Less is always more when it comes to martech

With some 7,000 vendors in the martech landscape, where does the CMO start?
16 April 2019

HubSpot Co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan speaks onstage at the ONWARD17. Source: AFP

Telemarketing, out-of-home, magazine, local radio, even door-to-door. It’s difficult now to conjure memories of a world where these were some of the most relied-upon channels by the marketing department.

Marketing today has become synonymous with endless stacks of SaaS tools, automation, vast lakes of audience data, and a laser focus on ROI— not to mention a minefield of personal data privacy regulations fast emerging across the globe.

Moving beyond former associations with creative and branding, today’s CMO is now a “revenue generating professional” according to former CMO of global automation solutions at CA Technologies and Sirius Decisions advisory board member, Chris Boorman, in an interview with TechHQ.

“[…] they now touch every facet of customer engagement, from building customer relationships to driving cross-selling initiatives, as well as finding new logo opportunities.

“The modern CMO needs to be collaborative with sales and customer success while having an innate interest in data and pipeline metrics in order to drive quantifiable results,” said Boorman.  

In order to manage these pressures, marketing departments have become increasingly reliant on outside help in the form of marketing technology— or ‘martech’— solutions.

Populated by the likes of Salesforce, Hubspot, Hootsuite, Mailchimp, Adobe, and Oracle to name some of the more goliath players, the demands of data-driven marketing have seen this market explode in recent years.

In fact, martech is estimated to have grown 27 percent last year, now accounting for a diverse ecosystem of some 7,040 total vendors.

The complexity and scale of this market can lead to what Boorman calls “martech creep” where, over the course of several years, businesses will subscribe to more tools and services than they will ever fully make use of.

“I think martech is now essential tooling for all industries and for companies of all sizes. The million dollar question though is ‘which martech’ should one use – and that will vary,” said Boorman. “I think a lot of teams would be surprised by how much martech they have invested in.”

According to Gartner’s 2018-2019 survey, martech accounted for 29 percent of the CMO’s budget last year, which included marketing and analytics software, on-premise software applications, martech infrastructure, and cross-charges from internal IT. In comparison, spend on labor was just 24 percent.

That figure shouldn’t be construed as a benchmark, though. When considering onboarding new martech solutions, Boorman urges CMOs to “avoid sprawl and focus on skills”.

“Avoid the ‘latest shiny object’ syndrome— ensure you get the basics right and work with vendors you trust and who want to work with you to achieve your goals.”

In the collaboration space, for example, it’s not unusual for companies to use all of Skype, Slack and Microsoft Teams among a number of others. “Multiple tools cause confusion”, said Boorman, adding that resource is better spent on enhancing staff’s ability to use the limited tools at their disposal.

“Skills are definitely an issue— particularly as marketing evolves from old-fashioned event-based programs, to ‘digital first’,” said Boorman.

“We used to say that most people only use 10 percent functionality of Microsoft Excel. It’s an amazingly powerful tool and yet most people use it to add up a few numbers!

“The same is true for modern marketing technology. Most marketing automation platforms are roughly the same – and only a few marketing teams are able to really deliver quantifiable enhanced results with the extra functionality these solutions provide.” Boorman said.

When considering investment in a new partner, therefore, CMOs must think carefully about the function tools will provide and the organization they are looking to create in the future, versus the one they have today.

“As an example, consider Account Based Marketing (ABM),” explains Boorman. “This has become ‘the next big thing’ and so, unsurprisingly, just about every Martech vendor out there seems to suggest that they are an ABM vendor.  

“Before choosing, make sure that you understand what it is you are trying to do, and then think through how to achieve it. Talk to organizations to help clarify and confirm your thinking.”

Not considering the appropriateness of the tool thoroughly is perhaps one of the most common mistakes a company can make with martech. Often a purchase may be triggered because a member of the team has requested it as a solution to an ongoing problem. The technology is then underutilized, not used to its full potential

One way of mitigating this risk can be by ensuring there is someone ‘on the hook’ for achieving specific goals with the tool. Make sure the functional owners are responsible for the technology, Boorman urges.

“No matter what you use, always hold someone in your team accountable for a given tool and the quantifiable value that you obtain from it. I often see teams holding a martech person responsible for all martech – even though that person doesn’t actually use it!”

Ultimately, when it comes to navigating the rising flood of martech tools, less will always be more.

“You can achieve 80 percent of your needs with 20 percent of the tools,” Boorman told TechHQ

“In B2B marketing, for example, you need an integrated funnel from awareness at the top to customer experience after the bottom. whether you use HubSpot or Marketo or Eloqua or Pardot, it probably won’t make much difference, so long as you have the skills to leverage your chosen platform.”