In an industry increasingly dominated by technology, being technologically savvy is no longer a bonus; it's a basic requirement for marketers of every persuasion.

When we formed the Marketing Technology Industry Council in early 2017, we brought together some of the best and brightest in the field of B2B marketing and martech with one goal: to help marketers excel by navigating them through the key challenges and opportunities of martech today.

The findings of the Council's first survey of nearly 300 senior-level marketing executives were illuminating, finding that B2B marketers were struggling to cope with the unprecedented growth of the martech landscape (5,381 solutions at MarTech Conference Chairman Scott Brinker's last count!).

Chronic problems, such as a lack of integration—and even using too many technologies to effectively manage—are resulting in poor ROI for companies of all sizes and industries.

This martech crisis isn't going to sort itself out. Most surveyed marketers said they would continue to invest in marketing technologies, believing—quite rightly—that despite the challenges, the cost of falling behind the technology curve is too high. But that also means those challenges will increase exponentially as companies' martech stacks grow.

To confront that issue, the Marketing Technology Industry Council has released three recommendations for building and managing a marketing stack. By following those recommendations, marketing organizations can move from struggling with martech to finally using it to excel at their jobs.

This article summarizes those recommendations, and suggests how to implement them in your business (you can read the full list of recommendations here (registration req'd), including a more detailed guide to practical implementation).

1. Align Sales and Marketing along a single source of truth for data, and a common road map and definition of their strategic priorities

The first challenge with martech highlighted by the Marketing Technology Industry Council poll focused on providing value to Sales. The survey found that 70% of B2B marketers see their top business goal as providing more leads to Sales and increasing customer acquisition and retention. Yet only 12% of marketers said they saw significant value from their technologies, suggesting those technologies aren't effectively helping marketers achieve their goals.

Despite a clear appreciation of the importance of aligning Sales and Marketing in theory, most companies have significant misalignment between the two in practice. That dysfunctional relationship between Sales and Marketing is itself a major roadblock to building a martech stack that shows real value, for two reasons:

  • First, because without defining their respective and mutual objectives together, there's likely to be a great deal of disagreement over what constitutes value in the first place.
  • Second, the bedrock of demand gen marketing technologies such as marketing automation and CRM (the two most popular martech platforms according to the poll) is having the right data. If Sales and Marketing aren't aligned on the data they're using, they may end up going in completely different directions, or stepping on each other's toes by reaching out to the wrong people.

By defining their objectives together and ensuring they are working from the same data, Sales and Marketing can leverage their technologies for achieving the ever-elusive goal of Sales-and-Marketing alignment.

That alignment will in turn help solve many of the martech challenges raised by marketers in the survey, including poor integration caused by lack of inter- and intra-organizational coordination.

2. Marketers need to buy technologies strategically against clear, quantifiable business needs

One of the most intriguing findings of the poll was just how enthusiastic marketers are about martech, despite being highly skeptical of its value in terms of practical ROI. For example, three of the top four tools on the purchase lists of the marketers surveyed—content management, social media, and advertising—were also ranked as the most difficult tech to justify spending on.

The reason appears to be that marketers understand (correctly) that technology holds the solution to many of their greatest business problems, but in practice they aren't succeeding in getting what they need from their martech stacks because either they aren't buying the right technologies or they aren't implementing the martech correctly.

The contradiction suggests that the common perception of B2B buyers as being more "rational" than consumers may not be entirely accurate, all the more so when one also considers the question of how "rational" buyers can come to buy "too many technologies," or (more egregiously) create martech stacks without ensuring first that the various parts are integratable—as fully half of the marketers polled lamented doing.

Accordingly, the Council's second recommendation is for B2B marketers to establish a formalized process of identifying where and when a new technology is required; whether it is possible to integrate a new technology; and how best to do so.

The foundations of that framework must lie in a principle that B2B marketers are well aware of when selling their own solutions: a focus on the strategic needs they solve rather than on the technology and its features, per se.

3. Marketers should be buying martech that automates or speeds up the repetitive, tedious elements of their work so they can focus more on doing things technology can't do—such as building and executing creative campaigns and content

Asked to rate how much they enjoyed spending time on various marketing-related tasks, marketers overwhelmingly said they preferred creative activities, such as "developing and launching a new campaign" (77%) and "creating and building a new marketing program" (70%), over time-consuming, tedious tasks, such as "developing new campaign workflows" (16%) and "managing prospect data" (11%).

No surprises there. But that is a perfect indication of the kinds of technologies marketers need to prioritize buying. To quote Heidi Bullock, CMO of Engagio and a member of the Council: "Ultimately, technology is there to improve our lives. It's only logical that marketers should seek to 'delegate' the time-consuming, repetitive tasks to their martech—particularly when we're talking about jobs, like data management, that machines can do more effectively anyway."

Technologies such as machine-learning and other forms of artificial intelligence (AI) are already proving so popular for precisely that reason: They enable marketers to carry out such tasks both more quickly and much more effectively than they ever could working manually.

At the same time, to get this right, marketers need to get over their aversion to learning how to use new technologies (the third least-popular task according to the survey was "learning and using new marketing tools" (21%)). A little short-term investment in familiarizing themselves with these tools would deliver much more value in the long term.

Implementing a martech strategy is a business requirement in 2018

The Council's call for B2B companies to implement formal processes for building their martech stacks couldn't come at a more critical time.

And that's true as much for midmarket companies and SMBs as it is for their enterprise counterparts (though for enterprise companies the martech crisis is all the more acute, considering the greater number of technologies they have, on average).

Gone are the days when marketers could afford to view technology as a "nice to have" or a bonus. In 2018 and beyond, marketers' performance in all aspects of their work will rely in great part on the robustness and quality of their martech stacks.

With the rapid pace of martech development, marketers who don't have an adoption strategy will quickly find themselves overwhelmed and unable to keep up with competitors who use technology more effectively.

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image of Doug Bewsher

Doug Bewsher is CEO at Leadspace, the first B2B audience management platform. A seasoned marketer, Doug has previously held positions as CMO at Salesforce and Skype.

LinkedIn: Doug Bewsher

Twitter: @dougino