Should we bundle software to be more efficient?

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Scott Brinker
Scott Brinker

Almost 10 years ago, Scott Brinker started mapping marketing technology companies and there were 150. Now there’s about 8,000. We need technology to optimize our workflows and Scott gives us insights on the Business Storytelling Podcast on how marketers can navigate this exploding area of their job and how they should think about whether or not to bundle software to be more efficient.

There are real advantages to bundle software when it makes sense and it can make your workflow easier. An advantage to bundle is if all workflows are truly integrated. A disadvantage could be that the software tools aren’t talking to each other and are too fragmented.

Think of this daily all-too-common workflow:

  • Log into website
  • Log into CRM
  • Email tool
  • Social tool
  • Ads tool
  • Etc.

That’s why people have so many tabs open. It certainly would be nice to be able to have everything integrated and bundle software to centralize things a bit. On the flip side, and this came top of mind to me when the Japanese Keyword Hack hit my website: If the software goes down everything will go down. It was good that I had some options to keep campaigns running since it wasn’t all tied to the website.

Do keep in mind that few – if any software solutions – are perfect for everything you need them to do.

It’s definitely something to keep in mind as you are making software solution decisions: Should we bundle this or should we keep it apart? Scott also explained the difference between small technology projects and enterprise-level implementations. For example, a client relationship management system implementation is an all-in, this-better-work project. Once the CRM is installed it’s hard to just drop it and move to another system.

Companies are invested. Financially and timewise. Implementing large systems takes time. So the return needs to be there as well.

On the flip side, we have smaller installations like SEO tools, social media publishing and even design tools that can be implemented quickly and are relatively cheap. As I said on this podcast episode reviewing a social scheduling tool within Canva, a design software, I love Canva for design, but I don’t need it for my social scheduling. Buffer does that trick for me. Bundling my social media scheduling needs into Canva doesn’t make sense.

The subscription model

From a subscription model, it can also be easier to just pay one bill to one vendor that you are using to bundle software.

Robbie Kellman Baxter is an expert and author on subscription models which this falls into. She mentioned on a livestream that the importance is that software companies still engage with our customers after they signed up and continuously improve the product. When a company does this bundling software can make sense.

Bundled software – is it even working?

I certainly hold technology to a higher level and – in the past at least – was not so forgiving when technology didn’t do what I thought it should be doing! Mind me that of course I usually have nothing to do with the development or product roadmap, but yet Consumer Christoph – like many – takes the liberty to apply my own needs to the technology and judge it on that! Instead of what it was actually build for!

And then we have great marketing that makes a crappy product look better than it actually performs once you log in.

“When software doesn’t hold up to marketing, they churn,” Scott said. “I don’t think there’s a magic bullet. You have to make sure your marketing and product align.”

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and subconsciously I’ve been disregarding technologies in seconds when it didn’t do exactly what I thought it should be doing or what the marketing promised it would.. It’s kind of interesting actually how long I stayed with the iPhone. I remember getting the first iPhone and iPad and I tried to use it for all kinds of things that I did on desktop computers up to that point. Of course they didn’t work and Apple people would tell me: It’s not supposed to replace your desktop, but it’s a different use case. Or something like that.

But it drove me crazy. On the other hand, I probably stuck with those Apple devices because of the potential! But early on, they didn’t do nearly enough and many things didn’t work at all that I tried to accomplish.

Related: Hope might not be a strategy, but it can be motivation!

Today, the biggest complaint I have about my iPhone is the battery life is just never enough, but other than that:

  • I easily save documents to Google Drive to use them on mobile and desktop.
  • I voice dictate blog posts in the WordPress app.
  • I produce podcast and livestreams
  • I upload photos to who knows how many different networks!
  • I make conference calls (with Zoom!) and it’s easier than regular phone calls!

Read next: 181: Follow these Zoom etiquette tips to stay sane and have better virtual meetings (Audio/Video)

When something doesn’t work on the iPhone the next software update usually takes care of it. For example, a system update really took down voice dictation, but the update to the update a couple of days later seemed to have fixed that for the most part.

And while it probably will take many worse issues for me to not use my iPhone, it’s certainly good to remember that tech consumers are demanding. Me too!

Software companies can also paint that picture of potential while demonstrating current helpfulness. Another thing to keep in mind is price: I’m much more willing to forgive minor issues to Canva which costs me less than $200 a year than I would be for some $30,000 social media platform that has hiccups.

