Last week I had the privilege to join fellow marketers, industry leaders, and innovators at MarTech West in San Jose. There I sat in on some fascinating sessions on everything from tracking marketing attribution to highlighting the new omnichannel marketing stack to learning how to buy the right marketing automation technology. I read about a new product released at the conference that aims to “reduce lengthy sales cycles by uncovering best-fit prospects and helping reps connect with them at the right time.”
On the ride home back to San Francisco that evening, I was thinking about all the conversations I had that day. It dawned on me: we marketers, including myself, are still chasing the wrong things. There is so much technology that’s working to automate — emails, live chat, content recommendations and more. And it’s only going to increase: DemandGen Report states that 63% of marketers plan to increase their marketing automation budget in the next year.
What’s the appeal of automation? Well, 74% of marketers say automation’s greatest benefit is that it saves time. Saving time is a fine goal, but we cannot value our own time more than we value our prospects time. Quality engagement is worth the time and resources we put into it. We must continually provide value to prospects through every stage of the funnel – rather than searching for a single touchpoint that we can attribute our MQLs. It dawned on me that there’s a martech stack fallacy.
Let’s first take a step back and see a larger and simpler problem that plagues us: marketers are becoming too binary. We look at everything in the black and white. Either a certain marketing touchpoint either led to an MQL, or it didn’t. Either a video was watched or it wasn’t. We’re implementing solutions that either helps us hit our lead goals or click-thru rates or they don’t.
But we should take a much more holistic approach. Great marketing shouldn’t be formulaic. If it was, we marketers would no longer be needed. Great marketing means you provide value at every touchpoint, not just one. And great marketing certainly does not have a specific solution or technology that can automate pipeline. That’s precisely the marketing stack fallacy: marketers cannot just add up numerous different technology solutions and expect that the sum will be an increase in leads and revenue. Too often, we do.
Tech is being invented at breakneck speed to manage, control and stop other tech. Spam filters. Automated email responses. Those who don’t have these solutions feel left out of the latest fad. It’s become a technology arms race, but it’s a waste of time and resources to implement technology just for the sake of it. Marketers implement them nonetheless because they feel pressured to acquire these solutions – it’s better to fail with them, and cover your ass than to fail without them.
“Marketers need to ask what the purpose of the technology is – and it needs to be to serve the human experience,” Riverbed CMO Subbu Iyer said last week at the MarTech West conference. “How can we do better-evaluating technology? Think about it from a human context.”
This isn’t just a technology problem, though. For the solutions we do use, we have to do a better job of training people and developing the processes to maximize the technology to its fullest extent. We’re all guilty of implementing technology and expecting it to solve all of our problems. In that same breath, some solutions aren’t maximized, as only specific team members leverage them when they could provide broader value to other departments. Walker Sands found that 56% of marketers feel their sales and marketing teams are siloed; teams can become territorial about solutions as a way to justify their jobs. That not only creates resentment, but it severely limits the results you see from the relevant solutions.
Technology has evolved, no doubt, rapidly. It can be hard to keep up. But we marketers have a habit of saying that everything in marketing has changed in the past several years, and that’s different. Yes, we have technology that is more sophisticated than ever, which can track unprecedented data about prospects, and has revamped how we operate daily. But that doesn’t tell the whole story.
“Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of exciting and innovative technology out there, but at the end of the day, what matters here is still the ability to have a great strategy, to understand who your customers are, and to . . . create compelling connections with people,” says Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot and editor at chiefmartec.com. “The heart of marketing hasn’t changed, even though all the fancy technologies we have around it are new.”
One marketing leader at the MarTech West conference told me he was “all in on ABM” for 2019, and that was his strategy. But while ABM is a current buzzword, it’s not necessarily a new idea. It’s about personalized marketing that focuses on your most vital accounts. That’s not revolutionary. The fact is that marketing at its core has always been about providing tailored messaging (and value) to prospects. It’s always been about engaging in the right way at the right time and understanding what truly matters to those you are marketing to and how you can help them. And no matter how much the marketing stack changes – this marketing truth will not.
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