4. Steps for Evaluation and Purchasing the Right Social Media Management Tool
When you work for yourself, decisions are relatively easy. You only have to make up your own mind whether to do something, go somewhere, or buy something.
When you’re part of an organization, however, such decisions may not be up to you. There may be a budget approval process and management buy-in that has to be obtained.
And getting that buy-in is not easy.
Despite your most persuasive arguments, your boss may not be interested in approving whatever expense you hope to get passed. In this case, we’re talking about social media tools.
Those of us who actually do social media management know exactly how useful and time-saving the right tool can be. We understand how challenging staying on top of comments and replies, and getting engagement across multiple platforms are. We know exactly how important making sure that posts are going out at the right time to the right profiles is. And we love being able to generate reports without having to employ a spreadsheet.
The challenge is in convincing someone else of the social media management tool’s importance. Wouldn’t knowing what approaches and information actually work be nice?
So, I asked my friend, Mike Allton to put together this roundup of social media experts. They've gone through the experience of choosing a new tool and may have been in your shoes on more than one occasion!
Just for total transparency, we've been friends for years, but Mike now works for a social media tool, Agorapulse. But as always, as with all content on my website, it aims to be as unbiased as possible - and to help you find the best tool. Mike knows pretty much everyone in the business and is one of the best writers I know!
I'm honoured to be able to learn from an incredible collection of 42 experts who have been on both sides of the equation.
Adopting the use of a new tool or software in any business comes with a learning curve, a change of process, and usually an expense. If there is not a substantial reason to adopt a new tool or software into the business, Management is likely to choose the path of least resistance and stay the course with existing methods. To overcome the "We've always done it the old way" objection, I find there are usually 2 approaches to getting management buy-in:
- Be so persistent and relentless on asking for it until management gives in just to shut you up. (I may have been guilty of this one a few occasions!)
- Do your homework and present management with:
- The problem
- How this tool provides THE BEST solution
- How the tool equals cost savings or generates revenue
- How you plan on implementing it
- The consequences, costs, or long-term implications of not moving forward with this tool
Presenting the problem, solution, costs savings, revenue opportunity, implementation plan, and consequences of inaction helps Management make an informed decision as it relates to your company objectives. You'll notice that a full run-down on all the bells and whistles of what the tool actually does is not included in that list.
From my experience, Management doesn't care about the fine points on exactly what the tool does. They simply need to be able to justify the expense or the change in process to their higher-ups and you have done all of the hard work for them!
Time the amount of time it takes you to do the same thing by hand and then with the tool. If it's an activity you are doing every day, that time adds up quickly!
For example if it only takes you 2 minutes longer, that doesn't seem like much. But if you are doing that activity every work day, that's 40 minutes of saved time per month! And if you are doing it better with less errors, that's a huge plus as well.
Andrew and Pete
Having a great tool can be the make or break between effective communication with efficient workflows or communication breakdowns and business mishaps! Not only does the right tool help to release pressure and save time but it also makes the team happier and more creative—a key ingredient to business success.
It’s really important to assign financial value to your time and your team's time when evaluating the cost of a tool. If the tool improves your team's efficiency, that saves you money.
It's also important to look at what questions the tool will help you answer. I see a lot of clients trying to decide what content is best to publish through vague observations. They may have a sense that a certain kind of content gets more likes. Is this actually the case?
Oftentimes, when we dig into the data, we find that clients’ impressions are inaccurate, or if we run the data in a different way, it reveals something they were not even aware of.
If the tool helps you answer questions using actual data, then it saves you time and helps you make informed decisions about your strategy going forward.
You need to be clear about your goals and objectives. Too many times we jump in on the newest thing simply because it is new. If we want management buy-in, we have to get them to agree that X is our objective and then show them how a new tool will help accomplish that objective.
An employee or agency could also produce case studies of companies just like the one they work for to show how it has helped them. Allow management to see themselves in the example.
Understand the goals and KPIs of the person who holds the purse strings. Put yourself in their position, would using and paying for a social media management tool make sense to you? If the tool is nice to have or a need to have, why can't you do this task(s) yourself? State your case, be logical, show the saving or reasoning behind the purchase.
