Getting martech right: How to avoid “shiny new object syndrome”

By Chuck Leddy

Marketing technology is the single, largest allocation in the average marketing budget. It will take up almost a third of marketing budgets in 2019, according to research from Gartner (more on this research later). As martech booms, there’s a big debate in marketing circles about whether there’s too much investment in marketing technology, with many marketers wondering whether we’ve become so dependant on technology that we’ve lost sight of core marketing principles such as lead acquisition, customer experience, and lead nurturing.

At the risk of sounding as cryptic as a Zen Buddhist koan (“what’s the sound of one hand clapping?”) or as neutral as Switzerland, both sides of this martech debate happen to be right. We need marketing technology and, yes, marketers need to constantly focus on traditional marketing principles like acquisition, nurturing, conversion. The “two sides” are actually after the same thing, but are looking through different lenses.

Martech is an enabler for marketers

Despite widespread fears in pop culture, robots are not coming to steal our B2B marketing jobs. The hammer (and later the nail gun) didn’t replace the human hand, it just made people more effective in building houses. We need to maintain a clear separation between our goals as marketers and our marketing capabilities (our tools). Put simply, our goals are where we are going — to acquire good leads, nurture them, offer them a great customer experience, and convert them into loyal, lifelong customers. Our capabilities/tools help us get there, and they can change.

B2B marketers will always seek to optimize their investments by continually deploying a mixture of people, technologies, and processes. Marketing technologies don’t change the goals, but profoundly impact our tools and capabilities. If you want to build a house, a nail gun makes you more productive than a hammer or a rock. The goal’s the same, the how can change.

“Shiny object syndrome” isn’t the answer

B2B marketers are probably familiar with the following scenario: a CMO reads an article somewhere about the latest, super-cool marketing technology that is revolutionizing the way another company does its marketing. Maybe the article involved artificial intelligence or machine learning or (insert big trend of the moment here). The CMO calls a meeting and, wide-eyed and filled with hope, excitedly asks the team why there aren’t plans to implement (insert shiny new object here). Long story short, you allocate part of your B2B marketing budget to implementing the shiny object, but it’s more expensive than you initially thought, more complicated to implement, and the results don’t deliver on the CMO’s initial, wide-eyed optimism. Surprise, no surprise!

As B2B marketers, you don’t need the “coolest,” “latest,” or “shiniest” martech. What you actually need is (1) a carefully-considered strategy that allows you to reach your goals and (2) the right capabilities (people, technologies, and processes) to take you there. Alas, the shiny object will not save you if it doesn’t, for example, play well with the rest of your martech stack or doesn’t get adopted by your people or (this one’s kinda important) doesn’t serve your long-term strategy and goals.

Marketing technology is a booming space, meaning there’s lots of noise (i.e., buzz, hype) but also difficulty separating the signal from all the noise. Hence, shiny object syndrome runs rampant. The “signal” here is exactly the right martech for you, the martech that will fit well with your existing stack, strategy, goals, and people. News flash: the martech you need might not be the latest shiny object.

Marketing budgets are trending to martech

The 2018-19 Gartner CMO Spend Survey polled over 600 marketing leaders across industries to better understand their marketing priorities and budget allocations. Martech was by far the single biggest investment allocation for CMOs in Gartner’s 2018-19 budget survey. So while 24% of budget goes to labor/people, 23% goes to agencies, and 23% goes to paid media, a whopping 29% gets allocated to martech. That allocation promises to grow even larger in the coming years.

When marketers “go shopping” for martech, what are they most looking to buy? Gartner found that email marketing platforms, web content management, and digital marketing analytics platforms top the list. Gartner also asked CMOs about their “most vital marketing capabilities.” It should come as no surprise that all of the top three, in-demand capabilities are enabled/enhanced by martech: (1) marketing and customer analytics: 40% of CMOs cited; (2) martech acquisition and use: cited by 34%; and (3) customer experience/CX: cited by 30%.

The Gartner survey clearly indicates that CMOs have an almost laser-like focus on martech, and nothing proves this more than the fact that martech’s their #1 budget allocation for 2019, by far (“show me the money!!”).

However, a greater focus on marketing technology in no way diminishes marketing’s traditional focus. Again, martech is an enabler, with those traditional goals acting as the North Star that guides all B2B marketers (and always will). Marketers need to be non-dualistic — it’s not “either . . . or,” but “both . . .and.”

Final thoughts on purchasing martech

“Shiny object syndrome” remains a huge risk for all (overexcited) marketers. As noted above, martech alone isn’t the answer. The only way to ensure you’re buying the “right” martech for your needs is to perform due diligence, perhaps by seeking outside advice. 

Before you purchase any martech, you need to have a martech roadmap for integrating applications, as well as managing your marketing and customer data. Know where you are first, with an audit of your existing marketing assets, then figure out what you might need to work better.

The key here, and the final takeaway from this post, is not to simply pursue shiny objects popping up everywhere in the booming martech space, but to develop a clear roadmap for identifying and implementing the martech that’s “right” for you and your needs. At Sojourn Solutions, we’re here to help you do exactly that.

Interested in learning more about how we can help you? Contact us today.