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September 29, 2009

Dealing with Choice Overload on the Marketing Menu

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sandwich
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On my way to lunch this afternoon, I thought I knew what I was going to do. I was going to the deli to order a prosciutto and mozzarella panini and a cherry soda. Add tomato. No sides.

But even the best laid plans…

The doors were open. The pantry and refrigerators were stocked. The line was short. There was nothing standing in the way of me getting exactly what I wanted for lunch.

Except for that miles-long menu staring me in the face.

I thought I knew the path to mid-day cuisine contentment. At least, I knew where I wanted to go (the land of the ecstasy-laden food coma) and I kind of knew how to get there (a gourmet sandwich) — but faced with a menu of domestic and imported meats, chutneys and spreads, and every bread from sourdough to pumpernickel, the exact means of sparking my taste buds was suddenly lost in the sea of choice. [I had half a pastrami sandwich and now I’m positively green with envy. –Susan]

Even scarier when you consider that abundant choice and over-thinking can lead to poor decisions and regret.

In the moments of panic that ensued when I reached the front of the line and dribbled “aduh, uh” from the corner of my mouth — well, it was a wonder that my stomach didn’t suddenly become as bloated as the menu.

A new report about how businesses can narrow down the hundreds of technology options available to them has recently been published by the information technology research and advisory company Gartner. The 2009 e-Commerce Hype Cycle Report (available through client log-in only) explains that in the last year, the rate at which new technologies are made available to businesses has almost doubled.

In 2007, there were 41 big-hype technology profiles. In 2008, there were 36. And this year? In 2009 there have been 71 new technology profiles getting major hype.

“We have an extremely large menu of technology available for those responsible for ecommerce, as well as marketing, sales and service. However, the menu’s too big. We can’t afford it all. So we have to carefully choose what technology we’ll be using.”

Obviously something’s gotta give. I like peanut butter. I love tuna fish. And salami always hits the spot. But just because I like them all doesn’t mean I can afford them all, and it certainly doesn’t mean I’d want them on a plate together.

Similarly, a business has a lot to make sense of when choosing which technologies at their disposal are worth investing resources in, and which can provide the highest return. But with the stakes higher and the reward oftentimes equivalent to survival, making a poor decision on technologies to adapt in business comes with a much higher reward, and even higher risk.

So how do you decide what technologies to invest in? How do you narrow down the menu?

Gartner suggests first identifying your needs as an organization. Are you looking to decrease costs or increase brand reach? Or are you looking to enhance customer service or improve the online sales experience?

When you’ve done that, you’ll be able to identify the technologies that speak directly to those needs. And with your needs in mind, you can filter out the irrelevant buzz and evaluate the tools that fit your goals based on their abilities and merits. Thanks to technology, today’s world is rife with possibilities and opportunities. Go out and find the flavor combo that hits the spot.

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