I always look to see whether the tool has certification programs. For example, HootSuite has HootSuite University and you can now become HootSuite Certified. The newest tool I'm working towards my certification is in Zapier for chatbot integrations. This is something that has helped my business with credibility and attracts new clients.
This approach is not just about marketing software. In fact, it's not just about purchases, either.
Plot out two scenarios, a year or two going forward.
The first is the status quo. The status quo does not mean "how things are now." It means how things will be over the next year or two if you continue with current tools. Look at costs. Look at staff time. Look at missed opportunities. Look at what might break if it's not replaced (often an issue with IT, less so with marketing).
Then second is with the new software. How will things look in a year or two with the new software? Scope out the same factors, so that you can make a side-by-side comparison chart.
Usually, all you have to be able to show is that you will break even on costs. Then the time savings, the missed opportunities, and other benefits will all be gravy. The big bosses won't even care the order of magnitude—profit is profit, and that's what those other factors represent.
This works just as well for any major decision as it does for a software purchase. Remember that the key is this: Bring your boss a solution, not a problem.
I personally play both roles in our company. I am a co-founder, so I have to pitch new tools to my co-founders (and even team), and the team also proposes new tools to me that we can implement.
I just have one tip for both sides. Test the tool and do a small case study. This will give the decision makers or the team a clear reason to invest in a new tool.
Most tools will have a free account for 7-14 days, but if it's behind a paywall, that's the time to switch up my advice above. Try to see if you could talk to the support team of the tool to get access and explain your situation. I've done this in the past. If they can't allow a temporary demo account, compile reasons/testimonials on why the team needs to try it, pitch it to the decision makers and make sure to let them know that there's a guarantee. These new tools will almost always have a 14-30 day money back guarantee.
Show how the competition is using this tool. Too often, we attempt to convince management by facts, cost savings, feature lists, and other rational means.
But the most powerful way to convince the "boss" is the appeal to ego and fear, since they want to "keep up" and not appear doing anything wrong.
Plus, this approach takes a lot less effort than tedious research, which the boss will usually delegate to someone else, anyway.
Just because you want somebody to “buy” something, doesn’t mean that you need to be “selling” it.
If your marketing tool is beneficial to the prospect, then you don’t need to twist their arm to use it.
They will want it.
Your job then becomes one of consummating and facilitating the deal.
But prior to that, even though you don’t need to “sell” your marketing tool, you do need to make sure your prospect understands exactly how and why it is to their benefit to use it.
This is done, not through “selling” but through “demonstration.”
Demonstrate how the marketing tool works.
Point out its great value to your prospect.
Show them (don’t “tell” them) how they will benefit from using it.
If it truly helps your prospects get the results they want, then it is logical to them.
In that case, it makes sense for them to buy it, and they will gladly do it.
If it doesn’t really benefit them, then two things:
- First, you shouldn’t be promoting it because it will only destroy your own credibility, not only for this deal, but subsequent ones, too.
- Second, you don’t really want anyone to buy it because they’ll soon learn that they wasted their money on it, and they should never have trusted you.
They will be unhappy and dissatisfied customers.
This will not help your business nor earn that critical raving testimonial from your customer.
You want your customers to be happy and become your ambassadors.
If your marketing tool won’t live up to their expectations, and even exceed them… then don’t offer or promote it to begin with.
Getting management buy-in (whether it's a client or employer) to purchase a social media tool really relies on how well you communicate a few factors, including:
- How the tool can save you time and free you up for more important projects
- How the tool achieves the same results that current tools and services achieve (or more)
- What the return is on using the tool (or projected return) via reports, stats, or results you or someone else achieved on a trial of the tool and you can share the results.
Dorien Morin-van Dam
Tools solve problems. Show what problems the tool can solve and you can convince management!
If you as an employee can show team productivity growth by using a certain tool, that's a great first argument.
Next, if by using a certain tool, you help create a happy work environment for employees, that solves a second potential problem of employee retention.
Lastly, if by using a tool you as an employee can extract and provide valuable and usable data to help grow the company, it's a winner.
If you can solve these three issues, cost for the tool should have little or no consideration!
