There Is No Autopilot In Marketing Technology

The way I see it

Everywhere you go (on and offline) people talk about the latest and greatest features and functionality in the growing suite of products available to marketers. If you haven’t already seen the landscape of marketing technology tools – a graphic produced by – I highly suggest checking out the latest version (it’s still growing). These new tools are making marketing departments more valuable each year, but something is still missing.

In my opinion there is a huge void in the discussion about marketing technology in general. All too often we are swayed by the salesman on the other end of our demonstrations touting “easy-to-use” or “seamless integration” while we completely ignore our sense of rationale. I hope this post will start a discussion about the work it takes to make these tools actually function.

Rethink Your Automation Investment ROI Model

What drives your decision to purchase marketing software today? Is it an ask from your boss? Perhaps it’s a need to track something better, or deliver something faster. No matter what, I recommend approaching every decision the same way you would approach buying a car.

Despite knowing very little about cars, I really like to compare marketing technology to them. Cars, much like marketing technology, offer a lot of different makes and models and they all basically accomplish the same thing. Each car will get you from point A to point B. Some can do it more efficiently, some can do it faster, and some can cost you a lot of money while others cost a lot less.

In a traditional ROI measurement, you’ll typically look at how much you spent versus how much you made in return. When it comes to marketing technology, I believe you need to think of ROI as more than just “How much the software costs vs. How much I earned.” I believe ROI should be approached from the perspective of “do I have the right people to make this new tool a positive investment?”

Each marketing technology investment should consider costs on two fronts. The first being how much the tool costs and the second is how much the staff to manage the tool costs.

Let’s keep going with this car comparison. The one missing component to this comparison is the status we feel when we drive a nice car versus a “less-nice” car. Unlike purchasing a Ferrari vs a Ford Focus (no offense, I love fuel efficiency and I certainly can’t afford a Ferrari), nobody will look at you differently if you choose one SaaS solution over the other. In fact, most of the time they won’t even know.No matter what product you decide to purchase in the end, be sure you have the right mechanic to keep things in line.

In the car example, a mechanic does more than keep the car running, he or she could even make it run better. You (as the car owner) may generally know how to drive and maintain your vehicle, but typically you don’t know how to make it run better or faster. When I talk with business owners about marketing tools, I feel the same way.

Businesses today are purchasing marketing technology with an expectation that it will magically deliver results.

For instance, business owners may think building a landing page is really simple (because the sales guy did a really good job making it look easy), or tracking multiple touch points just happens after their $10,000+ implementation is over. What about future campaigns? What about the next landing page that needs to be built? Do you have the time to build it?

There is no autopilot in marketing technology. It isn’t a flip-of-a-switch growth engine and it certainly doesn’t do all the stuff it can do…. unless you have the team to do it. To make your investment successful it will take time, dedication, and the right staff.

Questions for you

Do you feel as though you’ve been sold something that hasn’t proven great ROI yet? When you purchased a new marketing technology tool, did you plan on hiring someone to manage the tool or did you hire someone after the fact?

For the skimmers:

If you’re like me and don’t always want to read everything… here is the point I try to make in this post:

There is no autopilot in marketing technology. It is not going to magically work. It isn’t a flip-of-a-switch growth engine. It doesn’t actually do all the stuff it can do….unless you have the team to do it.

Questions to guide your buying process:

When I shop for marketing technology, I always ask questions that are tailored to the business I’m working with. No matter the industry, however, there are some general questions you can ask to get you headed down the right path:

  • What are the must have features?
  • Do you need the extra features?
  • Will (or can) you use the extra features?
  • Do these features make sense for the money I’m about to spend?
  • Do I have the ability to fully utilize this new tool?

That last question —”Do I have the ability to fully utilize this new tool?” — is the most important of them all…

Who’s this for?

I suppose this post is for two groups. The first group are those that have already decided to pursue new marketing technology and they know it’s the right move for their business. They have also decided on two or three solutions to thoroughly evaluate for their needs. For those of you in “buy mode”, this post aims to keep you grounded.

The second group are those working at a company with a role like mine. For you, this post should (hopefully) resonate with some part of you. Perhaps it will serve as the words you have had at the tip of your tongue or in the back of your mind…

A bit of background:

I’m a marketing technology manager. Thanks to the ever changing suite of marketing tools, I get to spend at least a portion of my time learning new ways to empower the marketing and sales team at my company. That’s my job, and I love it. This is why I believe it’s time the marketing technology discussions — the ones happening every day during every demo of every product — need to start talking about the people it takes to make the technology work. I believe the martech leaders have a responsibility to set the right expectations for the products they are selling. The Software as a Service model needs to start focusing more on the Service end of the business.

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