How the promises of martech fall flat

Matt Popkes
By Matt Popkes | 18 February 2020

As martech budgets continue to grow, brands and marketers are investing heavily in enterprise-level marketing automation and content management platforms – and paying hefty licensing costs in the process. The desire to invest in and reap the benefits of martech, from enterprise-level CRM tools to customer data platforms to multi-channel marketing hubs, is at a fever pitch.

This investment is largely driven by lofty organisational goals like the creation of a single-customer-view and the ever-elusive ‘personalisation at scale’. While the investment in martech platforms and effort required to implement them may be in pursuit of the revolutionising an organisation’s digital marketing capabilities, many are falling well short of achieving that dream and realising the full potential of their investment – and agencies are often perpetuating that challenge.

A major reason martech investments fall short of their potential is a lack of understanding or planning for the ongoing resources and expertise that will be required. While global technology leaders like Salesforce, Sitecore and Adobe might work closely with an organisation to get new platforms up and running, it then becomes the responsibility of the organisation to operationalise and manage. This requires time, dedicated resources and specific technical expertise that might not be freely available within an existing team. Further, the technical resources or platform expertise may exist within an organisation but are siloed away and disconnected from the marketing function, making it extremely difficult to connect marketing efforts with available technology.

Over time, because they’re not being adequately resourced, managed or scaled across the required internal teams, platforms capable of advanced targeting, marketing automation and content personalisation end up getting used for their most basic, baseline functions – functions that could often be easily achieved through a more basic and inexpensive platform. When you have an enterprise-level content management platform being used to send a few monthly email newsletters, you have a problem.

The underutlisation of martech is made worse when agencies don’t understand or fully consider the capabilities and content opportunities available to them through their clients’ platforms and tech stack. This can often be the result of client’s being protective of their platforms, not allowing agencies beneath the hood of their available technology. It’s also the result of agencies being dismissive of the capabilities available through clients’ technology. When concepting and designing campaigns, agencies too often default to the same baseline assets; your standard :30-second TVC, a handful of out-of-home executions, some social media content and baseline digital executions like banner ads. Opportunities for new, dynamic ways to interact with the audience, available through a client’s existing technology, are left on the table because the agency hasn’t taken the time to learn (or care) they exist.

Rather than falling back on the same tools in the toolbox, agencies need to dig deeper into the features and functionality that clients may not even realise that they have, or don’t have the personnel to execute.

Further, we need to solve the lack of resource and expertise problem clients have by stepping in to be that ongoing resource and expert. Our creative solutions need to help clients unlock the full potential of their technology and realise the full value of their investments. We need to educate clients on how they could be utilising the targeting, content personalisation, A/B testing and countless other features that may be available to them. If our clients don’t have the time or the people to work within their platforms to execute, agencies need to have the skilled personnel to step in and fully manage platforms like Sitecore, Salesforce and Adobe on their client’s behalf.

As the underutilisation of technology and platform investment continues and existing agency partners either don’t know or don’t try to solve this client challenge, global consultancies and specialised martech agencies are stepping in to fill the void.

Agencies, with their close client relationships and in-depth understanding of their business, should be best placed to provide relevant and regular martech integration that aligns with the entire marketing calendar and conversion funnel – not to mention the creative capabilities to deliver and publish the content needed. But first, especially with martech budgets expected to again climb in 2020, successful agencies will work much harder at understanding and unlocking the value of their clients’ platforms and technology – or face being left behind.

Matt Popkes is Head of Strategy at The Brand Agency.

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