5 Classic Signs Your Marketing Infrastructure Is Overbuilt


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One of the interesting developments that we’ve noticed recently is that more and more companies are making significant investments in their enterprise marketing technology stack. It’s no secret that direct, digital relationships with customers are now more critical to company success than ever before. Companies have responded by ramping up their spending on technologies that enable this. These include technologies such as inbound marketing platforms, social listening tools, content management systems and web analytics platforms.

While these technologies hold much promise, there are some dark clouds on the horizon. In the rush to build out digital marketing capabilities, some companies have over-invested in technology and their enterprise marketing infrastructure. There is a widespread belief in business that technology alone can solve business problems, and this has been the case over many years and many cycles of technology adoption. It is no different today.

Too many companies over-invest in marketing infrastructure. This isn’t because the systems are overly expensive or that they don’t deliver spectacular new capabilities. It’s simply temping to invest in bells and whistles that the organization isn’t yet ready to use.

Could this be the case in your organization? Here are several classic signs to look for:

1. Lack of clear ROI

When done well, investments in the enterprise marketing stack should show clear ROI. Perhaps even more importantly, they should enable the CMO to quantify the value of marketing, something increasingly important to marketers who want the respect of other executives.  As Wharton’s David Reibstein recently remarked in an interview with CMO.com, “A lot has been written about the importance of marketers being able to connect their efforts to financial outcomes. I believe that marketers’ inability to do this has cost them their seat [at the executive table].”

If your company’s investments in enterprise marketing technology–and particularly investments in analytics platforms–have not enabled this important outcome, it is a clear signal that something is wrong. Enterprise marketing technology should link marketing activities to key financial outcomes. If this hasn’t happened, it may be time to pause and take a closer look at technology investments and the approach.

2. “Big bang” technology implementations 

Investments in enterprise marketing technology are sometimes made with a “check the box” mentality. Need a content management system? Checked it off. A new analytics platform? Yes, we’ve added that too.

There are two challenges with this approach: 1) decisions are sometimes made on a “one off” basis rather than in consideration of the full enterprise marketing stack and 2) the implementation of these of these solutions often takes the form of a “big bang,” monolithic approach with long cycle times.

If anything is certain in marketing these days it’s that change is a constant. Marketing needs will change. Keep projects short and focused.

3. Little or no talent development/acquisition

Many companies fail to examine how far they have evolved their talent and how this impacts the types of technology investments that are appropriate. There is a good analogy in car buying: smart car buyers don’t get a Ferrari when a Mini Cooper will do. Because marketing has changed so much in such a short period of time, many in marketing are struggling to catch up. Those who rose through the ranks of traditional marketing are now faced with the need to develop very different skills and mindsets.

Consider the importance of data and analytics in marketing today. Companies that invest in new analytics platforms but fail to develop their marketing talent struggle to achieve the intended results. This may not necessarily be because they’ve over-invested in technology. It may simply be because they have underinvested in developing their talent or bringing in new talent. Given the pace of change in marketing, the marketing department should have some of the highest levels of investment in professional development anywhere in the organization.

4. Cross-functional, efficient digital marketing processes are non existent 

It is unfortunately common to find companies with new technologies and old business processes. Are marketing and IT still struggling to agree on the best interaction model? Are business processes taking longer to complete than needed? Are the handoffs between marketing and sales inconsistent?

All of these may be signs that investments in optimizing business processes haven’t kept pace with investments in marketing technology. Optimized processes lead to better working relationships between marketing and IT and marketing and sales, happier employees, and rapid cycle times.

5. The marketing department is not in the driver’s seat. 

Finally, a classic sign of an overbuilt marketing infrastructure is when marketing is not front and center, understanding and driving digital marketing, from content creation and management to analytics.  The IT department is a critical enabler of marketing technology. However, the role of IT should be to manage and provide the technology capability. How that capability gets used must be in the hands of marketers. When this is not the case, it indicates that technology investments have gotten ahead of organizational readiness.

If you’ve considered some of these examples, and you find them present in your organization, the question then becomes, “how do we respond?” The good news is that when companies over-invest in marketing technology relative to other critical enablers, it often presents a great opportunity. By turning to people and process enhancements, it is possible to unlock the value of previous technology investments. We’ve found incredible success with this approach recently.

And, what CEO or CFO wouldn’t like to see that? Significant financial return by leveraging much of what already exists. It is certainly a big step towards earning marketing, and the CMO, a seat at the executive table.

Dave Birckhead
Dave is the Global Head of Marketing Technology at Spotify. He has worked with numerous Fortune 500 companies to bring about marketing technology solutions that optimize business performance, accelerate innovation and enhance marketing. You can find Dave on Twitter, LinkedIn and Google Plus.


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