This week, I co-presented the keynote at the GetStacked conference, hosted by the B2B Marketing organization on a virtual platform for the first time. My brief was to present the highlights from our new “How is Marketing’s Technology Stacking Up?” research report We had surveyed over 300 B2B marketers about Martech investment and development plans and we interviewed several marketing executives for in-depth background and insights. The resulting report, available from B2B Marketing, reveals some industry secrets, plenty of statistics and peer-to-peer review – though it’s main aim is to ignite a conversation by providing actionable advice
Our survey collected some quite startling statistics. For example, the respondents could self-assess the state of their Martech stack and the response was extremely thought-provoking: only 13% of them could confirm that their Martech stack was performing well for current and future needs. Nearly one third even consider their stack as poor and in dire need of expansion. The rest reported that their stack was currently adequate but needs developing for future needs, which sounds comforting … but only at first.
So ….. How can we explain this feedback?
Well, rampant digital transformation in the general business world has raised two distinct patterns of change for us B2B marketers. Firstly, we’ve had adjust to communicating to market through many, new digital channels; and secondly, we ourselves have had to adopt a realm of new technologies to support our new business processes. I suspect that the pace of change in both areas has overwhelmed us somewhat.
Marketing organizations have reacted to these challenges in different ways.
- Some quickly adopted marketing automation platforms, sometimes with processes pre-defined by the software they selected. But often they were bought and installed without process change management and employees were left unprepared.
- Others eagerly drew up, or had it drawn for them by consultants, an idealistic target Martech “stack” (a sort of architecture) and embarked on a buying binge of software subscription after software subscription to fill out their stack. The result is mostly a collection of disparate, uncoordinated systems which is a headache to operate and manage.
- A further set of businesses ended up with the same result, not through a stack approach, but because all marketers in the organization were empowered to license their own tools as an operating expense. I have seen many times in my engagements, that a SaaS-Apps audit across the marketing departments invariably shows much more technology being used than originally assumed or planned.
In summary, a sense of urgency around digital marketing created a sort of arms race where much technology was being acquired tactically and often in response to brash promises made by marketing software vendors.
Our survey also shows that there is no great satisfaction from anybody in marketing with the installed technologies or platform types. Highest of this diss-satisfaction was CRM – it is the most-hated system for marketers in general. It scored most negatively in the satisfaction question. For most marketers, the CRM is an external system: installed before they were doing digital marketing and built for the needs of Sales not Marketing.
The most major Martech challenge or success inhibitor was
“Lack of time/resources to use effectively”
Evidently, companies buy and set up software without considering whether they have the resources to take advantage of it.
So, a sorry state of affairs. A combination of short-term thinking, ego buying, and uncontrolled vendor behavior has created a martech jungle for most B2B organisations. At this point, please allow me to provoke some thought into the discussion and suggest what is really missing in this story. You see, there was another question we posed in the survey – one that I often ask in my engagements as well – when helping marketers select the right technology vendor for a project: “Do you have an agreed and documented martech strategy ?”
I am always curious to see the current document on my client’s overall martech strategy. And my experience is similar to the survey result – only one out of five can even give me such a document to review. Now, 57% did say they are currently working on it, but we also asked what timeframe these plans were being laid out for – and a full quarter of the 57% responded that their strategy plan is for 6 or even just 3 months. Well, any strategy timeframe under a year is not a strategy at all – after all, any major Martech acquisition project will typically take 6-9 months from initial specification to vendor selection and that time period is followed by a similar block for project implementation.
I would expect a Martech Strategy to include several elements of planning, guidelines and frameworks. As the title implies, it includes the Technology Plan itself with a description of the current status (backed up by a recent technology audit) and a list and calendar of technology projects for the coming period (broken down into investment areas, make or buy decisions, status of technology acquisition, and an integrations project plan). It should also have a Process Re-Engineering Plan, discussing how it is planned to adopt the new digital marketing methods with the associated change management projects addressing migration and skills acquisition. And a Resources Plan (documenting staffing, recruitment, external assistance, and training).
