Brands Need a More Organic Approach to Martech Strategy

April 2, 2019

By Matthew Schwartz

Sorbetto/Getty Images

Inspired by organizing guru Marie Kondo, this is the fifth and final blog post for a series of articles designed to help marketers tidy up their workload, lose extraneous material, and focus on the corporate goals and objectives at hand.

We're all nerds now. Marketing technology (martech) now accounts for almost one-third of marketing's budget (29 percent), according to Gartner's CMO Spend Survey 2018-2019. In fact, marketers currently spend more of their budget on technology than internal staff (24 percent), the survey said.

At the same time, CMOs struggle to align marketing metrics with business priorities, favoring awareness as their top strategic measure instead of customer value and ROI, the Gartner survey said. The survey, which was released late last year, is based on responses from 621 marketing executives in North America and the U.K. at companies with $500 million to $10 billion or more annual revenue.

It's a vicious cycle: New marketing technologies materialize every few months (if not weeks) targeting CMOs. Marketers think the latest and greatest system will go a long way aligning marketing activities with business goals and decide to pull the trigger on spending. But when the technology fails to live up to expectations marketers are back to square one. Rinse and repeat.

Indeed, there are now more than 6,800 martech tools available, according to Brandpoint. In 2011, there were just 150 software tools targeting marketing precincts. Talk about overkill.

Organizing guru Marie Kondo, whose mission is to help people keep things that bring them joy and discard the rest, might provide a sympathetic ear for CMOs and marketers constantly bombarded by shiny new technologies. But she would also likely shake her head in amazement and suggest to CMOs that they need to be much more selective when it comes to acquiring martech.

With that in mind, here's a few ways for marketers to get a better handle on martech (and maybe start to declutter the process).


Strike a Balance Between Humans and Machines

Software tools enable marketers to read online data more effectively and determine what their customer and prospects like (or not) about their company's products and services. But marketers should be less in thrall to algorithms, which don't possess the subtleties, nuances (and healthy skepticism) that humans bring to the table. In the last decade or so — as the web has expanded its reach into more aspects of our lives — people have been conditioned to letting the computer do all the work. That's fine, if folks are relying on apps to track their caloric intake or remind them to pick up the laundry. But it's entirely different to strictly rely on software to bolster marketing outcomes and deliver better ROI. Sure, martech brings a lot of sophistication to data management, but the most salient insights regarding aligning marketing activities with business goals probably stem from the six inches between marketers' ears.


Privacy and Permission-Based Marketing Tools, Above All

CMOs and marketers grappling with martech — and forever gazing at a dashboard that's starting to resemble the online equivalent of Mahavishnu — should put their permission-based marketing tools at the top of the stack. Data privacy regulations are sweeping the globe, whether it's the EU's General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) or the soon-to-take-effect California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), a 10,000-word bill with major new privacy and data-security requirements.

Similar regulations are sure to follow both at home and abroad. By making privacy software key, marketers can lighten their algorithmic load without sacrificing potential business. With privacy considerations paramount, marketers get a much more legitimate sense of who sincerely wants to have a dialogue, purchase product or strike up a partnership — and who's simply trolling the company. That's going to reduce marketing busywork and maybe, just maybe, wean CMOs from "spray and pray," the biggest marketing waste in the free world.


Take a Step Back — and Assess

It's the nature of marketers to stay on top of the latest martech tools. It's understandable, as the pressure on CMOs to contribute real money to the top and bottom lines seems to grow exponentially. But marketers could save themselves a lot of heartache — not to mention budget — if they take a step back and ask themselves some big-picture questions before dropping more coin on software. Whom are we trying to reach? What outcomes are we trying to achieve? How do we align this campaign with corporate objectives? These are just a few critical questions to ask prior to kicking off a new campaign/marketing effort. As Augie Ray, a senior director analyst at Gartner, told the ANA recently: "The mass media era has caused CMOs to focus entirely on promotion when they should be focusing on all four Ps — price, place, promotion, and product — and viewing themselves as stewards of the customer within the entire organization."

Another way marketers can declutter things: Digest the outcomes from one campaign first (and see what worked, or not) before rushing into the next one. There's probably some relevant information that marketers overlook — and could help inform the next effort. Just take a step back and try to look at things from 30,000 feet above the trees. Don't fret. The sky won't fall.

Previous articles in this series:

Applying the KonMari Method to Marketing

Less is More When it Comes to Content Marketing

Marketing Meetings Are Seldom Joyful, but they Can Be Much More Efficient

Brands Must Customize Their Social Media to Spark Sharper Conversations with Customers and Prospects

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