How to get MarTech right for your business

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Andy Dorling, General Manager of Learning Solutions at the DMA, discusses best practice when searching for MarTech solutions and striking a balance between investment, resource and strategy.

Andy Dorling: How to strike the right balance in marketing

The rise of the data-driven economy has seen a substantial increase in technological investment, with the growing range of ‘MarTech’ solutions on offer making the assessment and adoption process more complex.

The future of MarTech won’t just be dependent on investing in the latest technological advancements. It will require skilled marketing teams to interpret data, analyse trends and integrate marketing platforms to develop a cohesive marketing strategy. 

Perhaps even more importantly, it requires business leaders to acknowledge the predicament and drive decisions based on a cohesive strategy.

Skills a barrier to success

However, there is a lack of staff with the right skillsets, which is creating a barrier to the success of marketing platforms. A report by Econsultancy in 2018 found that two-thirds (64%) of companies believe they do not have the skills or talent to make the best use of marketing technology. 

Marketing tech skills always in demand

It also found that the greatest MarTech challenge for companies is the lack of skills/people to utilise it properly, cited as a top-three barrier by 45% of both B2B and B2C respondents.

Having the key skills and competencies to utilise this technology in integrated data-driven workflows stretching across many channels is now a mission-critical business challenge. Innovation for its own sake is not the answer. Marketers must be able to use technology to generate positive impact on the business.

Investment in marketing technology continues to grow significantly

In its annual MarTech Report, Moore Stephens along with WARC, valued the global marketing technology market at approximately £75 billion. 

According to the group’s ‘MarTech: 2019 andBeyond’ survey based on responses from more than 800 brands and agencies in the UK, North America, Asia Pacific (APAC) and continental Europe. 

In the UK and North America, brands have increased their MarTech budgets by 44%, meaning it is now worth up to £40 billion. What this reveals is not only a huge existing and exponentially growing market, but also a growth in confusion, complexity and choice.

Another key trend identified in the study was brands increasing their overall spend on in-house technology. In the UK and North America, nearly two-thirds (63%) of media budgets are now spent in-house, compared to 44% last year.

Investment essential to growth

Future-proofing a business requires a commitment to supporting the development of knowledge workers and their ability to take advantage of technology in the form of AI in particular. The IDM’s ‘Professional Skills Census’ shows that within the data and marketing industry Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning has the biggest skills gap, with a 25% difference between perceived importance between marketers’ current roles and for future career progression.

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are driving modern marketing, which is already resulting in a rise in jobs requiring different skills. According to 2017 analysis from jobs site Indeed, the number of roles in AI has risen by 485% in the UK since 2014, and there are twice as many jobs requiring AI/ML skills as there are applicants.

Finding the right solution for your business

For a company to become truly customer-facing, it needs MarTech, and that MarTech needs a customer-facing strategy to be supported by the senior management team.

With a plethora of options available and a seemingly unending use of uninformative language (AI being a case in point), it is no wonder businesses have issues in finding the right solution.

Identifying objectives

So, where do you start? A suggested starting point is to distance yourself from tech-driven decisions and implement a business, customer-centric strategy, ensuring it is articulated in easy-to-understand, jargon-free language so that all can understand.

This puts you in a good position to map objectives to the framework and functionality to reach your business’s objectives.

Ensure you have the resources in place

Investment, resources and timelines for tech projects are hard to forecast at the best of times. However, many businesses will find they already have some elements of the solution in place.

A key decision is whether to evolve and augment the incumbent platforms or opt for wholesale change. In general, unless there is a more underlying issue there is far less uncertainty by taking an evolutionary approach. It will also help manage training and implementation overheads.

Of course, there are many reasons for wholesale change. These include proprietary, legacy platforms that restrict integrating new functionality, scalability, or just utilise outdated technology.

Outdated tech and legacy systems can slow you down

MarTech is generally an integration of different best-of-breed technologies that are unique to your business requirements. Avoid automatically pursuing a single-source technology supplier. If you do not have the skills in-house, consider working with third-party integrators.

With the availability of so many off the shelf platforms that easily integrate, unless necessary try to avoid building bespoke systems. They are costly to create, not guaranteed to work, and even more expensive to maintain.

Either way, it is important to involve your data and marketing teams in helping make decisions as well as continuously investing in developing their skills, expertise and product knowledge.

Attention to detail – data planning at the centre

Your data management strategy is a critical path to achieving an optimised, integrated platform. Your plan must facilitate the free-flow of data, eradicate duplication, and ensure scalability. From the outset, employ a privacy-by-design approach and ensure the amount of consumer data held is minimal, necessary, and otherwise GDPR compliant.

Of course, data science is one thing but data insight and adaptation are what really matters. The success of your project means identifying and reacting to trends in customer behaviour. There are many techniques to achieve this, each with their own benefits, risks and limitations.

A return on your investment

When considering return on investment, it is worth noting that many of the benefits of a sound infrastructure are long term and must be embedded within the organisation’s short and mid-term aims.

Strong infrastructure choices will determine returns

In order to calculate ROI, your MarTech stack must include robust, detailed reporting and attribution measures. If possible, define what you want to measure from the outset. It will help establish the tech requirements.

Making an informed decision

Business leaders need to drive commercially sound, strategic, cultural change to engage with the tech, remove silos and invest wisely. It is just as important as addressing specific organisational skills gaps and resource planning. This will help ensure marketing technology solutions drive genuine business impact.

Finding the right MarTech solution requires a structured customer-first approach. It cannot be overstated the importance of identifying your objectives first and developing a systematic plan on how to achieve them. Besides keeping the project focused on practical aims, it will maximise the chances of success and reduce risk.

The DMA Customer Data Council have set about aiding you in creating that connected customer experience, with an advice piece to help you develop a unified marketing tech stack, designed to provide you with a framework to help identify the right technology stack for your business, based on the aspirational customer experience, current capabilities, budget and desired commercial returns.

This article includes expert insights by Alex Granat, Managing Director, Livewire Digital Consulting. Alex is also Chair of the DMA’s Connected Technology and AI Hubs (part of the DMA's Customer Data Council).

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