How to improve your martech assessment game

In the first of a new series of articles exploring martech assessment and utilisation, CMO asks the experts for where the gaps exist in CMO evaluation of martech platforms and metrics for success

In the recent Clevertouch State of Martech report, 50 per cent of respondents said they were overwhelmed by martech choices today. Forty-four per cent also admitted platforms have gone unused during the pandemic. Yet 34 per cent are looking to buy more martech over the next year.

Gartner’s Marketing Technology Survey also shows the appetite for martech purchasing is unabating. However, the same research revealed millions in wasted spend on martech stacks, with surveyed organisations of $US1 billion to $5bn in revenue wasting $62 million on martech in 2020. Gartner’s 2020 data overall found 42 per cent of martech is underutilised. This is despite fresh figures indicating martech’s share of budget now sits at 25.4 per cent.

What’s more, as the maturity of systems and scope of martech use increases, integration is becoming a bigger issue for Australian marketing teams, according to State of the CMO 2022 respondents.

So what can CMOs do about it? How can you improve the way you’re assessing marketing technology procurement given the state of play today, the data and personalisation imperative, and the likelihood of an existing array of solutions to be reckoned with?

CMO spoke to marketing technology integrators, consultants, experts and analysts to better understand the considerations necessary when assessing martech platforms and how to deliver better martech returns. In this, part one of our series, we explore where the gaps are in evaluating martech and what performance and success metrics are vital to building a more intelligent martech roadmap.

The 3Ps of martech assessment

Ask any expert for the gap they most often see in martech platform assessment right now and they’ll tell you it’s capability investment. To borrow the 3Ps analogy touted by tech vendors, product is getting too much money and time over people and process.

“Too often, teams focus on buying technology features and not enough on the business processes buyers will need to put in place to actually use that technology to deliver value,” Gartner VP, Benjamin Bloom, tells CMO.

“The issues we normally see are the result of massive capability gaps inside organisations. There was a tendency 5-6 years ago to just buy the digital technology, but neglect to buy the capability or transform the business around it,” Deloitte partner, David Phillips, continues. “Most of the work we do today is end-to-end transformation of the digital and marketing teams.

“If you have a legacy operating model or digital model sitting next to marketing, it always fails. So the rule for me would be: If you’re introducing new technology and haven’t introduced new capability or changed your operations to enable it, it won’t be successful.”

Switch digital strategy leader, Jon Holcombe, groups martech assessment and procurement gaps into three buckets: Capability, connectivity and fuel. Capability refers to the change management and operational capability required around martech.

“The skills required to fully maximise utilisation, as well as understanding around content management and creation, is still lacking. We’re routinely seeing customers under-resource content management and content creation, for example,” Holcombe says. “When you put any new tool into a business, it requires training, and you need to understand how to use it.

“Martech comes with its complexities. Generally, these are to do with decisioning, logic and flows. But to really bring to life and make it work, you also need creative and content. So you have this intersection between staff that can be creative, strategise and think about crafting a great experience, and those that can turn it into a process flow, map it out in a system and understand how a system will work to realise that experience. Facilitating this process requires both the creative and the logical. That’s a capability element not often there.”

Holcombe’s ‘fuel’ speaks to hooking up martech platforms with data and content. For most part, when people are assessing a martech capability, they overestimate the quality of both their content and their data, he argues.

“People are thinking we have a CRM, so we’re capturing loads of customer data and information. But CRM platforms aren’t necessarily built to fuel martech capabilities,” Holcombe explains.

Then there’s the gap around connectivity resulting from this lack of capability and fuel. “That relationship between data and martech structure is where things really fall down. You might have siloed areas of information on your customers. But the reality is to get any insights or do anything with it, you have to export CSVs from five different platforms, correlate and then combine that data to execute. “

It's not just about getting data from one system to another quickly either. “It’s mapping the data, understanding the relationships between it and what it can do for you,” Holcombe says. “That data foundation is something you have to put in place before your martech can do anything about it. Martech isn’t human, and it won’t naturally understand the relationship between these data sets.”

That data foundation is something you have to put in place before your martech can do anything about it. Martech isn’t human, and it won’t naturally understand the relationship between these data sets

Jon Holcombe, Switch

Triggerfish and Dataweavers director, Anthony Hook, divvies martech into two camps. ‘Marketing’ systems are usually tools for data analytics, campaign management, attribution management and project management aspects of marketing. Typically, procurement is led by CMOs, digital managers, martech operators and marketing technologists. ‘Technology’ systems include underlying platforms, devops, content management systems, integration layers, landing pages and the things developers typically touch. This is often led by senior solutions architect, digital manager, IT manager, the CMO or CIO.

