Ashton Media
Marketing & Customer Experience Hub

How to find the perfect tech partner



There’s a lot of hype and noise around programmatic right now which is no different to other trends we’ve seen in digital technology over the past 20 years like CRM, big data and mobile. Invariably, vendors come along and jump on the bandwagon to exploit the opportunity, but after a while, the market matures and settles down. We are still in the nascent stage for marketing technology. The more advanced this gets, the more consolidation we’ll see.


At the moment, there are many and varied vendors and technologies from bespoke solutions specifically for mobile or data to single solutions for everything. It gets quite confusing and complex.

Choosing the right technology and vendor is really about going back to basics and understanding the fundamentals of business, customer and technology.

Firstly, you need to define the business objectives, the business vision and the critical requirements. It’s important to understand what you’re trying to achieve and where your business is at, whether that is delivering a great brand or ad experience in the right channel or connected cross-channel immersive experiences, personalisation or simply getting the basics bedded down with channel attribution and analytics.

Ultimately, engagement and relevant communications with consumers is the aim. We want the technology to enable and provide integrated, relevant and holistic consumer experiences. It’s critical in terms of interactions with your customers that you get it right. This isn’t a backend in technology where, if you get it wrong, it’s in pilot and can be fixed. This is the very fabric of your brand. It means trust, perception and interaction with your customers.

Shopping for a tech solution

Put simply, finding the right tech for your business is really no different to shopping. Do all of your preliminary research before you make your purchase and have your priorities mapped out across customer need, business objectives and technology requirements. Sounds easy in principle, but it can be challenging once vendors enter the mix.

For smaller companies that don’t have billion dollar budgets for big infrastructure spend, it’s really about understanding the tech environment and how relevant it is to your current business and customer communication needs, whether that is analytics or harnessing CRM or transactional point-of-sale data. Look at the different vendors that can deliver a technology ecosystem with the current and future business requirements. Don’t’ forget about your future needs as well. It’s important to create a roadmap of today and future plans. This will help you find a vendor that can evolve, adapt and stay relevant as you grow.

It’s important to understand all of this before going out and talking to vendors. Once you start to bring them in, there’s usually a lot of noise and it’s hard to cut through to what you need. It’s easy to get thrown off track.

If you’re across your requirements then you can control the conversation and perform an independent review. That’s when you will be able to ascertain the right technology partner or platform that works for your particular business.

Finding the right platform for your needs is critical and varies from business to business. Some businesses think it should be a single solution for all. As we’re seeing ad tech and MarTech starting to blend, it’s no longer about getting an ad tech platform and not worrying about MarTech because consumers are demanding integrated experiences across all touch points and path to purchase. These tech platforms have to come together. For some businesses, the answer is a holistic end-to-end solution like Salesforce or Adobe. Others don’t want to be beholden to one particular vendor.

Ask the right questions

It is the brand’s job to be asking all of the operational and technological questions and it pays to have a diverse set of people asking these questions. You want cross representation from technology, operations and marketing for starters.

I see instances where marketers feel out of their depth and don’t want to ask the silly questions but at the end of the day, when the platform is bought, the marketers have to operate it. I’ve seen instances where the platform has been bought, but the marketers don’t necessarily know how to use it. It’s really important to ask the hard questions, to build a level of rapport, to trust and feel confident with the partner and to know whether the technology is fit for your specific purposes. Don’t get caught up with what everyone else is doing. Based on the conversations I’ve had with large and small businesses, there are few that have completely nailed it. The majority are on a journey. Don’t believe all the hype.

Vendors come in and can get very technical. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by it and say, “Oh, well, they sound like they know what they’re talking about”. But the reality is, often they’re talking a language the marketer might not fully understand. The critical thing is, if it’s getting too complicated or confusing and the vendor can’t explain it simply, you’re not seeing what you need to see. That’s a warning.

Brands also need to establish the credibility of the vendor. Again, back to basics, find out what sort of clients they’ve worked with and how their support services operate. You want to know where they’re based. Are they offshore and would any support you need be coming from offshore also? Make sure there is sufficient local support. Many of us can attest to the many challenges of trying to run a completely offshore model. Make sure there is a healthy balance between price and support.

Smaller brands can’t always afford consultancies but there are plenty of independent reports out there to give you a view of the sustainability of the key players. You need to understand the roadmap of these vendors and ensure they have the robustness to still be around in three to five years time. With all of the additional tech that’s being introduced from wearables, out-of-home, to bots and so on, you want to know that the platform can evolve.

Find a holistic solution

There are certainly a lot of solutions out there that aren’t holistic, that don’t integrate with other platforms. This is key when you’re talking about ad tech and marketing technology. Vendors need to be credible to be able to integrate with the likes of Google, Facebook and Snapchat.

Always ask for a live demonstration so that you can see the solution in situ as opposed to canned instances where you can’t gauge whether it’s real or not.

There’s certainly a power shift as more marketers get their heads around where this technology is going. We’re seeing brands sticking their hands up and saying to media companies, “Hang on, we know who are consumers are. These are the people that buy our products and this is the type of media and marketing we want”.

Be careful of the various vendors when going out to market. Even some of the big vendors are selling a good message, but when you when you lift the veil, they may not deliver for you.

Whether it’s a big or a small vendor, do your due diligence, because not all of them do everything that they suggest they do, both at the top bottom level of the market. It’s important to approach this in a methodical way.

Take your time to do it and do it properly. There’s no real immediate rush. Given the disruptive, financial and time-based cost involved in going down this path, you want to do it right the first time.

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About Dirk Ullrich – Consultant
Dirk is a consultant with experience on both brand and publisher side as well as within professional services firms.