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3 ways you can mess up your martech (and how not to)

The last five years have been boom time for martech. How can you implement it well?

The last five years have been boom time for martech. While the rate of new products and services entering the market is plateauing, the sector overall has consolidated itself as a mainstay in the marketing landscape. How can businesses today invest and implement martech well?

“A lot of CMOs now are spending more money on their technology than on their campaigns,” said Which-50 Editor-in-Chief and Publisher Andrew Birmingham at this year’s Mumbrella360. “That trend is likely to continue.”

Is this a good thing? It’s a moot point. Either way, the options before organisations are vast. Entrepreneur Scott Brinker’s chart – updated annually, and now an infamous tactic to either overwhelm or impress attendees at industry conferences – gives us an image of the martech landscape currently. A snapshot of the 5000 companies engineering intersections between marketing, technology and management, it represents nothing so much as the eye-boggling explosion of the sector in recent years.

Still, let’s not lose sight of the fact that pretty much every marketer is already ‘doing martech’, and has been for a time. Unless the entirety of your strategy is having someone stand on the street in a sandwich board yelling your company name over and over, then it’s reasonable to expect that you are in some way harnessing technology to achieve a business outcome. Use a Google spreadsheet to map your content calendar? That’s martech. Got a social media campaign going to promote your goods? Also martech.

The difference now is just how sophisticated the martech universe has become. Many vendors have accrued power and stock value through migrating to the clouds, where servers scattered the world over can safely store and process huge, heaving seas of data. Decisions by marketing leaders to spend their finite budgets investing in martech have subsequently become no small matter, with their impacts far-reaching across a business’s processes, talent needs, structure, customer satisfaction and profit.

With all this in mind, here’s what not to do.

1. Choose a product that doesn’t match a need

It sounds obvious. But throwing money into martech that doesn’t match up with the problems a company is trying to solve is actually pretty common.

The main kernel of knowledge to crack here is that martech is no more (and no less) than any technology that helps a business achieve a predefined goal with greater efficiency. Whether it’s an AI-powered chatbot, a CRM platform, data integration software or an email marketing service, martech (and any tech) is never a ‘solution’: it’s an enabler. Before you even begin shopping about then, you have to be clear with yourself about your business goals, your customers’ pain-points and your own weaknesses. Then you have to come to a decision on what action item has the highest priority.

If you’re a SMB whose primary need is (for the moment) to get 24-hour customer service going on your website, then you might not have to think in the Marketo or Salesforce level clouds. A cheaper, more targeted AI chatbot service may be out there that you can use instead. Alternatively, if you’re already using Google Analytics, looking beyond Google’s Tag Manager might be totally unnecessary. If your business was powered by a (high-end) bicycle, a tank of rocket fuel would do you no good.

2. Put all your eggs in one basket

Remember, eons ago, how we used to invest in a marketing product with the guarantee it would last us five, ten, 15 years? Once a selling point, now this kind of long-term assurance is a joke. The shelf-life of tech products in the swift-moving digital world is seemingly measured in nanoseconds, such that we don’t only expect products to evolve and to change. We demand that they do.

For the complex, multifaceted, multifunctional field of martech, this has also meant that there is unlikely to be a single platform we can depend upon to meet our various needs. Hail the ‘martech stack’ – a clever clustering of multi-sourced but integrated services and products, which (ideally) work in synchrony through data-sharing capabilities.

Though each stack should be bespoke to each business, the 2017 awards page of The Stackies is a good place to go to check out the logic behind building good stacks. For major corporations like Microsoft and Salesforce, theirs are well and truly stacked out. To avoid overlaps and to align product to process, these companies have had to be incredibly on the ball in clarifying which martech product does what, why, and for who.

We can look at Microsoft’s martech summary graphic as a good example, where the team has clustered different services along three different groups to bring clarity to an incredibly complex martech stack. The first is systems (innovation, differentiation and record). The second is marketing funnel stage (pre-sales, sales and post-sales), conceptualised as a loop. And the third is whether the value of the martech is geared more towards direct customers or towards future opportunity. Check it out below.

3. Fail to build sufficient organisational capital

According to Brinker, getting together enough organisational capital is the biggest challenge martech presents. In comparison, actually buying the technology is a cinch.

Why? Because “by itself, marketing technology is not a panacea,” Brinker writes on his ChiefMartec blog. “Harnessing the potential of this technology requires developing new organisational capital: new organisational structures and processes, new skills and talents on the marketing team, new management approaches to operating in a fast-paced digital environment – even new elements of culture and philosophy to truly ‘be digital’.”

It’s an insight to be cut, pasted, printed out and stuck to your office desk wall. Bringing in a new martech product and expecting it to perform miracles is the equivalent of buying a spaceship and expecting this wonderment of science and progress to take you to the the moon. It’s just not going to happen. For martech to be implemented, adopted and accepted into the operations and workflow of your business, a lot of things need to happen before and after purchase.

One of these – which should really be the first – is buy-in. If the new technology is going to shape how people go about their jobs, it’s important that you’re not shoving at them something they neither want nor need. Pre-empt and prevent any grumbling by letting workers articulate their own problems and preferences, or, if the option’s available, have a trial period so you’re not sinking dollars into something that’s going to make your stuff dream of staging a mutiny.

The second consideration is, as Brinker emphasises, training. This is a crucial budget line investment, covering the practical use of the platforms and tools, ways of working under new management models, and any new systems of governance coming into play. As Brinker notes, it could also involve – more subtly – a broader enculturation of staff into an attitude of ‘constant learning’; such that people’s skills are always evolving at a pace with their shifting martech stack.

It’s also imperative that your martech stack is subject to regular monitoring and review. Its inadequacy in the long-term is, after all, a given – meaning ongoing updates, optimisations and reworkings need to be planned and accounted for. In a recent ChiefMartec study, 74.2% of businesses said they have someone explicitly in charge of martech or plan for someone to fill this role within the next 12 months. While most of their role involves research, most martech leaders are responsible for “monitoring data quality”, “sundowning old/unused systems”, “integrating martech products with non-marketing systems” and “consolidating duplicate instances of martech products across the enterprise”.

Whether for existing or newly introduced martech, here are the questions we imagine this leader (or their substitutes) are constantly asking themselves. “Is this technology benefiting our bottom line?” “Is it working for our organisation?” “Is it working for our staff?” And, last but not least: “Is it helping our customers?” If even one of these answers is “not really”, it may be time for a change.

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