How you answer matters now more than ever.
B2B marketers are buying a substantial amount of technology to scale our programs and meet ever-higher marketing goals. In fact, many of us CMOs are feeling we may have been too aggressive, even overserved, when it comes to marketing technology.
There are myriad reasons for this: We’re bullish on tech’s ability to transform our businesses; we bought into the promise of data- and tech-driven marketing; we’re concerned about losing a competitive advantage; and/or we simply haven’t put a disciplined process in place. All may apply.
One thing is clear, however. It’s not about acquiring more or the latest technology that determines our success; it’s about becoming a smart investor who can effectively manage a portfolio of marketing technology assets and liabilities that you can put to work and maximize their impact over the long haul.
This isn’t a call for halting martech purchases. On the contrary, it’s advice to ensure we’re taking a longer view as martech users and investors. The table below illustrates key attributes that will help you identify your own tech acquisition approach.
|Estimates a measurable return on technology.||Acquires technology.|
|Employs a defined, disciplined process for managing tech life cycle.||Neglects processes for acquiring, adopting and dumping tech.|
|Regularly reviews and assesses tech portfolio’s health.||Reviews tech requirements only for next year’s budget.|
|Develops an implementation and adoption plan.||Doesn’t set an adoption plan.|
|Focuses on tech investments that provide a competitive advantage.||Driven by a “first to buy” mindset, with little regard for ROI goals.|
To be a smart investor, here are three essential strategies to ensure your martech portfolio is healthy and paying real dividends for your business.
Define roles and processes for effective martech purchasing and management
We can learn from what IT departments and CIOs went through a decade ago: Rampant tech spending with little discipline did not end well. Since then, most IT executives and groups have put in place a defined process for procuring, onboarding, utilizing and measuring technology investments.
To be clear, this doesn’t mean shackles and bureaucracy. It simply requires discipline to proactively make smart bets on tech investments.
This disciplined process should include:
- Marketing ops/tech talent that drives the process and manages tech for its entire life cycle.
- A blueprint visualization to help understand your current and desired martech portfolio.
- An investment council made of up cross-functional business stakeholders to guide value-creating investments.
- A business case for each purchase to measure and assess value.
- A procurement process that provides the right level of diligence for the purchase (not all tech acquisition should be created equally).
On the final bullet above, it doesn’t make sense to put overly formal, punitive processes in place for every investment. There are legitimate cases for the purchase of tools that immediately fix a thorny problem or eliminate a roadblock to success.
Smart investors often make quick moves, acquiring assets and dumping liabilities in their portfolio to meet a specific objective.
Make sure you have an implementation and an adoption plan
Many martech vendors are adept at working with us to execute an implementation plan of our new tech. But few include an adoption plan (including the itemization of resources and budget) that will help ensure they get the most out of the technology over the long term.
This is especially critical if the technology is supporting a business transformation initiative. It’s often the people who will use the tech who are the “make or break” factor in obtaining real value, not the tech itself.
Transformational change requires a multimonth, sometimes multiyear, change-management effort, including in-depth training, consistent communications and a timeline with milestones that key stakeholders are committed to executing.
At the plan’s core is ensuring that the right talent and resources are committed to the adoption of the technology and the processes required to make the investment pay off. This can be handled by staff talent and/or by leveraging external providers who add the right expertise and resources to get the job done.
The adoption effort should also include a step-by-step, milestone-driven plan that shows how people, processes and the technology will be assimilated into the current operation. All stakeholders should be clear on the success metrics and the planned steps to get there.
Review the health of your martech portfolio regularly
Marketing teams should conduct a quarterly review of their martech portfolio, checking for alignment with their current needs. This is both to eliminate underperforming tools and to prioritize new tech purchases. Through this process, you can evaluate existing tech first to deliver on your emerging needs.
The quarterly review provides intelligence as you take inventory of your tech and assess what’s required to make marketing and the business more effective and efficient. One of the most overlooked attributes of new technology acquisition is how well it will support and integrate with your existing technology portfolio.
I recently participated in a martech portfolio review that found only 11 of 80 applications were integrated. This is a missed opportunity to increase performance and value.
Here are a few core categories and questions to review as part of your regular assessment:
- Prioritize: What are the most pressing marketing and business goals that require new tech?
- Automate: Where can we apply tech to free up marketers’ time and resources for strategic outputs?
- Purge: Which tech/applications are no longer delivering value?
- Optimize: Are we fully utilizing capabilities and getting the most out of our investment?
- Maximize: Can any of our existing tech and applications be used for the new priority initiatives?
It’s important to add modern technologies on a regular basis, especially when you’re building out your infrastructure. But if you’re always adding without subtracting, this is a major red flag that often leads to tech bloat, which will require precious cycles later to unwind.
Buying tech without a plan won’t get us any farther, any faster. However, by applying an investment portfolio mindset and supporting it with disciplined tech adoption processes, CMOs and B2B marketing leaders will be better equipped to hit ever-increasing goals and expectations.