3 steps that will protect you from martech buyer’s remorse

Martech alone won’t fix your marketing problem. Learn why this thinking is a trap and three tips to avoid it.

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I’m as much of a fan of technology as anyone in digital marketing. I love the whiz-bang coolness, the promise of automation and the potential for AI. I’ve made a career out of using marketing technology. But, I’m frustrated. Yesterday, I had a conversation I must’ve had 100 times. 

One of our clients (let’s call him John) and I were discussing his digital marketing budget for next year and he was complaining about how he was forced to reduce it dramatically, despite us collectively beating this year’s goals by almost 2x.

Apparently, someone in global HQ committed a considerable amount of the budget (seven figures) to a very large martech platform — and marketing and IT are forced to fund it. It has been promised that this will transform marketing for the better across the global organization. 

John’s lament is that he doesn’t believe it. He’s also seen this before and he’s skeptical of what we call the “martech trap.”

Getting caught up in the martech trap

You see, John is a big company guy who has worked in Fortune 1000 brands his entire career. He knows the way to succeed and get promoted – set clear, ambitious marketing goals which ladder up directly to management business goals, prove that you hit or exceeded those goals, then you can get more money in the next budget cycle. Beat it again and the wallet opens further. It’s a key to continuous brand growth and marketing evolution. 

Sure, the expectations keep rising, but he invites a good challenge. He loves to prove to the C-suite that he’s a marketing superstar. And we love supporting him in his evolving quest. We are his go-to agency partner and we’ve accomplished marketing feats together we couldn’t have done without one another.

We’ve had the autonomy to choose our own path that worked best for his brands, use the corporate martech and tools the way we wanted to and add some of our own martech to make our marketing platforms work even better. When big martech tool mandates are pushed on him, however, his marketing effectiveness experienced consistent setbacks.

Dig deeper: Why martech integration needs more than technical skills

Wasted martech resources, lost opportunities 

So, his company might have just made a huge mistake. And it’s the same mistake I see many companies make time and again. They eat up a ton of budget, momentum and resources buying a piece of martech they never utilize to its full potential (or even half potential).

Of course, this isn’t a foregone conclusion. There are limitless examples of martech investments that have more than lived up to their promise, paid for themselves in better CX and more efficient marketing and led to incremental growth.

However, I would argue that an equal number of times, martech vendors promise sweeping improvements in marketing and never lives up to the hype. 

But even marketers with the best of intentions: 

  • Grow tired of long and expensive integrations.
  • Find themselves with technology that’s more complex to implement and use than promised.
  • Just move on before it reaches its potential. 

Almost half of marketing leaders admit to being overwhelmed by martech. And, although 90% of marketers claim to be investing in tech with great promise such as AI, fewer than 40% of them have seen business gains from it in the previous three years.

This has led to a prolific feeling of buyer’s remorse for martech purchases. It’s not like the category isn’t expanding quickly, but we’ve all been there before.

Remember how AI was supposed to automate all of marketing for us?

How programmatic buying was going to be the panacea solution to optimal paid media? When social messaging apps were going to replace email?

None of those turned out to be the case. Although each of them has value and a unique place in the marketing ecosystem, neither creates better marketing on their own.

3 ways to avoid the martech trap

Over my 25 years of digital marketing agency experience, I’ve seen patterns that lead to better martech utilization, results and, ultimately, nirvana. I’ll share three tips to minimize your chances of ending up in the martech trap.

1. Think small, plan for scale

The number one cause of martech regret is that it was “too big, too long, too complex” to correctly implement and utilize.

On the other hand, I’ve seen organizations implement or integrate small pieces at a time and have them fully baked, piloted, tested and properly deployed. They succeeded in realizing value, gaining confidence and finding happiness. (Look up the term, “Valley of Despair.” In martech integrations, it’s very, very real.)

See how you can begin with modular elements prior to the whole kit-and-kaboodle. Despite what the sales guy says — it’s worth the potential cost premium. When bringing in new martech, you must:

  • Clearly define the benefits (to overall business goals) you plan to achieve.
  • Set clear milestones, benchmarks and KPIs.
  • Map quick wins.

Dig deeper: 6 things martech vendors don’t want you to know

2. Make sure you have sufficient data

Data is a problem. Yes, I said it, data — or lack thereof — is the problem. I’d argue that 95%+ of all martech sold today does something with data. Customer data, prospect data, sales data, marketing analytics data — it’s all data nowadays

Much less considered, do you have enough data? You just put in a new marketing automation system, but do you have enough opted-in prospects and customers to make a meaningful impact on sales? If not, you just wasted time and money on martech that won’t scale.

3. Don’t forget the humans behind the tech

It’s not the martech that does the marketing. It’s people. 

Even the best martech in the world needs humans to create the business rules that operate them, produce a memorable design, balance expectation with excitement and truly understand how other people perceive experiences in totality. 

Don’t forget, we’re marketing to people. We’re nuanced creatures, aren’t we?

Now, back to that reduced budget. We’ll have to do more with less, again. Martech can help us, but it won’t save us.


Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Josh Perlstein
Josh has been at the forefront of innovative and inclusive data-led marketing for more than 26 years. During this time, he's had the privilege of building an independent, data-led CRM agency that works with the world’s leading CPG, Financial, Travel, and B2B brands, companies, and organizations to achieve optimal growth between brands and their customers. An architect of Response Media’s Relationship Marketing System™, Josh leads the agency in facilitating true connections between brands and consumers, using digital marketing to deliver relevancy, meaning, trust, and mutual value at scale. He has pioneered best-in-class consumer acquisition, brand partnerships, and relationship marketing platforms for some of the world’s largest advertisers and brands, including Procter & Gamble, American Red Cross, The Humane Society, ConAgra Foods, IBM, Disney, and Capital One.

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