Are you bothered by vendors who pester you or your staff with the latest piece of shiny technology? Is your team on a binge of buying tools that promise marketing nirvana? It’s time to kick the habit and make sure that you’re charge of your own martech destiny. Jeff Clark offers a six-step method for seizing control.

In the 1960s President Eisenhower warned the United States against the influence of the arms industry over US policy, coining the phrase “military-industrial complex”. What he saw developing was as an unhealthy relationship between the vendors (the arms industry) and the buyers (the government).

Marketing leaders – Don’t fall under a similar influence from the Martech Industrial Complex! You could grossly characterize the Martech Industrial Complex as the near 10,000 solutions in Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape. To be fair, I don’t fault Mr. Brinker for identifying the plethora of vendors that are eager to earn a share of your technology budget. They attach themselves to the latest uber-trends or three-letter acronyms, such as ABM, CDP, CXM, AI, ML, etc., to appear to be silver bullets to reach your marketing goals.

In truth, marketing technology is only an average of four percent of a total marketing budget. Forrester Research benchmarks ranged from two to ten percent depending on the size and nature of your business. So, don’t want to waste your hard-earned budget on tech that will not deliver value.

Marketing leaders – Don’t fall under the influence from the Martech Industrial Complex!

Six Steps to Put Yourself in Control

The key for the CMO and their marketing operations team is to understand the purpose of technology in the context of their marketing strategy. The following are six steps are a guide to sane marketing technology acquisition.

Aside: Elder rockstars know the pitfalls of their early insane practices, usually after a couple trips to rehab.

Step 1: Know Your Priorities

Business strategy must drive marketing strategy. Marketing strategy must drive the use and acquisition of technology. A good marketing planning process clearly identifies the priorities derived from that strategy to allocate budget and resources. Technology is no exception.

Are you expanding into new markets, taking a targeted account approach, building a community of users or shifting all your events to virtual (sound familiar)? Your technology budget should reflect your priorities, and if a tool doesn’t fit into the strategy, let say a channel marketing platform when you emphasize direct sales support, then dump it. Or at least don’t buy a new one.

Step 2: Get Executive Support

Use step #1 to align with your executive leaders. If you’re the person managing technology, whether in marketing operations or another team, ensure that you’ve engaged the CMO to understand their view of the priorities. Don’t be shy, because it’s almost as important to develop the personal relationship as it is to know what’s on their mind. They will have to review the overall budget spend and you may need to call on them to approve new investments.

You may also need to develop a relationship with other executive leaders depending on nature of the priorities. If you need that channel marketing platform that I referred to earlier, you may need to have the support of the head of sales, channel sales, enablement, support, or anyone else who has a stake in making channel partners successful.

Step 3: Assess Your Stack

Time to impress the bosses! With the knowledge gained on marketing’s priorities, inspect all the tools in the stack to report whether they are efficiently and effectively working for team. For each tool, ask whether it is being used, delivering value based on the priorities and if it is causing issues with the flow of data or processes within the team. Typical assessments discover all kinds of sins, such redundant tools, poor adoption due to bad implementations or even something that was purchased by staff no longer on the team, yet it’s still on the books.

The support of your CMO is essential in this process, as well your objectivity. When interviewing anyone who uses or manages a team using technology, you don’t want them on the defensive. You are doing your due diligence and want to find issues that are getting in the way of their productivity.

I have worked with rockstar ops leaders who have returned big budget savings to their CMO that can be reallocated to programs, staff, or other priorities.

Step 4: Build a Process or Data View of the Stack

A picture paints a thousand words. I know that’s a cliché, but marketing leaders’ eyes bulge when they see how applications are (or are not) connected in the flow of information from audience engagement to sales qualification. Or, when they see what happens to creative services tickets that hit a logjam.

The process view brings issues to life. It helps the uneducated, yet interested marketing leader, see gaps in the operations of their teams. It also helps to justify the fix, whether it is proper system integration, manual process changes or a new tool that helps bridge the gap.  

Step 5: Instill Governance 

Build a team of marketing and potential sales leaders that can help make decisions to address the gaps uncovered in the assessment or the next new acquisition. This step can happen in advance of your assessment, but it is essential to acting upon its recommendations.

Tech planning is a team sport. Like most business-to-business buying scenarios, it takes champions, influencers, gatekeepers, and decision makers. So, get them (or at least a core group) on the team to give power to your plans.

It is important to tailor the formality of how this team operates to the culture of the organization. For large enterprises, a steering committee with formal review processes is appropriate. For start-ups or small businesses, convening a team of stakeholders to simply review the assessments and a roadmap of future priorities may be all that’s necessary.

When You’re Ready: Build a Business Case 

The best way to gain approval for investments is to build a business case that demonstrates alignment with marketing priorities and delivers positive business outcomes. As with a governance team, the detail and formality of a business case depends on your organization’s culture.

I have participated in IT Steering Committees that had to weigh the pros and cons of hundreds of potential investments, many which required development resources. In that case, a systematic cost-benefit analysis including weighted alignment with company priorities was appropriate. Often, all that’s required is simple assessment of the ability to deliver on business outcomes and an accounting of total costs (e.g., fees, training, support, and staff time).

With these steps, marketing can chart its technology roadmap of what it needs to be effective and meet goals. The vendors who want your hard-earned budget must then justify how they fit into your roadmap, rather than distract you with their shiny objects.

Photo courtesy of Adam Birkett on Unsplash.

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