In the past few years, companies have been spending billions of dollars bulking up their marketing technology stack. The American advisory firm IDC estimates that by 2018, spending on martech will reach $32.3 billion, reaching a compound annual growth rate of 12.4 percent. Between 2014 and 2018, CMOs will invest $130 billion on martech, according to IDC.
Clearly, marketers are realizing that, in order to compete today, they need to invest in technology. But with billions of dollars on the line, how can CMOs ensure that they see tangible returns from their tech spending? Blindly putting money in technology won’t drive results. As marketing leaders, we need to be more strategic in our approach to martech.
As you evaluate your stack and determine martech ROI, asking these three questions will help you identify gaps, eliminate redundancy and get more from your tools.
What are our top business priorities?
This might seem like an obvious consideration, but it’s a critical question to answer. The martech landscape is undergoing explosive growth: as of January 2015, 1,876 vendors (in 43 categories) are playing in this space. With that number of vendors in the market, companies could fall into the trap of buying solutions that may seem novel and cool but are in fact not tied to the immediate priorities and goals of the business.
It’s critical not just to consider the marketing department’s objectives but also that of the whole enterprise. Having a clear understanding of how each tool drives business results will make it easier to determine ROI from the solutions you have in your stack.
Do I have all the tools I need to understand the full customer journey?
For many companies, martech is synonymous with “ad tech.” That’s because the early days of martech were dominated by advertising and analytics tools that were meant to help companies acquire new leads and customers. This year, however, experts are predicting that account-based marketing and sales enablement will rise in this landscape. Advisory firm Gartner also found that customer experience is becoming ubiquitous in martech as companies aim to improve branded interactions as well as the pre-sale and post-sale experience.
Indeed, to compete today, companies need solutions that bring continuous, iterative learning about the entire customer experience. This requires learning and refining your understanding of your current customers. Getting that depth of insight means answering not just the who, what, when and where of customer behavior—but, most crucially, why. And the only way to get to why is by getting close to customers, developing authentic relationships and earning their trust.
As you look at your martech stack, determine whether you’re in a position to understand the entire customer lifecycle and if you have the ability to really understand customer behavior. If you have no insight into your current customers, your stack has a serious gap.
Are we improving our customer relationships with these tools?
Technology doesn’t change the fact that doing business is all about creating and maintaining human relationships. In the age of social media, customers demand more transparency and authenticity from the companies they do business with. These customers are empowered because they know they have a voice—and they want to know that they are more than just numbers. They want to know they matter.
Unfortunately, many marketing technologies tend to de-humanize customers. They turn customers into mere numbers—as just another entry in the CRM.
Even some of the tools that companies use for customer engagement don’t necessarily help build a long-term relationship with customers. Take survey software, for instance. Companies send out surveys to engage customers, but this approach is usually a one-way street: marketers ask a long list of questions and get the info they need, but they never share with what they did with that insight.
Ultimately, to get the most out of your martech stack, you need to gain customer intelligence in a way that also builds a genuine relationship with your customers over time. You need tools that will enable you to engage on an ongoing, two-way conversation with your customers. Building a real sense of community with your customers is a crucial step in infusing customer understanding and insight into your business.
As you expand your martech stack, remember that building a closer relationship with customers is one of the key tenets of the marketing practice. Without deep customer insight, no amount of technology investment can help improve your marketing strategy. Keeping business priorities top of mind—and putting your customers at the heart of what you do—will help ensure that the money you put into martech is money well spent.