Are we primed for a [marketing] technology bubble?

Posted on November 18, 2015

By Matt Hensler

Tags: ,

Marketing Technology Bubble
The threat of ‘another tech bubble’ is well covered in headlines. The truth is that the tech sector will always have ebbs and flows, as will all industries. Technology as a topic of interest is here to stay. Innovation is constant and rapidly accelerating. After all, the person who invented the wheel probably got a lot of kudos, until someone else invented the axle.

The true cautionary tale in business has nothing to do with the rise or possible collapse of the tech sector at large. What’s more likely is a collapse isolated to the marketing segment. We all need to brace for it, and work to prevent it.

Marketers have a lot more power within the enterprise today. I’ve heard more than one keynote speaker discuss how we’re in a new golden age of marketing. Representatives from respected organizations like HubSpot, which has led the rise in the credibility of marketing over the last decade, have claimed that marketing is now more important than sales.

Having a leadership position in the enterprise comes with a lot more accountability and responsibility to perform. The increased emphasis on marketing has coincided with an outpouring of investment by marketers in technology. For a group that has always advocated for ‘right audience, right message, right time,’ it’s shocking to see the haphazard approach marketers have taken to buying technology based on promises rather than purpose. Technology should simplify rather than complicate. It should expand reach vs. expand costs.

More Than Pretty Pictures

Full disclosure: I’m a marketer by experience and at heart. I understand the significance in the marketing department shifting from being ‘pretty picture people,’ to now being the strategic lead of many businesses. When done right, the synthesis of marketing and technology can be a powerful thing. In fact, I’m often in awe of how Allbound’s own lean team of marketers uses a combination of strategy, business acumen and technology to propel us forward.

At the same time, tens of thousands more marketers are simply spending their way to ruin because they don’t take the time (or invest the strategy) in making the technology work for the business. The collective approach for adopting marketing technology has become what the modern marketer abhors – ‘shotgun.’ Each new technology becomes the final piece to the puzzle that is needed to accomplish what seems to be an ever-shifting objective. There is too much trying and testing in the hopes that results will get sorted out. The truth is that with this approach, they never will.

Data Tells A Dirty Story

Technology equals data, right? Any technology investment today has an expectation of yielding insights and information that support future business planning and expansion. The promise of analytics is probably the #1 reason marketers have been able to sell their leadership peers on making overstuffed investments in marketing technology solutions. Data is always in the eyes of the beholder. And with so much technology beholden to marketing, be wary of the story it tells. After all, the business of storytelling finds its foundation in marketing.

The uber-willingness to test technology has led to repeated reports of ‘inconclusive data.’ Marketers are still learning, but they are also still spending. The rest of the business is taking note, and your colleagues are probably starting to wonder if the answers you promised will ever come.

Marketing Technology LandscapeThe sheer number of marketing and sales technologies has become its own data point. We’re all familiar with the now infamous graphic of marketing and sales technologies. In fact, Allbound is now on it (although, not accurately categorized). I don’t know whether we should look at it as validating, or if we should be embarrassed that we are part of the noise, because our philosophy and approach has always been predicated on cutting through the noise and to progress channel sales marketing in lock step with the rest of the business – not away from it.

Be Human, Technically Speaking

Marketers like to rationalize technology investment by explaining how it will help create closer relationships with customers and prospects. Creating followers, fans, advocates and even friends has sadly become a passable strategy that has allowed the marketing technology balloon to inflate.

But, technology can’t automate away relationship building. As humans, we’ve got a max threshold for the number of relationships we can maintain at any one time. Technology will never be able to replicate or replace the role genuine human connection plays in both our personal and professional lives.

Hoarding technology in the name of progress will get marketers the exact opposite. Whether they’re dealing with customers, prospects or channel partners, simply linking to people should not be the goal, but rather facilitating human relationships that lead to trust and then to sales. More technology isn’t the answer, just the right technology that enables an ease of interpersonal engagement to thrive.

Maybe there will be another tech bubble, but the cause will stem from the marketers building unnecessarily complex and bloated stacks of marketing technology without a strategy for the value it brings back to the customer or the enterprise. For technology to work, it has to drive toward human connection rather than seek to replace it. People trump technology every time.

Matt Hensler

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