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My Love/Hate Relationship With Sales and Marketing Technology: 6 Lessons Learned 

Christopher Ryan | Sep 8, 2017 474 views 7 Comments

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Photo Source: Adobe Stock

Photo Source: Adobe Stock

First off, a confession: I have had a love-hate relationship with sales and marketing technology for several decades. I started my marketing career working for Group 1 Software, which included features like duplicate elimination, postal presorting and other functions related to the direct marketing industry.

After a hiatus to work in the relational database and ERP industries, I co-founded a company that developed a web-based marketing automation software product focused primarily on lead qualification, nurture and management. I also served as VP of worldwide product marketing for a well-established CRM company, mostly aimed at the sales force automation (SFA) part of the market.

Every position I have held has involved the use of marketing and sales technologies. Today, my company’s clients use a myriad of solutions including Salesforce, Eloqua, Marketo and SharpSpring, plus email systems like MailChimp, Emma and Constant Contact. This doesn’t count the many point solutions.



Speaking of point solutions, the May 2017 chiefmartech.com Marketing Technology Landscape now contains over 5,000 vendors, which is why they now call it the Martech 5000. This veritable flood of technology has an upside, but as trend data from CSO Insights confirms, the number of companies who are hitting their revenue targets and the number of reps who make their quotas are flat or declining. Obviously, throwing more technology at the problem is not working.

Love vs. Hate

So let’s start with the reasons why I (usually) love sales and marketing technology:

  • My time in the marketing and sales automation industry has been immensely enjoyable.
  • The right M&S technology can make a big contribution by solving challenging problems.
  • There is always something new to learn with a constant stream of fresh methods and technologies.
  • All the new stuff coming out requires me (and my team) to stay current.

And now for the “hate” part:

  • I hate the fact that many of the marketing technology solutions seem as if they were developed by people who have never actually served in a marketing function. Of course, good marketers don’t necessarily make good software designers, so the combination of both skills is key.
  • Too many steps are required to complete the functions in many sales and marketing applications.
  • The complexity of the applications often requires hiring internal specialists or expensive outside experts to manage the product.
  • In many cases, the cost of these systems does not lead to a boost in efficiency and/or revenue, mainly because they are not addressing the right strategic challenges.

Lessons Learned

The good news about being immersed in sales and marketing technology for so many years, is that I have learned some useful things about how to buy and use these solutions.

Lesson 1: Technology makes a great servant, but a lousy master. If you implement a system that is so complex/confusing that you are forced to bend your way of doing business to the dictates of the system, it is probably not the right fit for you. Our mantra is that processes should lead the technology, not the other way around.

Lesson 2: Sometimes, too much really is “too much”. The law of diminishing returns is an economic principle stating that as investment in a particular area increases, the rate of profit from that investment, after a certain point, cannot continue to increase if other variables remain at a constant. As investment continues past that point, the return diminishes progressively. Not only does this apply to marketing and sales technology investments, the returns can actually turn into negative territory.

Lesson 3: Ease of use is a crucial factor. Any product you consider should not come with a steep learning curve. I have seen many expensive systems neglected or underutilized because they were too complex for the average user. When software was actually delivered in boxes, we referred to this as “shelfware”, because you would find the software sitting on someone’s shelf, not being used. Unfortunately, there are many online version of shelfware.

Lesson 4: Patience is an essential virtue. Sales and marketing technology can indeed make a difference. But, like most other aspects of life, it is seldom an instant panacea for what ails you. I’ve been involved (on both the client and consultant sides of the equation) with 15+ technology implementations and I’ve never seen one go exactly as planned. What I have seen are impatient executives that pull the plug on new technology because they didn’t get the instant gratification implied by the vendor and (sadly) internal personnel.

Lesson 5: Reality seldom matches the promise. Vendors of the 5,000+ martech systems all believe their applications can solve at least some of your problems and contribute to your revenue goals. And the more comprehensive vendors claim you can receive all or most of these benefits:

  • Provide more and cleaner data
  • Segment your target audience
  • Stop sales leakage
  • Automate repetitive processes
  • Generate qualified leads
  • Create and share content with wider audience
  • Cut marketing and/or sales costs
  • Qualify and nurture leads
  • Help you sell more deals
  • Reduce sales cycle time

Who wouldn’t love to achieve all of this? But, it’s best if you go into the process with wide-open eyes and a touch of skepticism.

Lesson 6: Beware the shiny new object. You need to find the right balance between a proven solution and new technology. Some of the fresh solutions never live up to their hype. Conversely, the solution with the most customers may be appealing, but it could be based on an older architecture that gives you less flexibility at a higher price. Make sure to read the reviews and talk to customers who are using the most current version.

