pick Your Favorite)
Best practice in technology purchasing is to present multiple alternatives, including a “do nothing” or benchmark option. More than three; probably not more than five.
Explain the alternatives in simple, straightforward fashion. Then provide your recommendation and justification.
Any problem has multiple solutions; failing to present alternatives makes it look like you didn’t consider them and results in a weaker case.
5. Lay Out ROI
When you start talking about finances in your business case, be sure to include a discussion of the return you can expect to see from that outlay.
When it comes to buying marketing technology, return on investment is one of the most powerful deciding factors – DemandGen Report recently reported that among B2B buyers, “ROI remains a top consideration when selecting a new product or solution — especially as many respondents reported increased oversight from company leadership.”
Calculating ROI requires two numbers: the initial investment you’re making and the gain you plan to see. The graphic below, from Dennis James, shows the calculation:
The tricky part is identifying the gain you’ll see. Most vendors offer documentation around the ROI their customers have demonstrated with their solution; apply those numbers to your own situation to your best ability and explain your reasoning in your business case.
Build a Strong MarTech Business Case
Marketing technology is booming – and as a marketer, I can say it’s hard not to get distracted by the idea of shiny new tools.
Once you’ve zeroed in on a tool you think will have a major positive impact on your marketing results, presenting a solid business case will be critical. Identify the priorities your management team and peers bring to the table, then build a solid case supporting your ideas.
Change isn’t easy, but backing up a proposal with the five points outlined in this article will take you a long way toward a successful implementation.
Making bold recommendations and arguing on behalf of innovation is what it takes to move forward (and up) in marketing today. Build a solid business case and you’ll see results not just for your marketing, but also your career.