Martech Choices Aren't Plain Vanilla

Hernan Marino

Have you ever gone to your favorite ice cream shop, and when you look up at the flavor menu you quickly realize that there are TOO many mouthwatering choices from which to choose?

It’s not that the choices aren’t good. It’s that there are just so many delicious options that you have a hard time narrowing it down.

Suddenly you feel a little overwhelmed. And we all know that the last thing you want when it comes to ice cream is buyer’s remorse.

This is very much like what is going on in the marketing world right now. There are so many flavors of marketing technology, aka “martech.” The proliferation of platforms, devices, technology, and related solutions means we have virtually unlimited means of delivering content, engaging buyers, and shaping perceptions. There are also countless solutions for managing, optimizing, and improving marketing efficiency.

Unfortunately, It also means that it is becoming increasingly more complex to select and manage them all to achieve the desired results.

More options to choose from is generally a good thing, of course. But, like the 31 flavors available at your local ice cream shop, it also presents challenges in choosing the right one. With a 376% growth in marketing analytics spend expected over the next three years (CMO survey 2017), it’s not easy to redirect and recover if you set your business on the wrong path when implementing a marketing solution, or when you have too many disparate solutions rattling around with no cohesive strategy.

Today, 55% of B2B companies are using marketing automation technology to support their business. There is no doubt that all marketers want that 14.5% increase in sales productivity and a 12.2% reduction in marketing overhead that the average automation solution delivers. But will you get there if your various subsidiaries or regional operations are using different automation solutions or not using automation at all?

Even leading global software companies, like my employer, are not immune to it. As chief operations officer of marketing, I see firsthand how much time and resources go into selecting, implementing, and reaping the rewards of marketing technology. I’ve learned the rewards could be sweet, but you need to have a clear and consistent approach if you want to avoid a meltdown.

So how do you go about finding and implementing the right martech?

Find a solid leader

The most important thing – and I can’t stress this enough – is finding the right person or team to help identify and select the right solutions. Sounds obvious, right? But many companies don’t do this, and they are worse off for it.

I often tell my staff, “We may work for a software company, but we are not an automated assembly line. People still matter.” Marketing teams need a strong, intelligent leader who understands the principles of marketing and the pitfalls of implementing technology. The leader should also help guide, direct, and collaborate across teams to ensure the best martech choices are made for the team as well as the entire company. Ultimately, the person needs to find, pilot, fit, and choose the right solutions.

The key is to stave off siloed thinking, eliminate disparate investments, and declutter the martech landscape in favor of streamlined approaches that produce results. Under the leadership of a bright, pragmatic leader, the team acts as a clearinghouse of sorts to help all those marketers find and implement the right solutions, and retire those that are no longer relevant.

Making great martech decisions

Once you identify your martech leader, he or she should start with the basics. This leader needs to know the purpose of governing martech solutions as it relates to the company’s overall marketing strategy. Does the company need to generate better leads? Engage customers more effectively? Manage data better? Comply with data privacy issues? Drive brand awareness deeper into uncharted vertical market terrain?

Below is a simple formula I call “ALIGN” that can help reduce complexity and strengthen selections when it comes to unleashing all the power that marketing technology may deliver:

  • Assess marketing objective(s)
  • Lock in the primary purpose/value of software
  • Identify best overall solutions and total price points (whether subscription-based or otherwise)
  • Go with value that most closely maps to main purpose – and measurable goals
  • Negotiate based on team input

The rule of thumb is to involve all relevant stakeholders, but keep laser-focused on key objectives and practical considerations, including who takes on primary execution responsibilities.

When making and negotiating the end decision on your martech choice, involve the individuals and operations who will impact or benefit from results. This includes IT, security, and compliance. Keep these in mind while ultimately matching the final choice to initial objectives as closely as possible.

Decision made. Now what?

The assignment, of course, is not over when the solution is purchased. It still needs to be implemented across the company in a logical, consistent manner for all stakeholders. Your leader isn’t going to do this alone, but does need to guide the process by understanding cross-function ramifications, possessing the leadership skills and knowledge to advance the launch to fruition, then objectively assessing and reporting results while adjusting for improvement.

Does this approach provide value to you? What are your best practices when it comes to marketing technology?

Remember, you can always choose to get a double scoop of ice cream. But when it comes to martech, it’s best to get it right the first time.

For more insights on marketing in an increasingly data-driven era, see Influencing Customers Through Infinite Personalization.

Hernan Marino

About Hernan Marino

Hernan Marino is Chief Operations Officer of marketing and Global Head of SME/Partner Marketing at SAP, the market leader in enterprise application software. SAP (NYSE: SAP) helps companies of all sizes and industries run better. Hernan leads SAP Marketing’s digital transformation, marketing automation strategy and SAP’s growth plans in the SME marketplace.