Pressured CMOs look for quick fixes in martech

Today’s competitive marketplace has CMOs under pressure from every angle. From heightened customer expectations to fragmented marketing vehicles, marketers operate in a constantly evolving and challenging landscape. Exacerbating problems further, CMOs feel urgency to produce results in a world where everything is measurable. The entire C-suite can see the data, but CMOs still need to show that sales are positive and reaching designated goals.  

With so much weight on their shoulders, many CMOs have tried to buy their way out of the marketing landscape’s issues. According to Gartner, one of every six dollars is spent on innovation. Marketers are looking for solutions and many see martech as the quick—yet expensive—fix to a vastly complex landscape.

The same Gartner CMO Survey shows that martech spending has skyrocketed and become the single largest investment made among marketing departments. Yet martech still has many areas that are cause for concern, and mistakes are not only costly, but can also sink decades of work if marketers need to make transitions. In many instances, they’re simply trying to hold on during the most competitive sales environment in history. But without realizing it, CMOs are now spending more on the right to market than they are on actual marketers or marketing. 

Platforms mutated into gatekeepers

Platforms used to be pathways to freedom; a platform to tell your story, get smarter, and serve your customers better. While those attributes still exist, marketers have unwittingly built walls around themselves by gobbling up platform after platform to serve purely as segmented focal points.

What started as a commerce engine has mutated into a daunting landscape: mobile engines, display, programmatic, analytics, personalization, content management, video advertising, CRM, SEO, social monitoring, automation, machine learning and data visualization. Of course, there also are all the companies designed solely to try to integrate all of those different platforms together. The landscape is massive, frenetic and isolated. And CMOs are investing in all of them to try to fix their problems.

For brands, there’s only one way out and platform technologies know it. You need them. Every road leads through them and if your brand can’t find the capital to invest, good luck talking to your customers. They’re able to charge a king’s ransom for merely offering the right to market on a level playing field with your competition.

The brand problem

For all the technologies and innovations marketers invested in, CMOs’ benchmark data-point is simply “awareness,” according to Gartner. Awareness: a term bland enough that it can be used to describe just about anything—and be manipulated just as easily. 

So, as martech budgets expand and innovation eats up budget, we still can’t measure what works. For all the talk about AI, big data, and personalization, brands are still bereft of any of those competencies. If awareness is our core measurement, both providers and brands failed on all fronts.

The brand solution

Everyone is touting a new metric or a new way to connect with customers on any given day. The marketing environment has become the ultimate bazaar filled with snake-oil salesmen selling the cure-all for all of your brand ailments. Not only do they not work, but CMOs also often stake their jobs on those investments and they can get burned by costly mistakes.

We’ve strayed too far from the fundamentals; we’ve got to get back to our roots. What do we hope to accomplish as marketers? What does success look like? For most of us, the answer is actually pretty simple:

  • Acquire new customers;
  • Retain current ones;
  • Grow customer buying behavior;
  • Make a marketer’s life easier; and
  • Prove results.

We’ve overcomplicated our growth process with, arguably, thousands of measurements. In the end, however, each one has to clearly impact one of those core elements. Brands need to hold their partners accountable to those goals. That includes being able to prove them.

The provider problem

The relationship between providers and clients has always been somewhat tenuous. Clients often get frustrated and find a new provider with the answers to all of their problems, only to find the same old issues rearing their heads and bogging down their progress. 

Even so, brands have become more dependent on their providers, not only as gatekeepers to reaching their customers, but also as partners on actual marketing strategy and execution—a role most providers simply aren’t cut out to complete.

Yet as budget spending on martech increases, spending on internal resources is declining. So, marketers end up with more technology and less ability to use it—and they look to providers to fill the void. Simultaneously, as the problem exacerbates, providers are streamlining their services, focusing on revenue-generation in the pure form of technology, not management.

The provider solution

Every bubble bursts. Agencies and technology providers that have been taking advantage of the current environment will suffer as the tide turns—it’s already beginning with digital and social media marketing. Bad practices have cultivated an environment of paranoia for brands, and while they’re still forced to acquire customers through those channels, brands are putting agencies on a much tighter leash. Other areas could meet the same fate as they fail to live up to their lofty visions for their products. 

Providers need to be partners in success. We can’t be just gatekeepers holding the keys. We need to lift up our brand partners up and help them. CMOs and marketers need our support and, most importantly, we need to win back their trust.