Earlier this week, I attended a wonderful event called MarTech in the Hub, put on regularly by some of Boston’s marketing tech rockstars, to help those of us in the field network and learn from one another. At this particular get together, I had the privilege of facilitating a topic table for my fellow marketers and marketing thought leaders. My session, entitled, “MarTech Different Maker or Shiny Object?” was all about how to evaluate technology for value without ignoring innovation. As I subtitled it, “Or, how to invest smarter in marketing technology while still managing to innovate.”
Part of the facilitator’s responsibilities is to create a handout for folks to guide the discussion and help think about the topic after the fact. My peers at the table were so candid and thoughtful, that I wanted to share some of the most salient points that came up during the dialogue, as well as my handout, complete with three “mini” frameworks, if you will. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite observations/themes that came up:
- A constant frustration are the assumptions made (er, sold) during the buying process. In other words, a vendor assures the buyer that their tool can do XYZ – only to find out that the tool can do that particular thing IF your data is perfectly clean, IF you use the tool in this one specific way, IF you have someone in-house fluent in some esoteric coding language. In other words, if you operate it in an ideal world and who lives in one of those?
- In discussing the importance of educating decisionmakers, we had the best line of the night (IMHO) which was, “Everything is a shiny object to cynics.” Ain’t that the truth! This unfortunate fact just reinforces how critical it is that your martech investments be tied to clear metrics and goals, both for the short and long term success and viability of the projects.
- Everyone agreed that customization is such a double-edged sword nowadays. It’s tempting to be reassured by the fact that you’re not locked into a one-size-fits-solution, but on the other hand, turning a piece of tech into something that is effectively bespoke has a lot of associated cost with it. Resist the temptation to customize without really thinking through the reason and be careful about letting that get out of control.
My advice on innovation boiled down to evaluating every investment against both cost and consequence; the higher the sticker price, the more impactful that tool needs to be to justify its existence and the resources it requires. That doesn’t in any way mean that every investment will pay off or that experimenting isn’t worthwhile, but rather that bringing some diligence to the process will 1) help you more systematically evaluate your innovation projects and 2) maintain or even grow an innovation budget going forward.
The handout as distributed is below; let me know your thoughts!
MarTech Difference Maker or Shiny Object?
Or, how to invest smarter in marketing technology while still managing to innovate
Cory Munchbach, SVP Strategy – BlueConic
Observation 1: Many marketing departments struggle with altitude when making buying decisions; in other words, they buy too much for function and not enough in the context of a bigger picture (i.e. a coherent strategy).
Build your stack from the bottom up
Observation 2: There is a reluctance to both change what works reasonably well (or is just well-accepted) or to “start where you are” when trying new things, which results in stagnation, partially completed proposals, and underutilized investments.
Technology should be the outcome of a deliberate process
Observation 3: Innovation budgets have a reputation for just being marketing’s slush fund rather than a deliberate investment in disruptive or experimental tools to gain a competitive advantage.
Get real mileage out of your innovation dollars