So why are we so demanding of technology? Not sure, but maybe because we just expect it to work however we want it to work. Maybe we have unrealistic expectations at times.

Of course, when technology exceeds our expectations or does something we didn’t even know we needed, this can be a positive delighter. Of course, that’s hard to do! Robbie reminded us on the livestream that most consumers use just a small percentage of all the features software tools actually offer. That can be overcome with internal marketing to existing customers.

  • Send tips and tricks to existing customers.
  • Announce product updates.
  • Look for improvements based on user behavior.

As far as I can tell and think of this, there are really only two ways for tech companies to overcome this:

  • Produce software that is super intuitive – like the iPhone – and have strong branding – like the iPhone
  • Have the best customer service in the world!

As Lori Cohen reminds us on this episode of the podcast, branding does indeed matter. We aren’t just talking about creating logos here. But the brand your customer related to and what it stands for.

To learn how to be customer-centric, order a copy of my customer service book here.

There are positives and negatives to both options, of course. To have a great product you have to:

  • have people involved who actually know what the problem of your target market is.
  • be a forward-thinking innovator. Think about Apple. They created something we didn’t even know we needed and now it’s hard to think about living without it! “Put that phone down! NOW.” me to my kids, daily!
  • move fast. I would highly recommend phased functionalities. Let’s get something out the door NOW and then update it quickly to keep moving in the right direction.
  • know the market pricing wise. Pricing has been one of the hardest things for me. Different markets have different perspectives of money. Sometimes you price too high and sometimes too low. It’s an art in itself. You can lose deal either direction! “I wonder why they would give that away for so cheap?”

To have great customer service:

  • you have to have the right people who can help the customer, who want to and who also have the knowledge.
  • you have to listen to customers!
  • you have to be helpful.
  • you sometimes have to give a little. If it’s all about the stringent policies at some point the customer service will suffer!
  • customer service reps make the customer their priority!

Related: I could care less where I fit on your list of priorities.

Maybe one reason we are so picky is because there are so many tech solutions out there that being picky is an easy way to weed things down quickly. Something doesn’t work, move on to the next thing! Bye.

That’s probably another reason why it’s so important for tech companies (and anyone) to have meaningful stories of why they exist, why they do business and that ties into the customer experience.

Bundle software or not?

At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice. The real advantage of bundling in my opinion can be that it streamlines relationships. One vendor that is close to a perfect fit for 10 problems that we are trying solve in our workflow can be better than 10 vendors that are just as close. Bundle when it makes sense and when you can find the right companies is my motto. Unbundle when you can’t find a partner that can help you achieve your goals with one product.

Some thoughts on perfect solutions

If you are looking for that perfect software tool here are your options …

Whether that tool is for content creation, project management, or marketing here are your options:

  • Find the platform that is closest to what you need
  • Hire a dev team and build it

Keep in mind that if you involve others – which is likely – that people will have different opinions of what’s perfect. That will also happen when you build it from scratch.

Example: Websites designed by committee – especially committees with people who have no clue about UX, UI and user behavior usually are terrible. That can then lead to statements like that the website doesn’t work. Obviously! Focus on what matters to the users and helps us be better.

The workflow

Technology tools really should never take center stage. I would recommend this kind of workflow:

Come up with the strategy first – what are we trying to accomplish?

Evaluate and update culture – is the culture set up to do what we need to do?

I’m still amazed to see how many things get blamed on software when it’s actually the culture that is breaking things!

Example: We can’t write and produce content that is worth reading until we get a better software solution!

Please! Writers have been writing forever. Storytellers used to even tell stories before there was paper or the printing press. Short stories existed before Twitter. Photography before Instagram.

The tools aren’t changing that we are doing something. They just change the how. And hopefully that how makes things easier.

Now, in the often-present case of resisting change – any change – no software tool will ever be perfect. Ever.

Software won’t change deliberate forward-movement but this does:

  • A clear business direction and commitment – I’ve seen business evolution projects flounder because they are work and executives didn’t give them enough time.
  • Then a daily push toward the goals in a structured approach.

Then add technology solutions or use the ones that are already in place. For example, in a digital world there are certain tools that make our lives easier:

No matter the tools they should end up making things easier.

Once the strategy and culture are on the right track, pick a tool. There are many out there and that could be a full time job to continuously evaluate them.

I would recommend verbalizing the top problem you are trying to solve and then go find the most affordable tool for that problem.

If a lot of problems need to be addressed focus on the most pressing once and find the tool for that.

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