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Whose bottom-line is your MarTech strategy fuelling?

frustrated professional

It’s a $121b industry, with 8,000+ providers and now one in every $4 of the marketing budget is is being spent on it.

We’ve heard the war stories many times over. “Insert organisation” buys MarTech and can’t embed or scale it 3 years on. Or the technology doesn’t do what the vendor claimed it could in the pitch or to enable it is more cost.

As soon as an industry becomes of size, like the MarTech industry has, everyone wants a piece of the action. As a result, it is becoming even tougher for marketers to navigate the sea of providers in market both the software providers themselves and the “experts” that are there to deliver the solution.

The one question NO one is asking and all marketers should be

Last week we were asked by a senior marketer, how do I know how to select a MarTech partner? So many say they are independent experts, but are they? There is a lot in that question, but I am going to zero in on one important part. Are they really independent?

The question that most marketers and organisations are not asking of agencies or consultancies is; What do you get out of the transaction if I choose a certain provider that you are recommending?

The kickbacks, rewards and added benefits of referring certain platforms

Kick-backs, referral schemes and the rest aren’t new in our industry. Many agencies over time have built solid supplemental revenue streams out of them. And when clients demand an end to practice to increase independence and transparency, it is also not unheard of that agencies find new loop holes to create the perception that the model has changed. We have seen it in the media industry time and time again. If we think the MarTech industry is any different – then think again! Agencies and consultancies are rewarded and remunerated directly and indirectly for partnering with certain platforms.

It is not an uncommon practice for tech vendors to incentivise agencies and consultancies who help them to secure business. How much you say? Well that can depend on the partnership but industry insiders have openly expressed it can be in the vicinity of 10 – 15% for the first year of the contract. Sometimes this isn’t even going to agencies that have MarTech delivery capability or experience. Instead it is sometimes referred to be agencies on the periphery, like a creative agency that refers clients to vendors.

Furthermore, agencies and consultancies developing strategy, also have a vested interest in steering you in a certain direction from a strategic perspective, particularly if it lands the agency or consultancy a large delivery stream of work. Whilst agencies will often claim they are independent – their expertise lies strongly in delivery of certain platforms and therefore it is in their best interest to recommend those that align with their expertise.

All of this begs the question - whose bottom-line is a MarTech strategy benefiting – yours or the providers? This is where true independence can be valuable – as recommendations are not clouded by what is best for their organisation.

The good news is not all software providers engage in the practice of direct kick backs, nor do all agencies. Simply knowing if there is a vested interest, can help you ensure you conduct the appropriate due-diligence to find the most suitable platform for your needs not theirs.

Finding the right partner is tough, but it’s a little easier when you are aware of what to look out for. Here’s some final food for thought on the topic;

1) A MarTech strategy has to be right sized for your organisation needs and enable your strategy. Be wary of those who wheel out the same best practice approach without understanding your business and how MarTech can create value based on your organisation’s context.

2) Find providers who understand how to embed MarTech into your business effectively – that is they focus on enablers beyond the tech which are people, process and partners. These elements make or break success.

3) Identify providers who have had hands-on experience leading, embedding and scaling MarTech – MarTech implementations are hard enough without providers learning on the job.

Find out how Arktic Fox can provide independent MarTech advice and guidance.


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