Divergence in ownership of technology type continues to cause headaches when evaluating new martech kit, Hook says.

But technology literacy issues are persisting too. A big one Hook sees is the misunderstanding of ‘composable’ and the difference between modernising and future-proofing your technology roadmap, versus rolling out a technical capability structured in a composable way, such as headless CMS.

“We boil this broader ‘composability’ question down to risk: How do you add new stuff to old stuff without breaking the old stuff,” he says. “We’re starting to see the CMO and CIO working together, looking for this future state architecture flexibility so they can make the choice when it makes sense to them, versus what suits the technology vendor or the market.”

Macro forces impacting martech assessment

Macro forces are further influencing martech assessment today. Accenture Song managing director, Abhishek Malaviya, says the scope of martech requires ever-greater interaction across marketing, digital, IT, data and security teams as a result.

Increased reliance on digital channels brought about by the pandemic, the souring economic climate and push for more value from existing investments, the cookie apocalypse, and growing demand for personalisation are all reshaping martech procurement. Delivering trust-led privacy, sales and customer experiences while enriching first-party data capabilities through consented data collection only adds to the challenge.

“There is a realisation real-time personalisation from a marketer's perspective may not be the same as from a customer's viewpoint,” Malaviya comments. “We need to shift the focus from real-time personalisation to personalisation at the speed of life – what is relevant for the customer in context.”

The problem is martech assessments have typically looked at channels – outbound messaging or campaign management via digital channels. “This only gives you a view of one part of the business problem. For marketing platforms to be more effective, organisations need to consider personalisation and data for customer acquisition and engagement. Organisations must start owning their data and collaborate across different teams,” Malaviya says.

Then there’s the gulf between the promise versus reality of martech as adoption and ecosystems mature.

“The potential offered by martech platforms is almost nirvana, but achieving that nirvana is hard,” says VP and head of Capgemini’s frog creative and experience consulting division, Jason Ross. “Too often, the business and the customer are absent once the technology discussions commence. Achieving the potential of any martech platform is only possible if it is in alignment with the business strategy and experience strategy.”

Another gap for Ross is looking at what platform will solve an immediate need. “If businesses considered what they will need in two or more years’ time, they might realise that platform doesn’t support those needs. It contributes to the ‘tech debt’ within companies.”

Repositioning martech’s role

Short-termism is one of the ways this missing link between customer, business strategy and martech platform investment use cases manifests. Experts agree linking martech to a broader business is more fundamental than ever. But with responsibility for business strategy often sitting outside the marketing team, there’s a disconnect.

“All too often, you have someone who has inherited a stack or who has convinced the business to buy a martech stack but doesn’t understand the link between corporate strategy, business strategy, use case development and value. When there is that huge gap, clients are just building stuff without a clear reason why,” Phillips says.

“The flip side is an organisation trying to do business cases around martech in too much detail and it never stacking up. For example: We need to introduce a bit of A/B testing kit onto our CMS because we feel we can generate 10 experiments per week and prove conversion from X to Y. Clients looking at use cases in isolation or at martech in such a piecemeal way will end up double counting benefits. What they should be doing is looking at end-to-end orchestration and use case and all of the tech required.”

Phillips comments reflect a reality CMOs are increasingly cognisant of: Martech systems shouldn’t operate in isolation. Yet connectivity requires cross-functional alignment, executive-level ownership, collaboration and transformation.

“There has to be conversion of sales, marketing and service. Think about a single record of customer: Every interaction is being more personalised; every service interaction is about sales; and every sales interaction is about marketing. These worlds are coming together,” Phillips says. “The tech we’re building isn’t just around simple conversion and retention outcomes anymore, it’s about something much more across the organisation.

“People in martech often struggle to articulate that. And they definitely struggle to get the business to move to the place where they get the most value out of that tech. The tech is incredibly important but unfortunately martech owners aren’t always calling the shots at the executive table and influencing the operating model the way they should.”

Phillips finds the problem exacerbated by CMOs not having a guaranteed place on the ELT and kept at arm’s length from the board.

“You also have the ongoing issue around ownership between marketing and technology and what role each plays. There is a continuing tension,” he says. “But I also don’t think most CMOs are well versed enough in understanding the role of martech and its benefits, as well as how to get the most out of it. We’re much better than we were, but there’s still a knowledge gap.”

Up next: A do's and don't checklist when evaluating martech, plus key success metrics every CMO should be employing

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