Community budget is always a sensitive subject. Typically falling under another team’s umbrella, like marketing or customer success, for example, community teams often have to be scrappy when it comes to how we spend the money we get and how we do regular run-the-business activities. We usually end up leveraging tools that already exist with other teams or within the company or manually doing things because we have no better resources. For example, at a previous company, I used a Google Chrome Extension to create custom mail merge emails from Google Sheets because I couldn’t get approval for a marketing automation or email tool.
However, there are times when adding a new tool or platform for your tech stack will greatly improve your day-to-day. Whether it’s a tool to better track community performance, something to help you run processes more efficiently, or anything in between, there will come a time you want to make the business case to purchase a tool or platform. Doing the proper prep work and due diligence will help increase the likelihood that you’ll get the proper buy-in and approval to move forward with getting your new tool.
Step 1: Do your research
The first step to getting approval to purchase new tools is to research and find the tools that will best suit your business needs. What features are must-haves, nice-to-haves, and not needed? One way to do a comparison of tools is to make a table, like the one shown below. Document the features that are important to you and create a weighted measurement for each feature (the more important the feature, the higher the weight). Then, assess each tool and how they perform at each of the features.
There’s also a lot of value in asking around! Use your network, talk to existing and past customers, get the real insight on pros and cons of using that particular tool. These are those precious nuggets of information that won’t be shared by an account executive.
Step 2: Chat with stakeholders
Depending on the tool and what its purpose is, it may fit into a bigger architecture than just yours. Chatting with stakeholders, sharing your business needs, and introducing the new tool you’re proposing will help in a few ways. Firstly, it will instill a level of trust and transparency with stakeholders across the business. It will give them a heads up, allow them to see how it could fit into or affect their processes and tech stack, and, if there’s work needed on their part to implement or incorporate the new tool, it gives them the visibility on when and how that would take place. For example, if you’re implementing a tool for a new content library, you could chat with the product managers or marketing teams who would be contributing to that content library.
Getting stakeholder buy-in in support of getting the tool because it also helps them can be a strong factor in whether you will get approval for the tool.
Step 3: Front of the house
One other important factor for consideration in getting a new tool is the affect that it will have on your community members. If the tool is going to be front-facing in any way, where community members will be interacting or using the tool, it’s even more important to consider their use case and implications in your business case. Community members should always be the first priority, and if there is proof that their experience will be much improved or there is a clear business need for the tool, that adds a lot of leverage.
If you’ve previously done any feedback sessions, or have put out an annual survey, you may already have sufficient quotes and requests for a particular feature that the tool supports. For example, if in your annual survey, you asked how the process is to find a speaker for user group meetings and members rated it “difficult” or “very difficult”, and you are looking to implement a speaker directory tool, you could include these survey results in your business case.
Step 4: Think big picture
Managing tech debt is a real challenge sometimes, and you’ll want to make sure that whatever tool you are looking to implement will scale and evolve with you. You’ll want to look big picture - at the future direction of the community, the community programs, how quickly you’re scaling, and even strategic direction of the company, and make sure that your tool will fit into that. You want to avoid having to replace or deprecate a tool soon after implementing it because it could not grow with your needs.
In your business case, include a section about the future and how the tool will continue to tie into it.
Step 5: Budget and demonstrate the value
Put together the cost of the tool. Is there an implementation or onboarding cost? Will you need support from a developer or another team to help implement the tool? Is the subscription for the tool monthly and you can cancel at any time? Or does it require a contract for a specific duration? You will want to outline all of the various costs (both in dollars and even team bandwidth) to get the tool up and running, then also consider to maintain the tool.
From the value-add side, it’s just as important to demonstrate the value of the tool. How will the tool save time, improve community member or team member satisfaction, increase data integrity, support scale, etc.? Make sure to include any research or data to back up your claims - the more you can show the value of the tool, the more likely you are to get approval to purchase it.
Step 6: Put together your business case
The last step is to put together all of the pieces from Steps 1-5 into a business case. Think of this as an executive summary - you will want it to be concise and show the impact that the tool will provide to the business. You can choose how to present this - whether it’s a slide deck or a document; you’ll want to choose what is best received by your leadership team. My recommendation? Keep it to three main items:
- What the tool is and what it does
- The benefits and impact of the tool, why do you want to get it, what business need does it solve
- The budget and next steps/timeline
You can have the other information handy, like the tool comparison table and member feedback, etc. if you’re asked for it, or include it as an appendix. These are oftentimes too detailed for leadership to ask for or request, but it’s always good to have it ready just in case.
Getting buy-in for purchasing new tools can be a challenge, but it’s not impossible, even with a limited budget! By doing your research and due diligence and putting together an impactful and concise business case, you can increase your chances of getting the approval you need.
Do you need help creating a business case to justify adding Talkbase to your tech stack? I’d love to help you, feel free to reach out to email@example.com.
January 11, 2023
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