We're in a MarTech Bubble. Here's How to Choose the Right Tools

MarTech Advisor -- Michael Litt, CEO at Vidyard asks a few simple questions that can help marketers identify the tech that actually works for them

new study from the MarTech Industry Council confirms what too many CMOs already know: marketing technology is in a state of disarray. Fifty percent of respondents were frustrated with the over-abundance of tools; 49 percent complained about integration problems; roughly half of survey respondents had both of these issues.

These results don’t surprise me. Yet, the truth is that some marketing technologies truly do make life easier. The challenge is separating the MarTech wheat from the chaff, no small feat in an increasingly crowded space. From the frontlines, as a CEO who both makes and relies on the latest marketing technologies, here’s some advice on how to navigate this landscape and what to expect down the road.

How did we get here?

In the late 2000s, MarTech was revolutionary. Suddenly, marketing teams had tools that not only automated and simplified their work, but that also purported to show hard data on bottom-line impact. When sales teams challenged them for not pulling their weight, marketing leaders could finally fire back reports quantifying their exact contributions. But from 2011 to 2016, the 150 tools in the MarTech marketplace ballooned to 3,800. That’s not a revolution… that’s a bubble.

These days, marketing stacks have grown nightmarishly large. Tools are rarely fully integrated. Employees just don’t get the training they need. Tech meant to simplify marketing has made it more complex. Not to mention, budgets for MarTech haven’t really kept pace with all this new technology.

Even at my own business, Vidyard, our budget for marketing tools is tight—and we’re a MarTech company! Roughly five percent of our marketing budget goes to technology. But systems of record like Salesforce and Marketo take the lion’s share, leaving little money for buying new tools. That hasn’t changed much over the years, despite the explosion of options. I don’t think we’re unique in that respect. The number of MarTech offerings has grown by a factor of 25 in recent years, but MarTech budgets inside companies have certainly not kept pace.

It’s hard to blame businesses for being cautious with their money when it comes to this brave new world—after all, tech is just one tool in the marketing arsenal. But with a few key considerations, it’s not hard for CMOs to choose effective, sustainable tech that makes the most of every dollar.

Select tools that fit into an ecosystem

The seamless flow of data into and out of a platform is possibly the most important factor to consider—the best MarTech exists as part of a robust ecosystem. Open APIs and SDKs allow platforms to plug and play seamlessly with smaller tools, while also feeding data into complementary platforms. To visualize why this is so important, look no further than the iPhone: the operating system is designed to make it easy for developers to integrate apps (and make money doing it), creating a hyper-useful platform with infinite functions. The alternative isn’t pretty … siloed data that doesn’t integrate with your other systems. Put simply: No matter how good a tool is on its own, it’s useless in today’s tech environment if it can’t play nice with a larger ecosystem.

Make sure your tech comes with real, live human support

An innovative platform is important, but it’s hard to get real value out of it without a strong customer support team behind the scenes to help you use it. Without proper onboarding, even the best tools languish—poorly understood by frontline marketing departments and not used to their fullest potential. It’s why only nine percent of marketers are fully utilizing their MarTech stacks. For instance, we’ve made it a priority at Vidyard to invest heavily in customer success, with one CSM assigned for every million dollars of ARR, roughly two times the industry standard. Ultimately, we’ve seen that spending the hours upfront helps our users see the return on their investment (which, incidentally, makes it a lot easier for us to renew come contract time).

Insist on attribution

Lots of MarTech promises to show ROI from specific campaigns. Very few tools, however, are truly engineered with attribution in mind. Partly, this is because this is no small feat. Prospects touch a product at many points before becoming customers: they might watch a video, respond to a tweet and attend an in-person event before committing to a purchase, so quantifying the impact of any one campaign isn’t easy. Not to mention, what constitutes ROI can vary widely depending on company and  context: some companies only count actual sales pipeline, while others might consider website traffic alone to be a successful conversion. The best tools out there today, however, are confronting these hurdles head-on and finding increasingly sophisticated ways to track results and bottom-line impact.

Invest in your people, not just technology

For CMOs, it’s critical to resist the temptation to treat technology as the final answer. At best, whatever tool you purchase is only a first step towards your solution. The slickest platform in the world doesn’t mean much if you don’t have a team in place to use it and apply the results. Be sure you’ve got adequate manpower and a team that’s excited about all the possibilities these tools offer. All too often, marketing departments end up continually adding to their “stack” and churning through new tools, precisely because they don’t set aside the human resources needed to realize value from these technologies.

I’ll be honest: It’s a challenging time to be a CMO. There have never been more MarTech options … and there have never been more pitfalls when choosing technology. Selecting tools with a robust ecosystem, solid customer support and clear attribution is a good start. And there’s hope on the horizon. The MarTech landscape may well be on the verge of a self-correction. With so many options competing for marketing dollars, price points are dropping and customer acquisition costs are climbing, making ideal conditions for big companies to consolidate the best tools into streamlined stacks. Already, we’re seeing once-promising (but overvalued) startups acquired for bargain prices—sales platform ToutApp, for one, was recently purchased by Marketo—with more acquisitions to surely come. In the meantime: Choose your MarTech carefully … the right tool can make all the difference.

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