By Perry Rearick, Chief Editor, Follow Your Buyer
At any point on a typical day, at least a dozen applications are open my computer. Adopting each one came only after carefully considering how it would help me with some aspect of my work and if the cost was justifiable. Many were recommended by people with whom I work whose opinions I respect. And I cannot imagine doing my job without these valuable tools!
However, they were also adopted over months and years to address a specific problem I had or something I wanted to do more efficiently. Each was also primarily evaluated on its own merits and its ability to integrate with other applications received less attention. Over time I created a suite of technology tools that was fragmented with numerous gaps and redundancy. My MarTech stack looked more like a Jenga tower on the verge of collapse. If your experience is similar, it might be time to defragment your suite of marketing technology tools.
This isn’t as simple as running a fixer program on your computer while you’re at lunch. Additionally, organizational structures, capabilities and workflows vary greatly across B2B marketing teams and developing a detailed step-by-step guide that would work for everyone is impossible. Rather, here are some things for you to consider when setting out to assess your technology toolbox.
Begin with an inventory. I know this sounds obvious, but don’t assume that you know all that is included in your MarTech stack. The best way to know what you have is to know what you’re paying for, and your accounting department can help. Don’t be surprised if you are still paying for something that you decided to stop using a year or more ago.
Assemble the right team. Once you are confident that you know what you’re paying for, I recommend assembling a team that collectively uses it all. For small marketing departments this is simple, but larger, decentralized organizations may require more thought. This might include several marketing specialists across your business units, and if appropriate, representatives from content development, project management, marketing operations, data analyzers, tech services, and sales.
Determine usage. Most applications come with a built-in capability to see who is using it and how much. Widespread lack of use for a particular technology may mean you’re paying for the wrong tool. Discovering that select individuals or teams are not using an application may indicate an onboarding problem that will require socializing the benefits of the tool and re-training. Gaining visibility on usage data across your entire technology suite is invaluable.
Do your tools, workflows and marketing priorities support your business objectives? It is always good to begin with a reminder of your business objectives when assessing your marketing team’s functional output, the processes used, and the technology employed. There should be a natural alignment between tactical activities and desired business outcomes. For example, perhaps, like so many B2B marketers, you no longer use press releases as your primary driver of digital target audience engagement. Yet, you still have technology that enables you to mass distribute press releases to media outlets.
Are your tools helping you effectively engage prospects throughout their buyer’s journey? Best in class marketing teams and the tools they use have changed a lot in the last five years because prospects have changed the way they buy. According to the smart folks at Gartner, B2B buyers are completing over 80% of their journey before they contact sellers. This has caused B2B marketers to embrace content marketing strategies focused on the early buyer’s journey with their teams functioning more like publishers. Has your technology kept pace with your changes? This may spur you to trade-in that decade-old project management technology for one specifically suited for content marketers.
Measuring results? Sadly, I still speak with so many B2B marketers who measure a single result, the sale, and have no insight into the entire buyer’s journey. There are valuable technologies that deliver data oriented to gaining visibility of the buyer’s journey. If you are creating and delivering content for all stages of the buyer’s journey, you owe it to yourself to know who is looking at it. If you advertise, your media partners should be delivering you valuable insights. Complex B2B buyer’s journeys can take six months or more, and buying teams will access hundreds of articles, case studies, and peer critiques as they try to solve problems. If capturing this data is not a capability you have, I recommend filling this gap be a priority.
Do you have a tail wagging the dog situation? Some marketing leaders become easily enamored with the next new technology and quickly adopt it into their suite of tools. Before long, the technology is driving everything, and you find yourself hiring people to serve the tools you invested in. For example, I spoke with a director of marketing who re-tasked their marketing operations team away from data analysis and had them listening to sales call recordings and entering the data into their CRM. While this example is rare, I hope, you get the point. Take a careful look at what marketing outcome your technology is intended to fulfill. Technology should enable us to be more efficient and effective.
Some B2B marketing teams are fortunate enough to have enterprise systems that are customized for their needs and updated continuously. However, most of us have pieced together a group of technologies over time, and it has become fragmented and dysfunctional.
Good luck defraging!