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.
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.