Earlier this year, for the 5th year in a row, Scott Brinker published his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2016) and as always, what a tremendous piece of work it is. This year it includes 3874 marketing solutions, an 87% growth over last year’s edition. He also breaks it down into newly updated categories, the largest being:
- Sales Automation, Enablement & Intelligence: 220 solutions
- Social Media Marketing & Monitoring: 186 solutions
- Display & Programmatic Advertising: 180 solutions
- Marketing Automation & Campaign/Lead Management: 161 solutions
- Content Marketing: 160 solutions
If you aren’t familiar with Scott Brinker’s Chief Marketing Technologist Blog, I highly recommend it. It’s one of the best sources for information and insights on marketing technology, with curated links into other great articles as well.
But upon seeing this new Supergraphic 2016 – even as awesome as it is – I couldn’t help but ask myself, have we finally reached the tipping point of marketing technology overload? Are all these tools necessary or even helpful? Has the world lost its moral marketing compass?
It’s Time for a Reality Check
Last year I suggested the world probably doesn’t need this much marketing technology, yet I offered a few tips on how to sort through the pile nonetheless. But this year I’m convinced the world doesn’t need this much marketing technology. So let’s consider a different approach: how about if marketers spend more time focusing on the basics?
In fact, technology per se rarely is the surefire ticket to greatness in any field. Don’t believe me? OK, go to the race track. You drive a Ferrari, Lewis Hamilton drives a Mustang, and I bet he’ll still whip you after a few laps. Or hand Roger Federer a vintage 1960’s wooden racket and you take the latest 2016 ultra-tech model, on the court you won’t get a single point in. Or give a Picasso a box of Crayola Crayons and give an art teacher the entire stock at Binders Art Supply and let’s see who comes up with the better work of art.
It Isn’t All About the Tool
The reality is that many organizations don’t capture even half the potential out of the tools they already own, employing only a fraction of their stated capabilities. For example, I’ve seen plenty of $75-150k/year marketing automation systems used only to send periodic email blasts, which could be done just as well with MailChimp for a few hundred bucks each.
Let’s be clear: efficiency is not the point here. Effectiveness is.
A more advanced marketing automation platform will not make those emails any more effective. Technology can help with the volume and deliverability, but it can’t help with the messaging and content. And in this example, it’s really about messaging and content.
Which, in essence, are about writing. You can’t get more basic than that.
Ask the Obvious Questions
Now I’m sure you’ve got some great technology in your corner, and yes, there’s even better technology coming out every day.
But how are you doing in terms of content development, process, messaging, segmentation, and plain old-fashioned end-to-end execution? And I know you’ve nailed advertising and promotion, but what about those other P’s (product, place, price)? By the way, have you looked sideways to related areas of your organization that also affect the overall experience you’re trying to market out there, e.g. training, sales, support?
And what about basic customer satisfaction, have you reviewed that lately? I bet your customers aren’t asking you to get a better marketing automation platform. When was the last time you talked to them in a truly substantive, probing manner?
Double-Down on the Basics
We all know perfectly well that marketing technology is necessary to stay competitive in today’s business world. Nobody, certainly not me, would dispute that. All I’m saying is that it’s not sufficient. Core skill and craft matter. In fact, they dramatically affect the physical, hard ROI you’ll derive from your arsenal of technology.
So before you invest in even more technology, try to get more juice out of what you’ve already got. You do that by doubling-down on the basics.
Ask the tough questions and be brutally honest with yourself, your team and your organization as a whole. I bet you’ll discover intriguing gaps in skills, process, execution, etc. Those gaps, not technology, are likely what is holding you back from achieving a real increase in overall performance.
Of course, I totally understand the emphasis on marketing technology these days. Its promise is compelling, alluring, seductive. I should know, I’ve been swimming in it for well over a decade. It has served me and my clients very well.
Just remember: there’s still a lot of gold sitting right there in the basics.
Joe Walker says
I re-read this again today, a year after the first go-round. Thank you, Francisco.
Aaron Brown says
I appreciate your point of view. Being a process guy for many years I have yet to find a methodology or tool that solves any real problems. They are simply a means to an end. I have become a lot less excited about cool tools and a lot more about smart people who wield them to drive engagement, lower attrition, improve productivity and achieve better business results.