Why martech must mean more than just technology

Martech is really at the intersection of technology, strategy and people, Kim Davis said, kicking off The MarTech Conference.

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Martech is a lot more than marketing technology. 

“It doesn’t really reduce to a collection of platforms and apps and APIs,” MarTech’s editorial director Kim Davis said in his keynote address for The MarTech Conference.

Martech is really at the intersection of technology, strategy and people, he said. It’s important to note that those elements are all equals, interacting and informing each other. Getting the most out of your stack means looking at the tech and the strategies they support (or constrain) and the teams you need to match the strategies to the stack.

Under budget pressure

In the current economic environment, there’s pressure to cut martech spending in the belief that this will increase ROI — for example, postponing investment in a new tool or canceling some high-cost subscriptions. “It might, of course, deliver worse results,” said Davis.

“The pressure marketers should be feeling is to invest in martech that will deliver business outcomes,” he said, “(while) absolutely eliminating martech that is not delivering value or is standing idle (and there’s a lot of that). But a general directive to cut spend? — and I’m sure some of you are hearing that — that might mean losing to competitors.”

The north star for the design and features of a martech stack must be the customer-centric outcomes it provides. Marketers must avoid getting caught up focusing on a well-known vendor or the latest, exciting new solution. One way to think about it (and this is prompted by the analysts at Real Story Group) is in terms of services, not tools.

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Who’s on your team?

The martech stack isn’t going to achieve business outcomes all by itself (or until AI completely takes over). People breathe life into the stack.

“Marketers generate (certainly with increasing help from AI) what we might call ‘asks’ for the stack,” said Davis. “This might include asking it to send specific emails to specific audience segments, to respond to abandoned baskets with next-best actions, or to show certain product or content recommendations based on user behavior.”

“The other way people breathe life into the stack, of course, is by making it work right,” he continued. In some organizations that might be the responsibility of a distinct marketing operations team; in other orgs, marketing and ops functions might be combined. “Every team needs to find its own way and its own balance,” he said.

All in service of a strategy

Strategy is the key to all of this. “It’s what pulls people and technology together in service of defined objectives and desired outcomes: Growth, revenue goals, winning branding and so on,” Davis said. 

“I hope I’ve given enough context here to show that setting overall strategy should not — cannot — be an exercise detached from consideration of people and technology,” he continued. “Even if imperatives are being handed down from the CEO level, executing on those imperatives depends on what tactics your technology and data can support as well as the competencies of your team.”

He called this a “high-wire balancing act.”

Three powerful voices

The keynote continued with input from three guest speakers:

  • Megan Michuda, SVP, director of marketing operations and innovation at BOK Financial, discussed technical aspects of the stack including the importance of integration and the challenge of replacing elements in the stack while continuing to work at full speed.
  • Erica Seidel, founder and executive recruiter at The Connective Good gave actionable advice about finding the right balance for a marketing team and how to find the required talent.
  • Colleen Smith, global SVP of marketing at Avid Technology, discussed overall marketing strategy and its relationship with the technology and the team.

In her interview, Smith said, “We’ve been talking about real-life challenges marketers are actually facing.” Did the keynote solve all these challenges? “Surely not,” said Davis, “but I trust we’ve given you some actionable ideas and some food for thought.”

Go here to see the entire presentation. Registration is free.

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About the author

Constantine von Hoffman
Constantine von Hoffman is managing editor of MarTech. A veteran journalist, Con has covered business, finance, marketing and tech for CBSNews.com, Brandweek, CMO, and Inc. He has been city editor of the Boston Herald, news producer at NPR, and has written for Harvard Business Review, Boston Magazine, Sierra, and many other publications. He has also been a professional stand-up comedian, given talks at anime and gaming conventions on everything from My Neighbor Totoro to the history of dice and boardgames, and is author of the magical realist novel John Henry the Revelator. He lives in Boston with his wife, Jennifer, and either too many or too few dogs.

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