Keeping up with marketing tech is nearly impossible. Here are 10 tips for staying ahead.
While most of the digerati are attending the Adobe Summit this week, it's timely to bring up a challenging topic: how do you keep up with the ever-changing world of marketing technologies (MarTech)? Note that this vast area also includes advertising technologies (AdTech) as well, which is in itself, it's own untameable beast. These technologies continue to explode. Consider: nearly one third of the marketing budget now goes to MarTech, according to Gartner's latest CMO spend survey.
If you're a marketer on the brand side or agency side, you need to understand the tech stack that you need to rely on, from web content management systems, email marketing platforms, or digital analytics tools.
And good luck to you. As of 2018, there were 6,829 MarTech solutions out there. Realize that in 2011 there were only 150 solutions mapped out. Take a look at this amazing landscape supergraphic by Scott Brinker. He maps these solutions every year, across six major categories, including 'Advertising & Promotion', 'Content & Experience', 'Social & Relationships', 'Commerce & Sales', 'Data', and 'Management'. Within each major category, there are multiple sub-categories of solutions.
So how do you keep up? The short answer is, you can't. It's simply not possible. Even if you operate within a larger marketing team, your resources won't help unless they are pointed in the right direction. I realized this early on when I was building the social and content marketing team at SapientRazorfish. It was just a tough challenge to stay ahead of just the social tech platforms and options. But you can 'tame the beast', as they say. Below are ten tips that are foundational for MarTech success. The first three tips are all about setting a good foundation for ongoing success.
1. Make it someone's job
It's a Ten Commandment of business that I swear by: if you want to get something done, you have to make it someone's job to do it. That's so true for MarTech. Unless you assign a role around evaluating and keeping up with MarTech in your organization, it will simply get lost in the day to day of more urgent matters. Several years back, at SapientRazorfish, I carved out a part-time role and made sure these hours (about half time) were dedicated. Today, many organizations have created new positions dedicated to 'Marketing Technology Management. I'd argue it's a role with a ton of job security.
Just like Scott Brinker's MarTech mapping, you too need to organize which key categories and sub-categories to evaluate and constantly monitor. Create a collaborative spreadsheet with the latest features of the Tech you are following, contact info, pro's/cons, meeting notes, campaigns or clients using/used, etc. This MarTech roadmap will be different depending on your digital marketing focus. If you are website development-oriented, you'll likely organize around CMS platforms (Adobe, Wordpress, Sitecore), hosting solutions (AWS, Azure), SEO (BrightEdge, Conductor, Yoast), and Site Analytics (Google, Adobe Omniture, Tableau. If you are social marketing focused, your stack will be completely different. Social Listening, Content Creation, Paid Social Platforms and Social Analytics will be your primary categories.
Once you have your organized roadmap, you need to prioritize by tier. First-tier MarTech solutions might be current and established vendors, with subsequent tiers offering more emerging (ie untested) features. Or, another way to prioritize would be around single-point solutions versus multi-functional platforms. In any case, each major category should have some ranking methodology to help you focus.
The next series of tips help you keep tabs on your prioritized vendors.
4. Arrange Lunch n' Learns
This is a great way to educate your teams or marketing partners about the latest features (or make a new introduction) of a new MarTech provider. In most cases, the provider will be eager to get in front of as many stakeholders as possible and popping for lunch always draws a crowd. Food works! You should formalize your lunch and learns on a regular basis, and also keep track of which vendors have been in, and schedule follow-ups as needed.
5. Do some speed dating
Want to create a fast immersion for your team? Schedule a 'speed dating' session for a couple of hours where each MarTech solution gets ten minutes to present their highlights to small teams. SEtting up stations where teams can flow from one solution to the next provides a fun and immersive experience. This is great for new and emerging solutions but is not the same as a deep-dive evaluation. It's also best not to invite competitive vendors to avoid the awkwardness of presenting next to a competing solution.
6. Canvass the conferences
If you regularly attend industry conferences, there is almost always a 'Vendor Expo' set up. While many conference-goers avoid the Expo, you shouldn't. They are a great way of discovering new solutions and a hands-on demo is usually right there. Don't be shy - consider it an adventure to allocate 2-3 hours of your conference to canvassing the Expo.
7. Use review platforms
Sometimes you need the opinion of others when evaluating a MarTech solution. Sites like G2Crowd capture reviews of almost all of the MarTech providers.
The next series of tips are about the process of MarTech evaluation.
8. Take the 'Good Enough' approach
Invariably, your team will discover a new solution and will be excited to try them out. In many cases, this solution will substitute for someone else already on your tech roster. The rationale for testing the new vendor is a feature that the existing solutions do not provide, or even more likely, a feature that is just a wee bit better. Be careful here. While it may be somewhat better, it may not be worth moving away from the existing vendor given the onboarding hassle of the new vendor, the ramp-up time needed and the loss of share for the existing vendor (which dilutes your business influence).
9. Demand a trial period
It's standard practice to ask for a demo, but don't stop there. After the initial demo, always ask for a trial period. This is important as many demos in a sales pitch are staged with dummy campaigns to make the feature look like it is rendering the best outcome.
10. Make sure case studies are real
Warning: in the fast-changing world of MarTech, you will absolutely come across solutions who are not-ready-for-prime-time. Their features will be relatively untested. They are actively looking for big brands or big agencies to provide product validation and sales fodder from your logo. Make sure you thoroughly vet these solutions (many are startups) before committing. Don't get into a bind with senior management, or your client, in having to explain why you took a risk with an unproven MarTech vendor.
These are just a few tips. What have I missed? Feel free to leave a comment.