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Kristin Connell

Which Came First, the Customer or the Martech? by Kristin Connell

The Customer. As Modern Marketers, we know that’s the correct answer; however, for every organization with a customer-first strategy, there are others confused as to the correct answer. It’s happened to most of us at one time or the other, so if the right answer is always the customer, why the confusion? Here are 3 top reasons:

  • The Shiny Object Syndrome: the desire to have the latest martech with very little thought as to how it fits into our customer-first strategy.
  • The Never-Ending Story: where a four-week “phase 1” grows to a four-month “phase 1” with no end in sight because we lose sight of the customer in trying to figure out how to make it all work for us.
  • (Martech) Finger-Pointing: even with the best plans, things don’t always go quite as expected and instead of trying to understand what failed and why, we finger-point. And in some cases, we just buy different martech (see the first point).

So how do we as smart marketers avoid these confusion points? I reached out to several smart marketers for their insights and recommendations…

Scott Brinker’s Martech 5000 announcement made it clear that the marketing technology landscape has grown yet again in 2017, by about 40%, to a total of 5,381 solutions. Arguably, this evolution of martech has been driven by the very customer that is often pushed aside in an organization’s reactive strategy to the market.

Gail Ballantyne, Bloomberg BNA’s Online Marketing Director,
states that this infographic illustrates how every new technology to engage with prospects and customers spawns at least 100 related platforms.

“It can be daunting as a marketer to navigate so many options and identify which ones will be game changers for the business, versus those that will be underutilized or even unused. Despite the sales claims, there is no end-to-end solution that can seamlessly integrate all of the assorted systems in a marketer’s toolkit these days. The landscape is changing too quickly for marketers to be complacent with just one or a few platforms – but more systems aren’t always better. You still need critical thinkers, testers, and of course, strong campaigns to truly leverage what these systems can do.”

Gail’s advice? “When evaluating a new system, it’s critical to define the business needs and objectives before speaking with a sales rep and seeing a demo; otherwise, it’s too easy to get seduced by a sweet-talking sales person and slick UI, and the focus shifts to everything the platform could do instead of what you need it to do for your business right now.”

With the increase in marketing technology itself, comes an increase in vendors positioning their solutions for marketers to buy. There are suites, best-of-breeds, suites and best-of-breed hybrid models, all feeding the confusion. Let’s shift the lens and think about how marketers and marketing technology vendors can work together in a way that benefits them both.

Marilyn Cox – VP of Marketing and CRM at The Second City – shared that when thinking about best-of-breed it’s important to remember that the application of the technology is just as (if not more) important than the technology itself.

“We’ve recently made an investment in technology where this was imperative in our decision-making. I already understood the value of the tools and the importance of the data.”

Marilyn had bought into what the technology could do, so what she had to figure out was how she was going to compel her customers to share that desired information with her. “The technology company we selected did just that. They came to us with a customer experience program versus a customer experience platform. As technology companies’ roadmap their tools, the competitive differentiators are less about the programming and more about the execution from the sales and pre-sales team. Tech companies can benefit from roadmapping their sales enablement right along with their code.”

Marketing technology landscape? Check. Marketing technology vendors? Check. Next up – marketing technology customers (for those that have made it this far, this is us, the marketers).

Gone are the days of marketing handing a lead to sales. Marketers are now aligned with the customer across the full experience, involved every step of the way. Account-Based, content, influencer, advocate, personalized, omnichannel marketing – the list goes on. The reality is what’s cutting-edge today will be standard operating procedure tomorrow – just like there is no crying in baseball, there is no standing still in B2B marketing. This truth is a major confusion-feeder – both within marketing, and between marketing and other teams such as sales and customer support.

Modern Marketer Paul Stevenson, Head of Business Marketing Operations at O2 UK, is well aware of this reality – he was recently recognized as a “Modern Marketer of the Year” finalist at Oracle Marketing Cloud’s Modern Marketing Experience.

“It’s all about staying focused on the customer and continuing to build and refine experiences around them. We need to be careful about getting caught up in the commercial potential of a given service or solution. We know our customers are demanding interactions with brands and essential services that are free from barriers and move fluidly between channels.”

Paul acknowledges that digital transformation will always offer up new platforms, and as many challenges as opportunities. “We’ll have to stay agile, adapt to new processes and there may be a false start or two along the way. But if it helps us connect with customers better (and there’s a chance I get to cut down on data entry), I’m in.”

The confusion is real, folks, but so are the industry-recognized Modern Marketers that are facing it head-on and winning with measurable results, directly impacting business outcomes. You can see this first-hand in the Markie Award finalist nominations of both The Second City and O2 – winning with customer-first strategies, leveraging martech to support the experiences in a measurable way.

With my first question, “which came first, the customer or the martech?” answered, my second question is this, “what can you do right now to deliver the experience your customers are demanding?” Hint, it requires peak performance. We can help – contact us to learn more.

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