Best of success with your marketing and sales technology and I hope your own love/hate relationship is filled with way more love than hate.

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7 Responses to My Love/Hate Relationship With Sales and Marketing Technology: 6 Lessons Learned

  1. Rick September 8, 2017 at 12:42 pm (3 comments) #

    As the founder of SharpSpring, and someone still heavily involved in product to this day, I could not agree with you more about most of these points. We are working hard (and I think the industry is in general) to address these concerns. But I acknowledge that it is an imperfect and incomplete process. Good feedback, and please know we are paying attention….

  2. Christopher Ryan September 8, 2017 at 2:15 pm (96 comments) #

    Rick, thanks so much for your comment. SharpSpring is definitely a leader when it comes to effective, affordable and user-friendly marketing and sales automation. Every provider has its niche and we are always happy to share the benefits of your solution when appropriate.

    Best,
    Chris

  3. Alizadeh September 8, 2017 at 3:42 pm (1 comment) #

    Thanks for sharing your experiences through this great article.

    Your sayings here are brutally to the point. As of me, I work in a company, offering Microsoft CRM services to the clients, in which there are so many useless options, that each time we have to spent hours customizing and simplifying the whole thing.

    And at the end of the day, still we have problem with the users’ adaption. It’s too hard for them, too time-consuming. I think automation software developers, really need to start taking this issue seriously.

    As you so brilliantly have put, computers and machines are great servants, but really lousy masters.

    Thanks Again
    Alizadeh

  4. Elise Ziehm September 8, 2017 at 10:39 pm (2 comments) #

    Chris, your conclusion that not everything that glitters is gold is spot on. To properly benefit from the coming together of marketing and technology, one must not assume that just any new fangled system will be a miracle worker. It is common for people to throw technology at problems or when change is desired, but such a method achieves very little.

    You are also correct in saying that one shouldn’t necessarily shun new technologies, like a Luddite either, because it keeps one on his or her toes. And with the variety of software products that are available, it becomes a case of locating the one that complements your wants and needs.

    But finding this perfect puzzle piece can be difficult – especially when it often comes down to the age old matter that those who design programs and many products, don’t consider the end-game during development. And if one does not consider actual use, then production will sadly be missing critical elements. Design and purpose must be created simultaneously, or else one ends up with an unusable and useless product.

    Society constantly reminds us that technology was supposed to speed up our businesses. But it is not technology just for the sake of it. This technology needs to be like the grease in your marketing machine: It helps you achieve your revenue goals with more ease, with greater efficiency, and without unsupportable claims of rocking your business world. If it is too good to be true, well, you know the rest.

  5. Chris Ryan September 9, 2017 at 7:42 am (96 comments) #

    Alizadeh, agree with you that user adoption is indeed a key issue, perhaps the most important issue in technology effectiveness. I’ve seen many instances where systems that consume large amounts of dollars and staff time produce very little ROI because end-users find them to cumbersome. You referenced one example of this and I have experienced perhaps dozens in my career.

    Elise, you are spot on with your comments that “Design and purpose must be created simultaneously” and “technology needs to be like the grease in your marketing machine”. Very clever ways to make important points.

  6. Customer September 19, 2017 at 4:35 am (1 comment) #

    Chris, your decision that not everything that sparkles is gold is right on the money. To legitimately profit by the meeting up of promoting and innovation, one must not expect that simply any modern framework will be a marvel specialist. It is normal for individuals to toss innovation at issues or when change is wanted, yet such a strategy accomplishes practically nothing.

    You are likewise right in saying that one shouldn’t really evade new advancements, similar to a Luddite either, on the grounds that it keeps one on his or her toes. What’s more, with the assortment of programming items that are accessible, it turns into an instance of finding the one that supplements your needs and needs.

    In any case, discovering this immaculate confound piece can be troublesome – particularly when it regularly comes down to the well established issue that the individuals who configuration programs and numerous items, don’t consider the end-amusement amid advancement. Furthermore, in the event that one doesn’t consider genuine utilize, at that point creation will tragically be missing basic components. Outline and reason must be made at the same time, or else one winds up with an unusable and pointless item.

    Society always advises us that innovation should accelerate our organizations. In any case, it is not innovation only for it. This innovation should resemble the oil in your promoting machine: It encourages you accomplish your income objectives no sweat, with more noteworthy productivity, and without unsupportable cases of shaking your business world. In the event that it is unrealistic, well, you know the rest.

  7. Christopher Ryan September 19, 2017 at 8:07 am (96 comments) #

    Thanks for the comments. Much appreciated.

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