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The marTech conundrum and the need for marketers to better partner to succeed

marTech is not new, we’ve been grappling with the opportunity and the associated challenges as an industry now for many years. Now a $121b global industry, there is no shortage of investment in marTech by marketers. But despite the investment, many marketers are struggling to embed and scale their platforms and demonstrate return. This is one of the key findings from our recent marketing state of play study, which found that 41% of marketing leaders see embedding and implementing platforms as one of their 3 biggest marTech challenges they are grappling with and a further one in three, highlighted the challenge to demonstrate return on investment.

marTech is at its core a change initiative – it fundamentally changes the way the marketing function and wider business operates. When we look at the success of change initiatives more broadly – failure rates sit at 70-80% and therefore there is little wonder why we as an industry we are struggling to drive and embed the change we desire and deliver the intended outcomes.

Partnering for success or failure?

Whilst many agencies and consultants will tell you a change project, like marTech, requires a shift in process, people and technology – this can often neglect the role partners play in the process of change.

A big part of enabling success can hinge on the partnerships we form (internally and externally) in order to successfully adopt marTech. And based on the research, it would seem that those partnerships are causing all sorts of challenges for marketers – which is inhibiting progress and outcomes.

> 26% of marketing leaders are challenged by their ability to collaborate with IT when delivering marTech

> One in 6 marketers (17%) are challenged by their ability to effectively assess vendors & determine right platform/s

And the biggest surprise was that nearly 3 in 10 marketers struggle to find implementation partners they can trust and can support their needs.

A lack of transparency is eroding trust

As marTech uptake has accelerated so too, has the number of players servicing the industry. There are now over 8,000 technology platforms available for marketers to choose from. Add to that the seasoned and so called experts supporting implementation and there is little wonder why selecting the right platforms and partners has become a mind-field for marketers. But the sheer volume of players and platforms isn’t driving mis-trust. So what is;

  • Incentive structures; The incentive structures in place within the industry are a big issue that we believe are fuelling both the mistrust of partners and the ability for marketers to assess and determine the right platforms and partners. Incentive structures for platform sales representatives and their partners are fuelling a focus on the sale and place too little emphasis on the implementation process. This means there is a gross mis-alignment between what the client is seeking to achieve and what the platform provider and the implementation partner are remunerated on. The incentives drive sales representatives from the tech providers to overstate systems capability and drives implementation partners to recommend platforms that may not suit / be right for client needs.

  • Implementation failures; The rate of unsuccessful projects, has also bred a level of skepticism within the industry. You don’t need to look far to hear about a project that didn’t go as expected and these experiences have created more caution of both platforms and implementation partners alike.

  • Knowledge and expertise of experts; Like clients, agencies and consultancies too are struggling to find the best talent to effectively support their clients. Overstating capability in a bid to win business is not therefore uncommon. In addition many lack the practical knowledge of how to embed a platform within a business. Whilst they have the technical knowledge – they can provide little in the way of support to allow marketers to navigate the internal challenges they face which lead to greater rates of project failure.

So what is a marketer to do?

Let’s start by looking externally

Too often we see too little due diligence undertaken by the marketing team on the platform and implementation partner fronts. Equally, often implementation partners can be chosen on the basis of relationships that already exist as opposed to those who are best positioned to serve the needs of the project and ongoing BAU activities.

As marketers, we have become accustomed to running robust processes to select media providers or creative agencies and in many respects the rigour we need to apply here is no different. We need to;

  • Be clear and effectively articulate what we are effectively looking to achieve

  • Identify potential providers in market that can potentially serve our needs now and into the future (beyond initial implementation)

  • Assess providers based on capability to deliver on our specific needs as well as cultural fit and alignment with the business

  • Educate ourselves where we lack the knowledge to make an informed decision and ask the right questions

  • Have clarity over how we will measure success – clarity helps us to keep ourselves and our partners accountable

This obviously sounds easier said than done – particularly if you don’t speak tech. Even if you do all of the above, how do you know if you are buying a platform or services that you are being sold?

This is where effective partnering with IT is so crucial and critical – particularly if you are relatively new to the marTech space. Technology / IT departments have been procuring platforms and managing implementation partners longer than marketers have and can bring a lot of value to the process if we allow them to. Without successful partnering with IT, the ability to progress and evolve in the MarTech space is challenged. But this obviously comes with its own challenges. So how can marketers better partner with IT to enable success.

We need to;

  • Drive alignment at a strategic level; When marTech is seen as an organisation priority not just a marketing initiative it is more like to be given the focus it requires from the technology team and garner the investment it requires from the business

  • Seek to better understand how the tech team functions (processes, priorities and resourcing approach) and what drives them. IT departments function very differently to marketing departments. Resources are often funded through a hybrid OPEX and CAPEX model, processes to secure funding are usually through business cases and the team are constantly balancing risk and compliance needs with supporting growth initiatives. Perceived as a cost to the business – they often struggle to be able to garner investment to address legacy backend platforms. Understanding how they operate enables you to determine how you can best partner as well as identify shared goals which you can collectively address and work towards achieving.

  • Bring them along the journey; We’ve seen many marketing departments over the years attempt to work around the IT team to their detriment. If something sits outside of the core network it is not effectively supported and it could cause more headaches than enable progress. In an environment where cybersecurity is a real threat to many – we need the IT function to help us make the right decisions and accelerate our plans whilst protecting us from the real threat that cybersecurity poses.

  • Engagement early and often in a marTech procurement process; This will enable IT to play an active role in the decision making process which drives greater understanding and buy-in to the initiative or project which increasingly likelihood of success.

  • Actively model behaviours from the top; If you are a leader of a marketing function – how are you demonstrating and modelling the importance of building a relationship with the IT leader and their function? Ultimately to achieve key outcomes – teams will need to effectively collaborate and therefore we want to lead by example.

Still confused as to where to start? Arktic Fox helps marketing leaders and teams to undertake a robust procurement process and identify how to evolve the team to take advantage of marTech.

Find out more here.


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