Too many marketers run to analyst sites and believe they're safely selecting the right tool based on third-party analysis. However, the budget, talent, timeline, and internal resources at your company may vary dramatically. This is often what leads to failed implementations or poor return on marketing tool investments.
When I'm asked by a company to provide a tool recommendation, my first step is to analyze the internal processes, then identify the gaps in each tool. Gaps are communicated to the company to estimate the resources needed to overcome. Not everything can be predicted, but it will greatly improve your implementation’s success.
Dustin W. Stout
As both a marketing team leader and business owner, I've had to sit in both seats—pitching leadership on a new marketing tool and justifying the spend for my own business. For me, the decision always come down to 3 factors:
- Is this going to directly generate revenue?
- Is this going to save cost compared to what we're doing right now?
- Is this going to save time compared to what we're doing right now?
If you have to make the pitch, first understand how much time and resources you're spending on your current solution. Example: "We're spending about 5 hours per week scheduling social content, 4 hours responding to comments and mentions, and 3 hours per month on reporting. If we switch to [new tool] we can cut our time down to only 3 hours on scheduling, 2 hours responding, and 1 hr on reporting leading to significant productivity increase."
If time is money, it's easy to see cost savings vs spending if you approach your pitch with raw facts like this.
Find out which of your competitors use it and tell them you can't live without it?
In all seriousness, it's not a bad idea to do competitive research and show how competitors are using the tool to be much more efficient than you are. And if you can include in that demonstration data that will prove you'll save money, even better!
My best advice is to not focus too much on the cost of the tool. That is generally the first question!
The Manager should think about the value the tool can bring. Is a tool that is $50 a month too expensive? Is a tool that is $1,000 cheap? That depends on the value the tool brings.
Before deciding on whether it's expensive or cheap think about the following:
- How much time will it save your team?
- What are the potential improved results by using the tool?
- What is the value of these improved results?
Of course the Manager should also ask what tools were evaluated and why was this one picked because adding a new tool or moving to a new tool takes up time and money. You need to make sure it's the right one!
You must show management the most direct impact that the tool can have on their business—and do it in a concise way.
Expect a faster decision if the tool solves a problem the business is currently facing. If the need is specific, you must lead the conversation with how the tool solves that problem (even if it solves 10 other subproblems as well). You don’t want to bombard management with “It solves this, and this, and this, etc.”
It’s important to explain time to value as well-meaning, how long is it going to take from purchasing this tool to realizing an impact? Consider how the product will be integrated, onboarding and set-up time, training, etc.
The more complicated these steps, the longer and more difficult it will be to earn buy-in.
If you’re looking for buy-in on a more technical product, you should expect a slower sales process and concentrate on expressing how the tool will impact several decision-makers within the company.
In this scenario, if you’re the vendor, it’s best to identify someone who can help you sell the product internally, often referred to as a mobilizer or advocate, so you have a trusted source fighting for the software to be purchased.
If you’re in the company, it’s best to partner with a sales or marketing representative from the vendor so that they can help guide you to selling the product internally. Odds are, they’ll have valuable content to share, a list of questions to ask, or overall experience overcoming objections.
Management wants to know about the bottom line: time and money.
If you want buy-in, you must present how much cheaper this product is or how much of your staff's time will be freed up for for other tasks—or both. This entails presenting features and benefits. And yes, be transparent(there is training time with anything new) so make sure to include that in your presentation.
The best way to get buy-in is to demonstrate the long-term value. Buying a new tool usually costs money and no one wants to simply spend more money.
But, if you can show that the investment of this tool today will save the company X amount of money or increase employee efficiency by Y% or decrease expenses by $Z, then you can justify the costs and usually win the buy-in.
First ask yourself if you truly need another tool or do you need to take a look at your technique.
If you're wanting to invest in a tool that will enhance your technique and allow you to work smarter, not harder, be prepared to ask the tough questions before getting buy-in from others.
Here are a few questions to ask:
- What problem will this tool help us solve?
- How will this tool impact my current workflow and/or customer service?
- How much time will this tool save me and my team? What does that mean for our Return on Investment?
