Marketers have many criteria for software tool selection, and the marketers of those tools have many angles to pitch.
But one factor turns out to be a necessary first hurdle for many business tool customers:
Is it integrated with [my favorite platform]?
‘Everything in one spot.’ That is, many firms — small-to-medium-sized businesses (SMBs) in particular, but also some enterprises — are heavily dependent on, say, Salesforce or HubSpot, so they prefer tools that are natively integrated with those platforms.
For inbound growth agency Nextiny Marketing, for instance, the universe of available software tools starts — and mostly ends — with those integrated with HubSpot, since the Sarasota, Florida-based firm is “built around HubSpot,” according to CEO Gabriel Marguglio.
If it’s marketing, sales or service software, he told me, it has to be part of HubSpot’s ecosystem for Nextiny to consider it. His company frequently uses HubSpot-compatible business analytics dashboard Databox, video hosting environment Wistia, email optimization tool Seventh Sense and CallRail phone tracking.
The Hubspot ecosystem, he said, offers “everything in one spot,” including integration with the platform on which Nextiny is based, and partnerships to co-market software.
“I will not choose a software [tool] that is not on Hubspot,” he said, except for the few standalones that don’t really need that platform or ecosystem alliance, like collaborative workspace Slack or a project management tool.
All integrated with Salesforce. Since his company is using these tools and sometimes recommends them to its customers, Nextiny often partners with those software companies in a co-marketing arrangement. Of course, Marguglio could partner with an application like Wistia without its being part of the HubSpot ecosystem, but he said the integration makes the partnership more valuable because it ties into the other tools.
One question, of course, is which ecosystem of applications to use when there are so many platforms with integrated software.
Marguglio said he has worked with Salesforce’s AppExchange, and could utilize the ecosystem spun off by a number of Hubspot’s 200+ tools, like Databox, but he hasn’t found another ecosystem outside of HubSpot that satisfies his requirements for marketing, sales and service tools that are all in one place.
Chris Elam, founder of Manhattan-based Misnomer Dance Theater, similarly selects his applications mostly from ones integrated with his favorite platform, in this case, Salesforce. Over the last few years, he told me, he’s utilized about 55 different applications that are integrated with Salesforce, such as electronic signature provider DocuSign.
“All applications we use are integrated with Salesforce,” he said. A key advantage of that arrangement, of course, is that the application can be tested out for its compatibility with that platform, without requiring coding.
Why this matters to marketers. The increasingly common first hurdle for software selection — that it must be part of the natively-integrated ecosystem of a favorite platform – is not always factored into assessments of how marketers choose tools or market their own software products.
While this platform-oriented approach has many benefits, it can also have some important limitations. A recent survey of more than 700 small and midsized business leaders by software review service Capterra found that identifying the right technologies for their businesses was the top challenge for nearly a fifth of respondents. Given their relatively small budgets, they have little room for error in their software choices.
Almost half — 47 percent – said they factor tech trends and advancements into their strategic planning, like AI, conversational user interfaces, data/information security, digital marketing and The Internet of Things. Smart tech choices can give them a competitive advantage beyond their size.
But, while SMB leaders say they consider tech trends as part of their strategic decision making, the range of tech trends they can include is limited by the extent of the ecosystem attached to their favorite platform, if they make software choices like Nextiny does.