Marketing Is Obsessed with Technology. Here Are 3 Reasons This Needs to Change

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Picture a marketing department devoid of technology. No CRM, no marketing automation, no digital anything...weird, right? Perhaps even horrifying?

Now picture the opposite: A bunch of glossy-eyed marketers in a crazed frenzy scooping up every new solution at a breakneck pace, feverish with excitement and on a never-ending treadmill of rip and replace, forever chasing the latest shiny object! Exhausting, right?

Unfortunately, that second scenario is shockingly close to today’s reality, at least from my perspective.

I love technology. We’ve built LeadMD around helping marketers succeed by leveraging best-in-class MarTech. But marketing, on the whole, has gotten to a point where marketers are jumping right to the technology purchase, rather than graduating to software once they run into problems with consistency, efficiency, and scale. I can’t tell you how many meetings I’ve sat in in which I’ve explained to CMOs why the tech can’t come first. They nod their heads, agree with me—then inevitably say, “Okay, that’s great but can you help us implement [insert the solution-du-jour here]?”

I understand the temptation. Technology makes a whole lot of promises and in many ways it can become a synonym for maturity. But if you’re approaching your go-to-market strategy with a software-first mentality, you’re doing things backward and you’re going to set your organization up for a lack of measurable results, plus a lot of wheel-spinning as you’re forced to catch up. Here’s why you can’t afford to function like this any longer.

1. You’re giving up your “why.”

The horse has to come before the cart. When you make decisions by prioritizing technology above all else, you’re skipping over some really important steps. Specifically, do you even know why you “need” this new system? So often, a CMO will tell me, “We need Marketo.” But when I ask why, I either get a regurgitated software promise, a blank stare, or a very vague reply that makes it clear the why hasn’t been explored.

And I actually understand why this happens; we’ve all been guilty of rushing into things from time to time without being bothered to truly flesh out the business case. After all, when you implement new technology, you make the intangible tangible. You have tactical activities you can wrap your hands, and mind, around. Understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing (a.k.a. strategy), on the other hand, can feel abstract or even inaccessible.

But before you think about your technology, you must delve into your “why.” In order to be successful, every single person on the marketing team needs to understand the key drivers of the business and the organizations critical goals. From that understanding springs the question of how marketing is either reinforcing or detracting from those initiatives. If you don’t deeply understand all the dependencies that lead to success with tech—like understanding your buyer, how they evaluate solutions, how to make them feel comfortable, what channels they engage through, and so on—you will never be able to automate elements of your process or amplify results through technology. You can automate anything, but do you have a process worth automating? This is the question.

2. You’re valuing activity over results.

Many marketers still place a premium on metrics that show activity, rather than measurements that show results. We call these vanity metrics and, despite the general consensus around their ineffectiveness, we—as marketersstill tout them every chance we get. How many emails we sent, the number of campaign and events launched, the quantity of leads driven, eyeballs, clicks, form fills—the list is extensive and well worn. This black hole gets even deeper when a marketing team leads its initiatives with technology. It’s a narrative we see all the time.

You get your shiny new solution up and running and immediately begin reporting on the activity you’re producing because the quantities go up and up quickly. Those numbers might feel good to you, but they’re completely removed from real performance drivers—they’re leading indicators. But businesses need visibility into lagging indicators (outputs). Activity cannot be presented without results; it’s the quickest way to destroy value, and it’s also the reason marketing budgets get chopped first in bad times.

Understand that marketing is all about velocity and influence and that the best way to prove your worth is by focusing on what you need to produce these results, rather than what technology sounds important or is buzzy among your competitors. Your tech stack can help support you in driving results, absolutely. But never seek out a new system without first understanding your current impact on the bottom line. We call this benchmarking. Once you have that measurement and feel confident that you have a repeatable process driving those results, only then is the time right to apply technology to scale that process or make it more efficient.

3. You’re missing the focus on the buyer.  

When your focus is on your technology first, it’s easy to go down a rabbit hole of viewing it as something that will help you acquire customers. I can’t tell you how many marketers I’ve spoken with who want new solutions because they want more customers, and somehow, they think that growing their tech stack will equate to lead generation.

It doesn’t. Your focus shouldn’t be “How will this tech allow me to get more leads” but instead “Is this tech effective in allowing me to build engagement with my buyer?” By shifting your focus from acquisition to influence, you put the technology where it should be—in a supporting role focused on the conversation.

A very small percentage of MarTech is based on acquisition, and rightly so. The vast majority of the buying process, certainly in B2B, takes place post-conversion. Once your buyer has entered your database, you can look to your tech to help influence them, communicate with them, and grow that relationship. After all, marketing is largely a function of influence, not straight-line sourcing.

So where do you go with all this information? First, focus on the fundamentals. Account research and segmentation, buyer persona establishment, message creation and alignment—these are all fundamental-leading dependencies that not only need to be in place but also optimized for success. It’s not easy to put your “why” first before your technology—therefore, few marketers actually do it. But it’s the only way to be truly successful in getting your tech stack to support you as you crush your goals (and your organization’s goals). By chasing the right results (those that actually connect to revenue) and stewarding your customers’ “why,” you set yourself up to use technology in a healthy and wildly intentional way. Do it in reverse, and you’ll end up going in reverse.

Justin Gray is a serial entrepreneur and the CEO and founder of LeadMD, the world’s largest revenue operations agency, having implemented over half of the Marketo user base. Gray has made a career of launching successful companies and scaling them; in 2016, he cofounded his latest endeavor, Six Bricks, an online learning start-up designed to combat employee and customer churn through experience-based education. Over the past 10 years, Gray has emerged as a strong voice for entrepreneurship, marketing, and culture. A recognized speaker, Gray has been published over 350 times in industry publications and holds his own column, Tribal Knowledge, in Inc., while writing for Entrepreneur, Tech Crunch, and others. 

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