How to unlock the power of your marketing technology

Regardless of the source, there’s one thing the research has in common; the analysis reveals the success rate of digital transformations is horrible. Embarking on a journey to marketing technology transformation is also not without disappointments. But the sky is not falling just yet, my friends. Read on for a proven approach to unlock the power of your marketing technology and tip the odds of transformation success in your favor.

Don’t be a martech hyper-consumer

The pandemic provoked a noticeable acceleration of digital technology usage, especially the cloud, for things like remote work, online purchasing, operations, and business decision-making. However, based on my research, most marketers didn’t make substantial changes to their core marketing technology stack. That’s a good thing because whenever my hyper-consumer gene kicks in, I almost always experience a heavy dose of buyer’s remorse. With that said, let’s begin the journey to unlock the power of your marketing technology with this advice:

Do not purchase another platform, point solution, service, or analyst report until you read this article and share it with the rest of your marketing organization. If you’re in the process of procuring one of those things, stop. You’ll thank me later, I promise.

I know that advice will provoke some nasty emails and phone calls from friends, partners, and former colleagues in the marketing technology business. I’m willing to take the hit and risk a few expensive meals, extravagant conferences, and yet another logo-embossed 1GB thumb drive, notebook, plastic water bottle, or bamboo cutting board. Besides, despite the popularity of as the guiding light of marketing technology common-sense advice and education, a few marketers will undoubtedly miss this article, so there should still be some prospects with whom they can engage.

If you’re like many of the marketers I’ve advised over the years, one of the biggest challenges is securing a consistent budget to build out a martech stack that’s fit for purpose. I’m not talking about a bunch of disconnected technology that you pay for but never use, like some of the tools on my workbench from my last online shopping spree (I know, but there was a big sale). I’m talking about a martech stack designed and implemented to help you create remarkable customer experiences, do more work in less time, and achieve your primary business and marketing goals.

There are many possible reasons for this budget challenge. Here are some of the more popular rationales:

  • Leadership doesn’t believe marketing is worth investment because it’s a cost center, not a profit center.
  • IT doesn’t want to provide the dollars necessary for modernizing a messy, disconnected, underutilized, aging collection of tools.
  • A solid, compelling business case complete with potential ROI has not been articulated.
  • You’ve been burned by questionable — and expensive — martech investments, and the office of the CFO has become the department of “No” (which is typically an IT department function).

Avoid shiny objects

For marketers clever enough to get the budget they want and need, rather than starting with the business problem they’re trying to solve, they buy the promise of a shiny object martech solution only to find that the results don’t live up to the hype or solve the problem. And you and I both know you’re not going to the boss to admit that those precious budget dollars you spent would have been more effectively used as wallpaper in your home office.

If you’re at the point as you read this where you’ve been mesmerized by a shiny object martech tool or persuasive marketing technology salesperson, take a deep breath and step away from the purchase order. And please, don’t think you’re alone if you felt slightly uncomfortable (or guilty) as you read that. We’ve all been there at one time or another. 

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Define, prioritize, and align your goals

If you’re still reading, congrats. You’ve taken the first step to breaking the cycle of making unnecessary and potentially risky martech purchasing decisions. What now, you ask? I have three words for you.

Define. Prioritize. Align.

Before you spend another penny on marketing technology, there’s important work to be done to define, prioritize, and align your business, marketing, and customer experience goals. Defining and prioritizing your goals across these three inextricably related areas is the first step toward clarity of purpose. It sets the foundation for everyone, not just marketing, to understand and embrace predetermined short-term and long-term targets the company, business units, and individuals plan to achieve over a specific period.

Prioritization will help the marketing organization focus on the essential tasks first, support organizational alignment efforts, and provide the operational clarity needed for effective execution. As the Harvard Business Review article “How to Prioritize Your Company’s Projects” so rightly says, “…prioritization at a strategic and operational level is often the difference between success and failure. But many organizations do it badly.” Don’t be one of those organizations.

Finally, alignment is a powerful construct that can unite the marketing organization and the entire company around goals. Clearly defining business, marketing, and customer experience goals makes it easier to begin the often challenging process of strategically aligning three of the most critical areas of a thriving business that puts the customer at the center of all they do. And when you do that and do it well, that’s when the magic starts to happen.

