I remember the very first time I met with a director of a marketing operations (MO) group. It was in 2009 and I was blown away that there was an entire department dedicated to running and optimizing technology for the purposes of marketing. In this case, the MO group was in a B2C environment. I certainly had never seen anything like this in the B2B world. Fast forward to 2018 when a dedicated MO team is fundamental to the transformation of B2B marketing from a cost center to a profit center. Technology plays a huge role in the ability to successfully make this transformation. That said, there is a right way and a wrong way to buy technology and too many marketers are doing it the wrong way. This article looks at the why, how and who of buying marketing technology to facilitate a successful marketing transformation.


As I reflect on why marketers buy technology, I see two types of marketers who display wrong reasons for buying technology. The first is “I have to have the bright and shiny toy.” While it is very important to keep up with technological changes, buying technology because it’s the “latest thing” creates a cluttered, under-utilized environment. Another kind of marketer is the technology hoarder. They will pick up random software, bring it to work and never let it go, although it serves no purpose except for taking up space. Clearly, these marketers exemplify the wrong way to buy technology.

The right reasons to buy martech always support the business strategy. CMOs must ask how does this technology enable my organization to change, improve or do something new? The need to change something might be the ability for marketing to be accountable for revenue. The need to improve something might be producing higher quality MQLs that convert to opportunities at a higher rate. The need to do something new might be adding inbound and social as part of your omni-channel program. In every case, the reason to buy a new piece of technology fits into the business strategy.


Given a clear business reason to buy a new piece of marketing technology, let’s now look at the elements of “how” including problem definition and participation. The purpose of the technology solution is to solve a business problem that you have. By clearly defining the problem, you can develop a use case for what the technology needs to accomplish. I built my first set of technology use cases in 1990 when I bought my first CRM. I have used this technique for every software purchase I have ever made. Why? Because I need to see how a piece of technology will solve my business problem. An out-of-the-box demo is not going to impress me. I’ve seen marketers use a similar process with great results. By taking the time to understand what the technology does and specifically how it will help you do something new, better or change something, you stand a better chance of buying a solution that you will actually use and from which your department will benefit.

The average number of technologies in a marketing group today is 19. I’ve seen MO groups with close to 60 (once optimized). If you do the calculation on time and effort required to build a use case for every piece of technology, you might throw up your hands and exclaim, “I don’t have the time!” You do have the time. You must make the time now or you will need to make the time later. Figuring out how a piece of technology will improve an element of your business is a sunk cost. Doing it early ensures you buy the right technology the first time.

Participation is a frequently overlooked element in buying martech. If you are not involving all the key stakeholders in the buying process, you are doing it wrong. I cannot state this strongly enough. Too many times I arrive at a client site and in discussions with the marketing team hear that they have technology that they are resistant to using because they were not involved in the buying decision. In some cases, this included the people who are using the technology on a daily basis.

Participation in the buying process ensures improvement in two areas. First, participation gets everyone on the same page and gains commitment to the technology. Commitment means your team will work for a flawless implementation and will also work to optimize the use of the technology. Second, participation will secure a higher probability that you are buying the right technology. Other stakeholders add valuable insights to how the technology may be used, enabling you to make the best decision for the entire organization.


I have referenced working with key stakeholders during the buying process. The other “who” refers to the people engaging in the unfettered buying of marketing technology across the organization. One of the first things we do when we engage with a customer on defining, mapping and building a martech architecture, is to begin the hunt to discover the various technologies used throughout the marketing organization, by whom and for what. Doing this audit takes time and effort, but is critical.

The accidental marketing technology landscape in a company is often a legacy hangover that is resolved with a documented martech map. With a documented current and future architecture, the “who” of the buying process becomes corralled and defined. The buying of all marketing technologies now becomes a centralized effort rather than occurring randomly. Defining a buying process and a team to lead the process ensures purchasing the right technology at the right time to solve the right business problems.

In the history of digital technology, there have been volumes written on the right way and the wrong way to buy technology. 99% of what has been written has been written for the IT department. Marketing is now a major buyer of technology and in some companies the CMO has a larger technology spend than IT. It is time for marketing to develop a comprehensive and agile process for buying marketing technology. We are in a fast-growth market and being able to responsibly source marketing technology is a key skill for marketing operations both today and for the foreseeable future.