- What will this tool allow me to do that I wouldn't be able to do without it?
- Do I have the time needed to invest in learning this tool and using it to its full ability should we invest in it?
- What other comparable tools are there to this and what makes this one the best?
- What are others saying about this tool online?
- Is there a trial available, and after the trial, what is the commitment?
- Is there onboarding available?
Asking yourself the tough exploratory questions ahead of time will ensure you are not buying into the "hype" too early and are truly investing in the actual tool to enhance your technique.
Convince management, and get one.
Digital marketing has changed the whole game of marketing in the last few years and to exist, survive, and stay strong on your grounds, you need to upgrade your systems and tools to the latest technology. "Survival of the Fittest" as they say!
If you want your management to consider buying a new marketing tool, you need to show them the main benefits of this tool.
The 2 most important benefits you can show off are:
- How much time will be saved thanks to this
- What will be the ROI from this new tool
In other words, if you can prove that the new tool will save management time and money, it shouldn't be hard to convince them to purchase it.
When considering a new marketing tool, the cost isn't just the price but the learning curve required and the new habit to use the tool.
So when choosing a tool, look beyond the price and look at:
- How easy it is to use
- How useful the features are
- How accessible the data is
- The integration with other tools
- The support provided
- The time you will end up saving by being more streamlined
- The increase to overall productivity and the most important
- The dollars you will save
- The opportunities that the new software can create
Finally, it must be fun; it's all about the user experience. So if it is fun to use, which can be in the language they use, the visuals, or gamification of features, then it is a winner in my opinion.
(Agorapulse ticks all those boxes!)
I'm a big fan of “try before you buy.” When considering a new marketing tool, get in the driver's seat and take the tool out for a test spin.
Most marketing tools have a free stripped-down version. And many times they have a free trial available with all the bells and whistles. Compare tools and see which one is the best fit for you and your team, then you can present the results to management.
My advice is to do proper research prior to pitching a new tool to your management.
Sign up for a trial, connect with the company's sales/customer service, browse their resources to get all your questions answered and understand all their features.
When pitching to your manager, make sure that you present the value this tool will bring, how much time and/or effort it will save you and don't forget to mention the pricing (is there an annual pricing that would save you money? Have you asked the company's rep for a startup discount, etc.)?
Showing that you've done proper research and are well-informed is crucial.
Let every department get the tools necessary to help them do their job and never get in their way, but hold them accountable.
The worst thing you can do as a CEO or manager is get in the way of employees having the best tools possible to help them do their job and when you hold them accountable, they’ll make the right decision.
All expenses should be reviewed on a monthly basis by all those who request tools to be used. This should be (though typically isn’t) part of every companies culture.
Monthly look at expenses together and review. Are we using the service? Is it providing a beneficial return and does any of the other services we’re using offer this also so we can consolidate and save?
When you work together this way, employees will only sign up for what’s needed and companies avoid death by 1,000 subscriptions that were approved and forgotten about.
One of the first steps that any employee should consider, before they ever begin to research and shop for new tools or services, is to have a frank conversation with their boss or decision-maker about what they like to see from their employees.
Knowing that they prefer to see a cost breakdown, or time-savings, or simply want such proposals and ideas delivered in a certain format, will the Ask a lot easier when the time comes.
I think it’s also important to realize that it’s likely your boss isn’t interested in what will make your life easier. Even though a great social media management tool will do just that, we’re being paid to do a job and whether it’s easy or not doesn’t really factor into business success. Instead, focus on how the business will benefit, whether that’s time or efficiency or capability or cost or something else.
My advice is to clearly lay out the ROI.
If you can provide a concrete example of how you will save money, increase efficiency, and generate more leads for the company than with your current methods, you can provide a solid case. The key is that you can provide a solid case backed up with legitimate facts.
With social media API changes and technological advancements in artificial intelligence, it is critical that companies are regularly conducting social media tool audits to ensure that they are using the best technology that fits their needs.
Using an inferior social media tool, or one which has stopped innovating while others have advanced, could cost your social media efficiency and ultimately your marketing ROI dearly. I always tell my clients to do these social media tools audits on a quarterly basis. I recommend you do the same.