Ways of working: People and processes   

Another important to-do before spending another penny on marketing technology is to thoughtfully and thoroughly review your marketing organization’s ways of working, specifically people and processes. It’s all about how a team (and greater organization) works individually and collectively. You’ll elicit and document use cases for each role, including desired outcomes and dependencies. The goal is to understand the roles, people, and team practices that make the marketing organization go before buying or implementing marketing technology. Think of marketing technology as the enabler of those people, processes, and team practices.

Please note that we didn’t start with the technology; we left it for last. We can focus on marketing technology with our business, marketing, and customer experience goals defined, aligned, and prioritized. The big question is how well any marketing technology you select, implement, and use will support the fulfillment of the goals defined previously.

Assessing your marketing technology ecosystem

Regular assessments are essential to unlocking the power of your marking technology. Here are five areas of focus that will help kick your optimization efforts into high gear:

  • Inventory – This collaborative effort helps everyone in the marketing organization understand the platforms and point solutions that comprise the current marketing technology stack. The deployment, use cases, and integrations between martech platforms, legacy systems, and any third-party products are analyzed and documented to create a holistic view of the martech stack. I can’t tell you how often I work with clients on the inventory process and discover marketing technology they didn’t know they had (or were paying for). There are no shortcuts, so make sure you start here.
  • Implementation – In most cases, SaaS marketing technology platforms and tools don’t require much in the way of implementation; pay your money, get login access, and off you go. But in certain instances, there will be a need to deploy and configure a platform or point solution. In many cases, martech vendors will provide this service or introduce you to a partner. Either way, you should thoroughly document the implementation and configuration of all marketing technology platforms and point solutions. As configurations and usage patterns change over time, update the documentation to reflect those changes.
  • Integration – One of the most important criteria when selecting a marketing technology vendor is the availability of an Application Programming Interface (API) or native “connectors.” In the early days of marketing technology, integrating various platforms and point solutions required custom coding, time, and a substantial investment. Today, marketers can unify their digital ecosystems faster and more effectively than ever for a unified view of their customers and marketing efforts. Do your homework and make sure any martech products or services you’re considering provide a flexible, effective, and affordable path to integration.
  • Utilization – Over the last few years, you’ve undoubtedly heard or read that martech utilization is a struggle for many marketing organizations. In 2020, Gartner’s analysis indicated that marketing leaders were utilizing only 58% of their martech stack’s full breadth of capabilities. But you didn’t need to read a  research study to know this. You’re living it, every day – am I right? What I said earlier bears repeating; before you spend a penny on any marketing technology, you must take the time and effort to define, prioritize, and align your business, marketing, and customer experience goals. With the results of this vital work as your guide, you can determine how well any marketing technology will support the fulfillment of these goals before you buy and enjoy a higher level of utilization after integrating into your stack.
  • Investment and ROI – Turning again to Gartner’s research, the 2021 Annual CMO Spend Survey showed that, even though marketing budgets tightened a bit, martech spending dominated at 26.7% of the total budget, higher than spending on third-party agencies, labor, or media. Most marketers I’ve spoken or worked with consistently identify proving the ROI of martech spend as one of their most significant impediments to success. To maximize your investment and return, you should closely examine the digital revenue drivers and the human, process, and technological costs impacting the ROI of your martech stack via the key performance indicators (KPI) you use to measure success. Here’s where you can enlist the help of your CFO. They love using spreadsheets and pivot tables.

Your future state martech stack awaits

There you have it—a proven approach to unlocking the power of your marketing technology. Sure, it’s going to require some work, time, intelligent people and a nominal investment. But armed with prioritized and aligned business, marketing, customer experience, technology goals and the knowledge gained from a thorough assessment of your current environment, you can envision a future state that optimizes your martech investments and ROI. And if you do it right, you could also enjoy deeper customer engagements, more meaningful relationships, and more revenue. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

GeneDeLibero lg

Gene has been a Martech Healer for three decades, inventing the future while helping organizations and leaders ‘Ride the Crest of Change.’ A serial entrepreneur since his first newspaper delivery start-up, Gene developed early innovations in social media networks, digital-out-of-home narrowcasting, and SMS mobile marketing. He currently serves as the chief strategy officer and head of consulting at GeekHive, a New York-based marketing technology consultancy helping clients maximize their investments in martech.

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