MarTech Everywhere, but Not Enough to Support the Business of Marketing

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The air is crisp, pumpkins are showing up on your neighbor’s front porch, and its fall conference season.

This year, MarTech Boston 2017 brought well over a thousand attendees to my hometown. There were keynote presentations from the industry’s biggest names and a vast array of sponsoring martech organizations including my team at Allocadia.

It was a symbol of how far the martech industry has come – just as big and teeming with energy as the west coast event earlier this year.

But something didn’t sit right with me as I spent this week with my community of marketing nerds, even as I had the distinct honor of presenting alongside another self-proclaimed #marketingnerd, Neenu Sharma, VP of Product and Marketing Operations at GE Digital.

I couldn’t stop thinking about our presentation in the context of the full event.

Our session was titled “How a $1B Startup Runs Marketing to Lead Digital Transformation, (you can grab those slides here) and a large part of our discussion focused on the difference between running marketing and doing marketing and what it means to CMOs and Marketing Operations.

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“Doing marketing” refers to the execution of marketing. This includes all those tactics related to attracting, acquiring, and retaining customers, areas like email, social, content, events, advertising, and much more.

But the other job marketers have is strategy, otherwise known as “running marketing,” which covers everything going on behind the scenes to make marketing tick. It’s managing budgets and having visibility into where the team is investing, understanding what results those investments have delivered, and most importantly, earning confidence to know what to do next.

To Run Marketing means to optimize its impact on the business, a core tenet of Marketing Performance Management.

Neenu is a fantastic example of this Run Marketing mindset, saying on stage this year, “my team’s job is to run marketing so our peers can go do marketing.” This outlook is one of the many reasons she won a 2017 RunMarketing Award!

The merging of “run” and “do” has also affected how our marketing teams are structured and who we need to hire moving forward. At Allocadia, we were proud to win our second Stackie award of 2017 – this time for the way we organize our talented team:

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This Run vs Do is more than just a diagram, our research found that companies who are excelling at MPM expect their marketing budgets to increase, see significant revenue growth (at least 10%+ YoY), and have a higher confidence in their return on marketing investment than the average marketing department.

We’ve seen, in real life, at real companies, with real CMOs, the real impact MPM can have…

… so we found ourselves at Martech Boston asking:

Where is all the technology to support marketing strategy?

Ahead of the event, we analyzed the list of martech vendors and sponsors of this year’s event.

Of all the MarTech Boston 2017 sponsors, 33% help companies “run marketing” while a whopping 67% fell into the “do marketing” category.

That’s 33% strategy, 67% execution.

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Companies like Workfront and Cake joined Allocadia on the “Run” side of tools meant to help marketers operationally execute their strategies. We were grossly outnumbered.

“Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu

In the first keynote with Scott Brinker, CMO’s Rishi Dave and David Edelman both spoke about how marketing is becoming more ingrained in their company’s entire business. In turn they both emphasized that marketing must look at how they run more like a business and move away from being seen as (and think like) a functional unit.

Of course, marketers must still focus on the execution and “Do” side, but supporting the strategy with the right technologies and partners is a must. In a perfect world, we’d see 50/50 parity between the two domains within technology and the marketing organization’s focus – both run and do.

I believe the martech industry is imbalanced, lacking infrastructure for marketers to actually implement their strategy.

Another way to think about the problem in the context of the rest of the business. Sales has CRM, a core component of managing the operational scalability of that function. Finance of course has ERP systems to keep the wheels turning. Developers use Jira for tracking and management.

Where is that kind of backbone for Marketing?

Where is the support for the critical operational discipline that allows marketing to execute their strategy, freeing themselves from clunky slideware and spreadsheets?

Marketing is known for having the largest discretionary budget in the company – shouldn’t we be celebrating the achievement of saying “that was money well spent?”

The industry’s focus on shiny objects

It feels like we’ve been talking about MarTech for ages, but the reality is were are still in the early days of this developing industry.

Since my days as an IDC analyst and vendor-side at a predictive analytics company, I’ve seen the emergence of thousands of tools, all promising to help Marketing grow the business. And we continue to hear there will be consolidation, but instead more vendors enter the space with each passing year.

This creates more noise, more confusion, and more SDR emails in marketers’ inboxes.

When I look at the 5000+ vendors in the industry, my mind goes to Scott Brinker’s POV when he says, “Marketing, technology, and management were silos of the past. Marketing technology management — MarTech — is the fabric of the future.” While there may not be consolidation yet, those worlds within marketing are beginning to collide thanks to the 5000+ vendors.

But to evolve to this “fabric of the future,” Marketing must be given the chance to truly Run Marketing like a business rather than just focus on “doing” marketing.

Right now, the industry’s focus is far too much on execution, silver bullets, and shiny objects – hello AI, I’ll see you in 5 years 🙂

First, we need to get a few things right, or risk losing our jobs. We need to get the basics down. We must build our foundation in marketing, we must set ourselves up to be stewards of the company’s dollars and resources.

The Answer: Marketing Performance Management

Admittedly I am biased when I say that MPM is the next big thing in martech. But, this is an area I have been studying and participating in since before there was a MarTech landscape. I joined Allocadia to help marketers solve this problem, and the need has not changed.

I believe for Marketing to have staying power with the organization, we need to confidently create our marketing plans, have control over our resources, be able to evaluate results against goals, and ultimately, make more impactful decisions with our marketing dollars.

This cannot be done without innovative technologies to support our strategy. This is exactly where Marketing Performance Management helps some of the largest marketing organizations in the world.

We need to run marketing – and celebrate those who do it well.

This is by no means a criticism to the team behind Martech Boston or any of the participating vendors – merely an observation on where we currently are in the industry, and a candid assessment for where we go from here. A big thank you to the Third Door Media team, Chief MarTech and of course Scott Brinker for the opportunity to be part of MarTech Boston (and earlier this year, MarTech San Francisco.)

So, what do you think?

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