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[ARTICLE] Why You Can’t “Buy” a Marketing Strategy with Martech

Just as buying a car doesn’t mean you automatically know how to drive, buying martech doesn’t automatically mean you have a marketing strategy. You buy a car because you have somewhere you need it to take you — not because you want the car to tell you where to go. Similarly, buying martech in the hopes that it will suddenly illuminate the most strategic way forward won’t get you very far.

It’s true that martech can (and should) inform marketing strategy. But without a clear focus, martech can quickly create a splintered amalgamation of martech-based strategy and strategy-based martech that results in redundant tools, diminished ROI, and whack-a-mole marketing campaigns. 

Simply put, without a driving strategy, you might find your martech in the driver's seat without knowing your final destination. Let’s break down why having a firm grasp on your marketing goals before implementing a marketing technology solution is key for both successful martech implementation and successful marketing strategy.

Why Success Isn’t Proportional to Your Martech Budget

With martech tools predicted to proliferate alongside emerging technologies over the next 15 years, it’s more important than ever for marketing leaders to double down on making martech work for their strategy, and not the other way around. Despite 2023’s economic slowdown, B2B martech spending is predicted to continue growing, reaching $8.51 billion by 2024.

More technologies and tools can either mean more efficiency and faster results, or more redundancy and less effectiveness. Ultimately, having the budget for martech does not guarantee effective marketing campaigns. Why? Because no tech stack comes with a whole strategy attached to it. The purpose of using technology is to get one step closer to your customers. When marketers lose sight of that ultimate goal, they run the danger of making martech-as-strategy rather than strategy-informed martech. 

While tools out there can extend reach or lower the cost of customer acquisition, adding one to your martech stack should always come after testing the premise of the solution against your marketing strategy and buyer personas. 

In other words, you should ask: “Is this tool going to help me reach or connect with my specific buyers?”

If the answer is yes, move forward. If the answer is no, it’s worth reevaluating the “why” behind the purchase. Later on in our Martech Masterclass, we’ll dive into more of the “why” and “how” of effective martech. For now, here are three elements that you should consider when evaluating martech with your strategy.

3 Elements to Ensure There’s Strategy Behind Your Martech

The process of buying martech that is strategy-informed starts long before the technology is purchased. Otherwise, marketers can fall into what researchers call “shiny new object syndrome.” When an innovative tool comes along, the features of the tool can become more intriguing than the solution it offers. This attitude flips strategy-informed martech on its head, and you end up with the problem we discussed earlier.  

Having more martech features, or even more marketing data, isn’t always useful. Rather, marketing leaders need to build their strategy around leveraging technology on top of a business case, first and foremost. 

There are three non-negotiable elements of building a strategy for martech that is successful: Campaign planning, enablement, and change management.

1. Campaign planning

A campaign planning process is put in place to ensure that campaigns are designed with repeatability and leveraging best practices for maximum impact. In the same way, you should build in the proper use of your tech stack at various points in the campaign planning process. 

For instance, consider when you will use your technology to inform campaign strategy, such as list building. Similarly, evaluate which technologies you will use in the back-end during execution that light up various channels and ensure engagement of your audience. Awareness of and planning for all of the contingencies your technology will affect is crucial for an integrated campaign planning process.

To ensure your campaign planning is martech-strategy efficient, ask yourself:

  • At what point in the planning process should we take the technology into consideration? 
  • What role does the technology play to increase the efficacy of a campaign or program? 
  • What processes are in place to ensure that efficacy is achieved?

2. Enablement

Enablement is often overlooked when purchasing martech. Teams are either ill-equipped to understand the full technological scope of the tool, or the tool itself has so many bells and whistles that putting them all in context with your existing martech stack can be overwhelming.

However, if your team doesn’t know what’s possible, they won’t know how to think about leveraging the technology to its full potential. How can CMOs solve for this? By understanding your martech stack, outlining business use cases, and clarifying how those use cases will be activated — which can then be operationalized in the campaign planning process mentioned above.

3. Change management

Change management is a key consideration when adding new technology to effectively drive strategy. Understanding how the tech will change the way you operate will determine how successful you are at adopting it. It’s the principle of “forming, storming, norming, and performing” as you go through a change.

For example, most teams have customer segments built into their marketing automation platform. But if you add a new ABM platform to the mix, the ABM team will likely start to segment customers on the ABM platform. Which segmentation will you use?

Change management means managing the ripple effects of a technology purchase by being mindful of what else is going on at the company. You should be asking questions like:

  • How does this technology change the way our team will work moving forward? 
  • What is the process for using it? 
  • Who will govern use cases? 
  • How is the technology activated?

The Increasingly Important Role of Tech in Marketing Teams in 2023

Technology plays an increasingly important role in every marketing team’s strategy. This is particularly true of our current environment where hiring pauses and budget restraints combined with ever-increasing revenue targets are challenging the way things are done. As the saying goes, “What got you here, won’t get you there.”

Leaders face a challenging landscape. In the short-term, marketing leaders must produce results, but they also need to ensure that short-term wins don’t eclipse long-term technology priorities and goals. It’s possible to balance the two with a focus on strategy-led technology that can do both.

So, what’s the next best step you should take to start standardizing your technology suite to drive efficiencies? Create a clear vision, goals, and expected outcomes of how your MarTech stack integrates with and enables your marketing strategy and processes.

For example, your three desired outcomes might be:

  1. Increase the effectiveness of marketing activities.
  2. Improve the efficiency of your marketers.
  3. Expand your reach through new channels.

By mapping out your company’s priorities for the year around the use of technology, you can rationalize your martech stack to make it more efficient. That might mean eliminating redundant products or functions, discarding unhelpful tools, or even waiting to add more technology to the mix if the timing isn’t right.

In summary, you can’t buy your way into an effective marketing strategy with more martech. Martech is a key component of activation and does inform strategy, but much more is required if you want to get the most out of your martech tools while still achieving the results you want.

Next in our Martech Masterclass series, we’ll be breaking down how to prove the ROI of your technology. Stay tuned and subscribe to our Masterclass series here.

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