There are three months left of this year, but it will be 2018 before you know it. What will be in your marketing toolkit for next year? Will it contain all the same programs and tools or is this the year to bring in some new elements and maybe retire some old favorites? 

If your business is like many non-retail businesses, now is a great time to evaluate your options, test different products and make a transition plan if you do decide to make a change before the new year starts. If you are running a retail business, this activity is better saved for the first quarter of next year.  

Start With an Inventory

If you are like many business owners, there are programs you have relied on for years for email marketing, contests, social media monitoring and website analytics. Just because you have used them forever is that reason enough to continue using them in your 2018 Marketing Toolkit?

Start your toolkit planning by making a list of all the software products you use and what you pay to use them. Those little subscription fees $25/month here, $40/month there can really add up so the cost needs to be part of the evaluation.   

Once you have your list, answer a few simple questions:

Is it state of the art? 

Some companies continually revise their product, issuing new updates and features on a regular basis. Others tend to operate under the assumption that if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it. That may work for a short period of time, but at the rate that technology is advancing, if you are standing still, you are actually moving backward.   

Is the price reasonable?

The cost of technology (except maybe iPhones) typically goes down over time. Long time players are often reluctant to lower their prices, even as new products come into the market, sometimes with more features.  

Cost of change

Sometimes the cost of change can be prohibitive. Even if there is a better product out there, if you have to completely rebuild systems or retrain people it may not be cost-effective to switch. 

Keep, review, eliminate 

Once you have your complete list it is time to divide the software products into one of three categories. Keep, review or eliminate. To help you review your software, here’s what we are doing with our 2018 Marketing Toolkit review.

Keep

These are the products which are core to business operations. Even if the pricing changed, you would probably continue to them. For us, there are a few which rise to the top of the “keep” pile: 

  • Web Design: WordPress – We have relied on WordPress for nine years. It is a great example of a company continuing to invest in making their product better, issuing numerous small updates with security reviews throughout the year and at least one major overhaul every 18 months. There is a good reason why 26% of all new websites built, are built with WordPress. 
  • Web Design: Divi Theme – Created by Elegant Themes, Divi contains just about every feature we could imagine wanting in a WordPress Theme.  
  • Landing Page Design: Gravity Forms – This simple to use form builder allows our clients to add new forms to their website on the fly. The data is saved on their website, so no separate login is required. 
  • Productivity: Insightly – This combination CRM, sales tracking and project management tool hasn’t changed much over the last few years. There have been no major updates, but it simply works. The pricing is reasonable and we are not paying for features we don’t need. 

Review

These are products which are fine. They work, but perhaps there are better options out there. Use the next few months to evaluate those options and decide if it is the right time to make a switch. The programs on the bubble for us include: 

  • Reporting: Megalytic – I am a firm believer in measurable marketing so reporting software is critical. Finding one which integrates everything we do for clients is always a challenge. Megalytic does a fine job with Google Analytics and Facebook, but we have to manually paste screengrabs for LinkedIn, Twitter and email. If we can find a tool which is easier to use, we will make the switch.
  • Presentations: GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar – I am not sure they have made any updates in all the time we have used the product. I like the ability to record on the fly, store recordings and send email updates to participants. But at $105/month it is expensive and there are lots of options out there, so we will be checking out a few options. However, with more than 30 programs stored in their system, I am not sure I want to take the time to convert and learn a new system. 

Eliminate/Replace

This is the category you need to focus on first. These are products which are not delivering enough value. Maybe you need more features or maybe you need less and a lower price. This will be like pulling off a band-aid. It is going to hurt, but sometimes you just need to pull. 

  • Proposal Software: Tinderbox. This is a tough one. We have used this product for more than seven years. They are a local company and I like to support local, but their pricing is really high for the features we use. They have enhanced their product to make it more appealing for larger firms. Unfortunately, in doing so, they have built something which exceeds my needs.

What’s Missing? 

You can’t grow your business if you always do what you have always done. So once you figure out where you are with the products you have been using, it is time to look at products which offer features you don’t currently have. Are they worth the resources you will need to invest? Later this week I will share a preview of some of the new products we are evaluating as additions to our 2018 Marketing Toolkit. 

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