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Why CMOs need to stop investing in marketing technology

When was the last time you heard an incoming CMO say the business they are joining had a martech stack to die for; everything was optimal and there is no reason to change any of the existing technology favoured by their predecessor? Probably never.

CMOs come and go, on average, every 43 months. So, every three and a half years, marketing organisations re-start the journey of marketing technology transformation and go through significant upheaval in a new quest for a technological utopia.

But here’s the rub. The marketing doesn’t get that much better. Brands don’t start to do anything transformational. In fact, marketing teams often take a step backwards. Brands end contracts with good partners and lose good working relationships. Teams tread water, experiencing professional limbo, while pitches get undertaken and (often painful) transition happens. Teams have to re-learn much of what they knew already just to get to the same place they were six months ago.

And, in the rare cases where brands do actually take a step forward, does the incremental benefit outweigh the cost that the business has incurred? It’s doubtful and unlikely even measured effectively.

This is not to suggest that CMOs should stop seeking out and implementing new technology that solves new problems and provides new opportunity. There are some cases where you do need to change your platform, because your marketing needs have fundamentally changed.

But in order to drive a change in marketing effectiveness, could finding a partner to help you use your existing technology have a better outcome?

What could change instead?

A new CMO is expected to move things forward, so there is an immediate expectation that things should be changed and your tech stack is an obvious place to start. But what would happen if the CMO looked for ways to enhance and improve what they had, rather than to rip it all out and start again? If your issue is that you’re spamming everyone three times a week with a generic, poorly-designed campaign and it takes you six weeks to get anything out the door, you can spend as much as you like on best-of-breed technology, you’ll still be doing the same six months down the line. It’ll just be costing you more.

Successful change within a business depends on three things: people, process, and technology. Organisations rarely use their marketing technology to the best of its ability. In fact, in most cases, it’s not even close. So, perhaps CMOs should be looking to transform their people or processes instead?

People

Technology platforms are complicated. They evolve quickly. But how well are you ensuring your marketers are always up to speed? Especially when training is always under-invested in.

Do you also have enough staff and the right specialisms within your teams? If you’re not honest about this or fail to leverage the expertise that agency partners can provide then you’ll surely fail. It’s not good enough to buy a new platform for £2m and then expect graduates with no experience to be able to extract its full value.

Solid guidance suggests that for every £100 you spend on marketing technology, you should spend between £500 and £1,000 on people to support and service it.

Processes

There are plenty of reasons why marketing organisations fail when it comes to processes – from global vs. local, too many stakeholders, internal politics, to poor briefing and communication. But the one that has the biggest impact on underperforming technology is a misaligned organisational structure.

If your global marketing vision is to deliver a seamless customer experience across every channel and touchpoint then make sure you’re structured accordingly. Just buying new technology won’t deliver this. You can’t have a social team that doesn’t speak to the CRM team, or a media team that is at odds with the web team, and you can’t think what works in one market will automatically work everywhere else.

In order to put the customer at the heart of your business, remove the internal barriers to delivering that vision and incentivise both your internal and agency teams to work together to achieve that goal.

So, if you’re not the average CMO, think again before you call the next tech pitch. Invest in your team and your existing agency partners. Champion new ideas that can improve, evolve and optimise what you already do. Explore the untapped capabilities you’re already paying for and be open-minded about the experience of your partners.

Find the blockages internally and navigate around them – or change them if you can – to help your organisation serve the greater good – your customers.

Unless it’s unquestionably the right thing to do, think twice before changing your tech again. If new technology was always the answer, perhaps the average CMO would stick around for longer.

**This post first appeared on Marketing Tech