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Categories: Best Practices, Technology,

This article was originally published on MarketingProfs, and is republished here with permission.

When Leadspace formed the Marketing Technology Industry Council in early 2017, we brought together some of the best and brightest in the field of B2B marketing and MarTech with one goal: to help marketers excel by navigating them through the key challenges and opportunities of MarTech today. In an industry increasingly dominated by technology, being technologically-savvy is no longer a bonus — it’s a basic requirement for marketers of every persuasion.

The findings of the Council’s first survey of nearly 300 senior-level marketing executives were illuminating, and underlined just how urgent this project was. The Council found that B2B marketers were struggling to cope with the unprecedented growth of the MarTech landscape (5,381 solutions at MarTech Conference Chairman Scott Brinker’s last count!) Chronic problems like lack of integration and even simply having too many technologies to effectively manage were resulting in poor ROI in companies of all sizes and industries.

This MarTech crisis isn’t going to sort itself out. Most marketers said they would continue to invest in marketing technologies, believing — quite rightly — that despite the challenges, the cost of falling behind the technology curve is too high. But this also means companies will only see these challenges increase exponentially as their MarTech stacks grow.

To tackle this growing challenge, the Marketing Technology Industry Council has released three recommendations for building and managing a marketing stack. By following these recommendations, Marketing organizations can move from struggling with MarTech, to finally using it to excel at their jobs.

Here is a summary of the Council’s recommendations, and how to implement them as practical steps in your business (you can read the list of Recommendations in full here, including a more detailed guide to practical implementation):

1. Align Sales and Marketing along a single source of truth for data, and a common roadmap and definition of their strategic priorities.

Align B2B Sales and Marketing Along a Single Source of Truth for Data

The first challenge with MarTech highlighted by the poll focused on providing value to Sales. The Council’s survey showed that 70% of B2B marketers see their top business goal as providing more leads to Sales, and increasing customer acquisition and retention. Yet only 12% of marketers said they saw significant value from their technologies, suggesting they aren’t effectively helping them achieve these goals.

It’s noteworthy that despite a clear appreciation of the importance of aligning Sales and Marketing in theory, most companies see significant misalignment between the two in practice. This dysfunctional relationship between Sales and Marketing is itself a major roadblock to building a MarTech stack which shows real value, for two reasons.

First, because without defining their respective and mutual objectives together, there’s likely to be a great deal of disagreement over what constitutes value in the first place. Secondly, the bedrock of demand gen marketing technologies like Marketing Automation and CRM (the two most popular MarTech platforms according to the poll) is having the right data. If Sales and Marketing aren’t aligned on the data they’re using, they may end up going in completely different directions, or stepping on each other’s toes by reaching out to the wrong people.

By defining their objectives together and ensuring they are working from the same data, Sales and Marketing can leverage their technologies as a focal point for achieving the ever-elusive goal of Sales-Marketing alignment. That alignment will in turn help solve many of the MarTech challenges raised by marketers in the survey, including poor integration caused by lack of inter- and intra-organizational coordination.

2. Marketers need to buy technologies strategically against clear, quantifiable business needs.

Buy MarTech Strategically

One of the most intriguing findings of the poll was how enthusiastic marketers are about MarTech, despite being highly skeptical of its value in terms of practical ROI. For example, three of the top four tools on the purchase lists of the marketers surveyed (content management, social media and advertizing), were also ranked as the most difficult tech to justify spending on.

The reason for this appears to be that marketers understand, correctly, that technology holds the solutions to many of their greatest business problems. However in practice, they aren’t succeeding in getting what they need from their MarTech stacks because they either aren’t buying the right technologies, or aren’t implementing them correctly.

This suggests the common perception of B2B buyers as being more “rational” than consumers may not be entirely accurate. That impression is further bolstered by the question of how “rational” buyers can come to buy “too many technologies”, or to create MarTech stacks without ensuring first that the various parts are integratable — as fully half of the marketers polled lamented doing.

For this reason, the Council’s second recommendation is for B2B marketers to establish a formalized process to identify where and when a new technology is required; whether it is possible to integrate a new technology; and how best to do so. The foundations of this framework must lie in a principle B2B marketers are well aware of when it comes to selling their own solutions: a focus on the strategic needs they solve, rather than on the technology and its features per se.

3. Marketers should be buying MarTech which automates or speeds up the repetitive, tedious aspects of their work, so they can focus more on doing things technology can’t do — like building and executing creative campaigns and content.

B2B marketers want to focus on the more creative aspects of their work

When asked to rate how much they enjoyed spending time on various marketing-related tasks, marketers overwhelmingly said they prefered creative activities like “Developing and Launching a New Campaign” (77%) and “Creating and Building a New Marketing Program” (70%) over time-consuming, tedious tasks like “Developing New Campaign Workflows” (16%) and “Managing Prospect Data” (11%).

No surprises there. But it is a perfect indication of the kinds of technologies marketers need to prioritize buying. To quote Heidi Bullock, CMO of Engagio and a member of the Council: “Ultimately, technology is there to improve our lives. It’s only logical that marketers should seek to ‘delegate’ the time-consuming, repetitive tasks to their MarTech — particularly when we’re talking about jobs, like data management, that machines can do more effectively anyway.”

Technologies like machine learning and other forms of Artificial Intelligence (AI) are already proving so popular for precisely that reason: they enable marketers to carry out these tasks both more quickly and much more effectively than they ever could working manually.

Related: 3 Ways Artificial Intelligence is Helping Demand Gen Marketers Right Now

At the same time, in order to get this right marketers need to get over their aversion to learning how to use new technologies (the third least-popular task according to the survey was “Learning and Using New Marketing Tools” (21%)). A little short-term investment in familiarizing themselves with these tools will deliver much more value long-term.

Implementing a MarTech Strategy: A Business Requirement in 2017

The Council’s call for B2B companies to implement formal processes for building their MarTech stacks couldn’t come at a more critical time.

This is true as much for midmarket companies and SMBs as it is for their enterprise counterparts (though for enterprise companies the MarTech crisis is all the more acute given the greater number of technologies they have on average).

Gone are the days when marketers could afford to view technology as a “nice to have” or a bonus. In 2017 and beyond, marketer’s performance in all aspects of their work will rely in great part on the robustness and quality of their MarTech stacks.

With the rapid pace of MarTech development, marketers without an adoption strategy will quickly find themselves overwhelmed and unable to keep up with competitors who utilize technology more effectively.

Download the free guide to building an effective marketing stack, and set yourself up for success in 2018:

The Modern Marketer's Guide to Building an Effective MarTech Stack

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