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Is your martech foundation solid?

The year has been tough for marketeers. It started with a call to invest in new technology, and it ended with cuts to martech budgets.

Mikkel Tofte Jørgensen

Mikkel Tofte Jørgensen

Communications and PR Manager
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Mikkel Jørgensen 2

The year has been tough for marketeers. It started with a call to invest in new technology, and it ended with cuts to martech budgets. In 2021, marketing will have to fight for its credibility if it is not to be left out of the digital transformation.

2020 had only just begun when a forecast of the 10 most important consumer trends gave the marketing department something to think about. Consumers want convenience and personal control over the buying process. Besides, content is everywhere and you need to catch consumers in seconds, as stated in the report from Euro Monitor. To solve the task, investment must be made in technology: 

In a highly competitive market, brands need to offer the dynamic content that consumers are looking for. To get ahead of what Catch Me in Seconds will be in the future, companies need to invest in technology.

As a marketing manager, the year may have begun with sweet dreams of new technology. But less than six months later, Gartner announced that nearly 60% of marketing leaders were expecting moderate to severe budget cuts to their martech budgets.To make things worse for the marketeers, the Gartner survey revealed that:

“…marketing organizations still utilize only 58% of their martech stack’s full breadth of capabilities – a level that has remained flat since 2019".

Marketing’s reputation is at stake

The Gartner survey also shows that the vast majority (75%) of those who expect cuts in the martech budget are also seriously struggling to get their marketing technology stack to perform optimally.

In fact, all 387 marketing managers are challenged on this very point. The reasons are several: the systems do not collaborate well enough across functions, the range of martech solutions is incoherent, and the foundation for handling customer data is not solid.

Nevertheless, the majority of marketing managers expect the current stack of marketing technology to be effective in meeting the organisation's business goals. But is it perhaps a bit too confident? At least it's not very obvious - not even for the rest of the company's executives. It is not likely that a company blindly accepts that it “only profits from 58% of its marketing technology portfolio”. 

This is a real problem for marketing, not least because it might actually justify the martech budget cuts. At worst, marketing leaders are putting their credibility on the line, and they need to fight to maintain a precedes and a say within the company walls. Then again, marketing didn’t create the problems in the first place. Old systems did.

Old systems stand in the way

In 2018, Accenture published a report that foresaw the technological trends with the most significant impact over the next three years. The report was based on interviews with more than 6,000 executives around the world. And 85% of the respondents believed that it is through “technology-driven partnerships” that companies meet consumers in the digital world and everyday life. Technology-driven partnerships create growth in today's digital economy, the report pointed out. There was just this one problem:

“Unfortunately, previous business systems were not built to support these partnerships on a large scale.”

These days, it makes sense for the whole company to replace legacy systems - not least in the marketing unit as it is operating in the digital frontline where the end-users, or customers, are. But the old systems were not built to support the idea of technological partnerships. The old systems were built in silos and intended to only operate within the business. Outdated systems will be the biggest barrier to growth, the Accenture report stated in 2018.

As mentioned in a report from 2019, only 33% of marketing departments find that the inventory of their martech stack matches their needs. 

One solution is getting the providers of marketing technologies to help make you better, “requiring even the largest of martech vendors to compete for the business on a best-of-breed basis.”

 

Necessity is every mother's innovator

Back to 2020. The world is closing down, country after country. We work from home, and not just once a week. The entire company's focal point will be how to collaborate from a distance. Meanwhile, companies are undergoing a minor revolution. 

As early as April, Microsoft had experienced "two years of digital transformation in two months". Since then, that digital revolution has been amplified. A fifth of large enterprises are investing in digital transformation initiatives during the corona pandemic, according to Marketing Week.

If marketing is to be able to keep up with the rapid digitalisation, help is needed. Colleagues from other departments, especially IT, must be involved. Assistance is needed from external specialists who have their hands deep in the martech machine. And if you have not already made it a habit to look at the toolbox of marketing technologies regularly, get started now.

But do not be surprised if the number of tools in the martech toolbox exceeds 100. It is not necessarily too many tools, but it is too many tools that are not properly connected. Because of the proliferation of tools (sometimes up to 120 marketing tools per company), there is a trend to consolidate the core of the stack with suites/platforms, which then orchestrate the other tools in the stack. We call it foundational platforms.

Now, more than ever, marketing has to implement the habit of revising the martech stack.

Continuing the silos

As of 2020, companies, faced with a pandemic-hit world, are undertaking the fastest digital built-up ever. Tools come and go. Applications change, e-mail marketing change. Your engagement channels change. It’s a variability that you and your business have to get used to, and you probably have already to some extent. But your foundational platform should not follow the same pattern. You don’t want the foundation (of anything) to change unless, of course, the foundation is, in fact, the root of the problem. 

Since the report from Accenture, and even years before that, companies were looking to modernise their customer engagement environment. They needed to overhaul the technical problems still existing. They were slowly but surely embracing the idea of moving with vendors to the cloud. And they would struggle to build or recruit in-house expertise to match complex technology platforms. They possibly even established technological partnerships. The problem was that most of this digital transformation happened within silos. 

 

In 2021, don’t fight it alone

The year of 2020 has been the year of speed digitalisation, and marketing has been faced with an almost impossible task: turn up digitalisation and cut costs. To some extent, you could say that marketing has been left out of the digital transformation in many verticals - though obviously some like retailers (and financial institutions) have accelerated martech investment - partly because of siloed thinking, partly because marketing has had a hard job proving the usefulness of its martech stack. Marketing has been left to itself to put it in journalistic headline terms.

So the recipe for a better 2021 is not to fight it alone: Look to internal resources, such as IT, and consider external agency partners or martech integrators to help audit the technology portfolio. The solution may very well be to look at the foundation and get outside help if it has to go fast. Providers of solutions such as integrated platforms want to compete for your business. As Gartner puts it:

“Maintain balance between the hyped simplicity of integrated suites and the potential integration challenges of a best-of-breed approach by requiring even the largest of martech vendors to compete for your business on a best-of-breed basis”

Marketing has a crucial function to play in the battle for consumers, so do not neglect the opportunity to make marketing a frontrunner in the digital transformation.