Marketing has become primarily digital and requires technology to operate effectively and a suitable Martech infrastructure is required by every marketing department to achieve that goal. But equally, digital marketing also requires the appropriate organization and framework of business processes to be effective in operating and leveraging that infrastructure. A clear, strategic approach to the Martech stack is now critical to ensure that, ultimately, spending across the whole marketing budget is optimally invested.
The CMO or Marketing Director must assign this responsibility to a senior member of the marketing staff – a sort of Chief Marketing Technology officer perhaps. In larger organisations, a separate group for Marketing Operations is created to manage the technology – the leader of that group could be the owner of the Martech Strategy.
A Martech Strategy is needed as a framework for all marketing staff, and IT staff, who are involved with the technology. Digital means that there are many categories of marketing staff now involved internally and externally (at Digital Marketing Service Providers):
- marketing application end-users
- marketing operations staff
- executives who need reports and dashboards
- citizen developers of digital experiences or external marketing apps
- all those potential rogue buyers of marketing software (such as analytics) for individual use.
In a democratic modern business environment, there is no way to stop the individual investments, but establishing a framework for all will limit any potential damage that is caused (integration, security, non-compliance, privacy breaches).
The true value of a Martech Strategy is not that it is documented and placed on a booked shelf. It is in the meetings, communications and negotiations that are need to develop the plan. That continuous dialogue helps everybody to understand the importance of planning and then aligning to that plan and will probably limit resource and integration issues in the future. A Martech Strategy should be a continuous work-in-progress and openly accessible to all of the marketing staff as listed above.
It’s the Process That Counts!
Always keeping you informed! Peter
I’m coming to the end of my first year back as an industry analyst and thanks to all of you who recognized me from previous contacts and worked with me in 2019. Through my collaboration with Research in Action GmbH, I’ve interviewed thousands of marketers on their business processes automation. And I’ve also talked to some 120 marketing software vendors and some have told me that I’ve set a new standard for market analysis. Here are a few general impressions from the year.
- Business POV is the right approach. My research reviews MarTech from the business practitioners’ point of view and names their most important business process, or perhaps family of processes. Why? Well, that’s how business people plan their automation projects and look for suitable software or SaaS suppliers. In our interviews, we discuss the process first and then the vendors they work with to improve that process in their company.
Many vendor CMOs tell me that this approach has been an eye-opener to them and some have even debated changing their messaging. On the other hand, quite a few still respond that they prefer to see themselves in a different technology category (than where customers named them?) and that I am therefore “wrong”. Others gladly take note of competitors they’d underestimated.
- Tech marketers still misunderstand the significance of brand. I’m amazed at how many MarTech vendors still only talk about themselves and their products, relying on product-based differentiation to be noticed. They don’t get that their customers are now expecting every aspect of their experience with a vendor to be as sophisticated, consistent, and frictionless as those they have with the most admired B2C brands.
Many vendors object to the weightings of selection criteria I use. But Customer Satisfaction and Price/Value Ratio feedback does far overweigh what people think of the product itself. The emotions that buyers experience when they consume a vendor’s content and engage with its employees define a company’s brand more than the product or service.
- Perception is reality and so important. We ask survey respondents to rate the vendors they know well – but that doesn’t mean that they’re customers or users necessarily, so it’s also an awareness and perception survey. Business professionals care about whether a vendor is innovative or if it has a partner ecosystem rich enough to reach their needs (geographic or industry), and they form those impressions based upon what information is available.
Incredibly, I have heard counter-arguments from several vendors that they only reveal their innovation and go-to-market strategy to anybody under non-disclosure terms. These day, so many vendors are eliminated from a list by buyers doing their own initial research – and the vendor doesn’t even know about it.
Next year, I will continue the same research process and revisit most of the topics covered in 2019. It will be interesting to see how the vendor landscapes change.
I will also be doing other research in collaboration with the B2B Marketing.net organization, based in London and Chicago. My first project is to prepare the keynote research, and a premium report, for the next GetStacked conference in March 2020, where I will report how B2B companies are planning and developing their marketing technology stacks. This is nice extension of the work described above and is determined by their conference schedule. Later in the year, I will explore other topics across B2B marketing.
Always keeping you informed! Peter