These days, almost every marketing tool offers a free trial. That would be the best way to get support from management, in my opinion. Rather than just explain the benefits of the new tool, show how it works, and explain how you've already begun to get value from it during the trial. There's nothing to lose!
Think long term. Your boss has a lot on her plate already and a new tool bucking the system isn't her top priority.
Plan to present the tool a few times casually so management has had a chance to hear a little about it and become familiar with the name. When the time is right, present the tool from a perspective of efficiency and productivity so that she can process the decision in her own terms.
Do not focus on selling the "tool." Instead focus on the business impact.
What does success with the new tool look like? How will the new tool drive business outcomes such as increased number of leads, more sales, time savings, and optimization of processes?
Do not sell the ocean, instead focus on the "backyard pond" and how you are confident the investment will help the business as well as bring value to your customers in the short and medium term. Focus where you can have the greatest impact and how you will measure the results.
The goal should be to earn trust with the investment and prove that you know how to make smart investments. This will help you continue to earn the budget and buy-in for your digital, social and brand marketing programs today and in the future.
There are so many similar products that offer overlapping features and benefits. The last thing I want to do is invest my money and employee time into learning a new system only to discover it adds nothing to our ability to help our clients or the bottom line.
If an employee comes to me looking to invest in a social media or marketing tool, they need to show me a real cost analysis of how this is either going to save us time (money), or help us generate more revenue through new sales opportunities, (again, money).
Younger, progressive marketers often face difficulties in bridging general gaps and convincing management to invest in the new technology of modern marketing.
To sway your boss or agency, here are two things you need to do:
- Highlight the Financial Value of the Tool
This will be the major sticking point for many. You need to make them see the big picture.
An integral part of adapting is embracing new technologies and tools. More than 60% of companies now have artificial intelligence or machine learning as their top initiative.
Before you pitch the tool to them, compare it to competitors. More importantly, compare it to the manual labor costs an automated tool could replace.
Show how this tool can save the company money, and present it as a bargain by comparison.
- Demonstrate the Potential for Greater ROI
Your boss probably won’t invest in social media or keyword research just because you tell them “all our competitors are doing it!”
Management care about money and numbers.
By presenting the return on investment (ROI) in terms they appreciate, you can win them over. Find current stats and hard facts, with data to back everything up.
Instead of telling them about a new tool, show them how it’s working wonders for other companies by boosting productivity by X%, or increasing profits by so many thousands.
Tie the benefits to the problems your company currently struggles with, and then show concrete proof that this tool is the solution.
As the owner of a small business, I'm the one that people come to with new ideas, tools, etc.
Want to sell to me? Don't just tell me it's great. First, describe it in a way I'll easily understand it. Tell the story. Describe the outcome. Put numbers to it. If we invest, this is what we get. It can be a number tied to financials or time. If there is some other compelling reason, let me know. Appealing to my emotions is fine, but back it up with some specific ROI.
Managing your social conversations is most likely a huge area of concern. It takes time. Things slip through the cracks, and the right person to engage is not always the person monitoring the threads, or even online at the right time.
Agorapulse does a brilliant job of giving you the tools to manage ALL your social conversations.
Seeing all the threads, the ability to reply in real time, and most importantly to assign threads to the proper entity is not only great for your responsiveness, it is a real time saver because multiple cycles are not spent looking at and evaluating the same items!
Monitoring social conversations is not only a relationship builder, it is a time saver, Win/Win!
Make sure you are clear as to the Business Benefit in $ or whichever currency you use. Also talk to the management in a language they understand.
The CMO, CFO, CEO, and COO will all want different information to enable them to make a decision. For example, the CMO will want information on Campaigns, the CFO will want a business case, impact assessment, risk assessment.
You need to demonstrate that there is a need for the tool in your organization and that it will either lead to increased revenue or reduce cost. This doesn't have to be spelled out with calculations on a spreadsheet, but more in terms of "with this product we can save several hours a day allowing us to work on different things" or "with this tool we can improve our customer happiness and retention rates by answering their questions on social media." A case of "it's the latest thing and we want to play around with it" won't work in a department that has any kind of budget.