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Philip Davis, Senior Planner
Philip Davis, Senior Planner 07 January 2021

Why your martech doesn’t work (and how to reboot your approach)

Marketing technology enables incredibly sophisticated ways of working and routes to market… so why doesn’t it work? We explore how decision makers can deliver real ROI with their martech choices…

Philip Davis, Senior Planner
Philip Davis, Senior Planner 07 January 2021

Marketing technology enables incredibly sophisticated ways of working and routes to market… so why doesn’t it work? We explore how decision makers can deliver real ROI with their martech choices…

Here’s an alarming statistic: marketers use only 58% of their marketing technology’s full capabilities. Gartner note that “this signals a huge resource drain in tools and add-on capabilities that ultimately go unused”.

As a marketing agency dedicated to optimising effectiveness and efficiency, we’re intrigued to unearth the full extent of this issue, unpack the reasons behind it and drive a reboot in 2021 to finally solve the problem of misfiring martech. 

Part 1: Somebody has to decide what to buy

With 42% of martech stacks functionality going unused, it’s fair to say that there is a lot of iffy decision making going on.

But should the fingers really be pointed at the decision makers? They are, after all, the decision maker for a reason – and that’s not because they’re best at finding a ROBR (return on buyer’s remorse).

So, let’s take a closer look…

It’s a complex market

Martech is a tricky market to understand with hundreds of categories and thousands of solutions – a quick look at Scott Brinker’s latest review of the market is testament to this. It’s compounded further by overly complicated, jargon-heavy messaging from martech providers.

An overabundance of options, or the paradox of choice, is never a good place to be as it may lead to anxiety and indecision.

We’ve all trailed through the depths of Netflix, eventually deciding on something to watch before discarding it 20 minutes in because no one’s enjoying it (and your dinner got cold while you tried to choose). Well, the martech market appears to work in much the same way.

Your complex brain

With so many options at our disposal, decision makers are propelled by the competitiveness and pressures of the rat-race, leading to a fear of falling behind or missing out if they don’t invest while others are.

They are more likely to favour heuristics, or mental short-cuts, to make decisions – such as through a rule of thumb or by making an educated guess.

This may mean buying the solution they consider the ‘industry standard’ or leaning towards a prominent brand name – rather than making a smart decision based on genuine business need.

A choice for no one

Now, coming full circle, the final decision maker is often not the business’s tech expert – the decision may fall to the CEO, or an operations or procurement person.

These people are likely to default to using these mental short-cuts or wayward top-down decision-making.

While they may be influenced by IT, tech-focused personnel and the end users in their organisation – they are still human. Cost, brands, advertising, or even their imminent holiday plans will all play a factor.

Revisiting the Netflix analogy, the martech decision-making process is equivalent to putting your grandma in charge of satisfying the tastes of the whole family (who are demanding an immediate decision). It’s unlikely to work for everyone, but that’s not really grandma’s fault.

Part 2: Martech mayhem

Now fast-forward to post-purchase and it’s time to put the investment to work. The decision maker wants to see their investment in action. The team want to do their boss’s bidding and deliver results.

But a lot of the tech’s capability will never see the light in practice and only remain a solution in theory. It’s simply not used. So, what exactly are the issues?

1. It isn’t needed

Some research estimates that the average company uses an astonishing 91 different martech tools, which points towards a good deal of unsavoury under-utilisation. This includes investments in unused features, misaligned martech due to changes to business strategy and investing in overlapping capabilities with existing martech.

2. The team can’t use it

However good an idea it may be in theory, tech will never provide ROI in practice if end users can’t get to grips with it. Impediments might be the sheer complexity of the martech stack, or the lack of a solid customer data foundation. Business readiness can also hold tech use back – if you buy the tech before you’ve transformed ways of working, you’re looking at a wasted spend, certainly in the short term.

3. It’s too difficult to activate

Gartner notes that the effectiveness of a martech stack is hindered by training needed to use it or problems activating it for cross-collaboration. Learning and using new marketing technologies is one of marketers three least-favourite tasks. Teams may stick with old workarounds rather than embrace change. With such resistance, it pays to invest in tech at the same time as roadmapping its implementation.

4. It’s harder to integrate than imagined

Integration challenges impede virtually all martech teams. According to research, 68.5%  of marketers have a stack that isn’t fully connected or integrated, leaving businesses with a collection of applications that make up an incoherent marketing capability. As well-intentioned as the provider may be, the vision they put forward may often result in a meandering martech mess.

5. It requires further investment

Martech is constantly evolving, so is liable to bolt-ons and updates on a perpetual basis – and only if it qualifies to work with the rest of the tech stack in the first place. Gartner also note that significant increases to the cost may also need to be made after the contract is due for renewal, damaging the long-term ROI on initially successful martech investments as well.

It’s time to reboot

With the world continuing to ride the wave of uncertainty, organisations must address the changing needs of their business and adapt their martech stacks to ensure ROI.


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