Will Your Marketing Technology Pass the “Shiny Things” Test?

Recently, I wrote about avoiding the distractions of “shiny things” when choosing a new email service provider. After posting the article some people contacted me and asked: “Well, what are the shiny things, Marco?” Good question!
I polled some of our staff for a list of those extra features that organizations often think they have to have then end up not using.

What are shiny things?

First, let me explain the concept of shiny things again: Shiny things are those sexy, ultra-cool features that marketers think they must have, but they don’t use. We caution you to watch out for shiny things because they can distract you from focusing on the features that really matter when you’re comparing email service providers.

Below are the features we see going unused. Some fall into the shiny, sexy category, and some are simply outdated—no longer useful, but marketers still think they have to have.

Choosing an ESP: Shiny things clients want but don’t use

Jessa Halford, Senior Manager for Customer Success at ClickMail, notes the following as the shiny things she sees clients wanting but not using:

  • Relational data
  • Predictive intelligence
  • Ability to integrate with other data sources
  • Landing page creators
  • Mobile push notification capabilities

More shiny email service provider features that go unused

Grant Johnson, our Vice President of Strategic Services, lists the following as typical “shiny, unused things:”

  • Lots of built-in templates that never meet anyone’s needs
  • A/B and multivariate testing, because no one has time to test or they just do 50/50 split tests instead
  • Share with your network, because everyone just links to Facebook and Twitter and loses the power of the share
  • Click heat-maps, because everyone just counts clicks
  • Remarketing automation, because no one resends to non-openers even though this is a highly recommended tactic

The unused and unnecessary ESP features to avoid

I asked Jordie van Rijn to contribute as well, knowing he’d add a lot of value with his perspective as a consultant. Jordie made a good point, suggesting that these actually belong in categories that make them unused or unnecessary:

  • Things that don’t add value (to you or the program)
  • Things that you won’t really be using in the coming period,
  • Things that are easily worked around/customized, or just not good enough but you still want to do it, like integrations that just don’t cut it, or landing page creators.

Jordie also cautions to watch for buzzwords, because the buzzwords can indicate that the feature is a shiny thing. His current “beware of” buzzwords are social media integration and predictive intelligence (if not delivered on).

As for a specific list of shiny things, Jordie names:

  • Pop-ins and list growth plug-ins, because there are plenty of easy alternative options outside the ESP
  • Spam word checking, because it’s mostly irrelevant since filters are much more intelligent now
  • Everything that has to do with big data

Those ESP features that sound good, get ignored

And then there’s my own list. From where I sit, these are the features I see offered and desired and then largely left unused:

  • Drop-and-drop functionality for automated email; nice to have but you don’t need if you’re going to set it up once and only tweak it moving forward
  • Premium reporting that doesn’t get used
  • A custom profile center, if you’re not going to listen to what customers are telling you when they use it
  • SMS/MMS functionality

I took any duplicates out of these lists for clarity’s sake, but it’s interesting that the two most common unused shiny things that almost everyone mentioned were social media integration and predictive intelligence–and that Jordie mentioned these as his buzzwords to beware!

As Grant said when I asked him for his shiny things list, “It’s sad these go unused, but they do.” And so it’s better not to pay for them or get distracted by them in the first place!

How to help a colleague suffering from Shiny Things Syndrome

If you’re not sure how to identify a shiny thing—or how to stop a colleague from falling for one—try this scoresheet:

The Shiny Things Scorecard
Does this feature qualify as a must have (10 pts), want to have (5 pts), or would be nice to have (0 pts)?
Does this feature fit into our roadmap?
(10 pts if yes, 0 pts if no)
Has every stakeholder agreed this feature is needed?
(10 pts if yes, 0 pts if no, and 5 pts if sort of)
Will it help us to reach our goals?
(10 pts if yes, 0 pts if no, and 5 pts if sort of)
Is it a new feature for us?
(0 pts if yes, 10 pts if no)
Can we do the same thing in another way?
(0 pts if yes, 10 pts if no)
Are we going to choose a new ESP based solely on this feature?
(0 pts if yes, 10 pts if no)
Do we need it up and running within the next 6 months?
(10 pts if yes, 0 pts if no, and 5 pts if sort of)
Is someone taking ownership of getting the feature implemented?
(10 pts if yes, 0 pts if no, and 5 pts if sort of)
Does this feature’s cost pay for itself  from an ROI perspective?
(score 10 pts if no, 0 pts if yes, 5 pts if not much)
Total points:
A score of 80 or more means get it.
A score of 50 to 80 means there is a good chance it’s a shiny thing.
Any score below 50 indicates that it’s shiny for sure.


About Marco Marini

With 25 years in business, Marco is a walking encyclopedia of all things email: best practices, technologies, trends, and more. Marco is currently the COO of iPost, an email platform built for marketers by marketers. iPost an easy, flexible, dynamic marketing automation solution for email and mobile marketing. He has also held key marketing positions with CyberSource, ClickMail, eHealthInsurance, DoveBid and IBM Canada.

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