I have a confession to make. 

As a user of MarTech tools — 27 at last count — I have not yet mined the full value of every tool.

And I’m not alone. 

In his recent State of Marketing Technology report, Stewart Rogers, director of marketing technology at VentureBeat noted that marketers only use 30 percent of the available features in their marketing tools. From my own experience, and from conversations with hundreds of other marketing executives over the last two years, it’s clear that 1) we’re all in the same boat and 2) there are many reasons for this.

Let's look at the two sides of why this happens — the user side and the vendor side.

The User Side

Distracted By That New Shiny Thing

The attraction of the shiny new tool that promises to help you meet all of your marketing ROI objectives is undeniable. We know the only way to improve ROI is to continually test and try new tools, but the challenge is to incorporate a test strategy that doesn’t sacrifice the potential performance of the existing tool set. 

Separate your marketing stack into two — a stack for current/core tools and a stack for tools being tested — minimizes distractions. Review your core stack and the performance of each element monthly, and discuss what more you can do with the tools you have. If you tap out on a tool, then target that for replacement.  

With your test stack, track implementation goals, performance indicators and resource commitment. Move tools from the test stack to the core stack only when you’re satisfied that you’ve achieved your performance benchmarks. Try testing only two or three new tools at a time and resist getting distracted by every new shiny thing.  

Biting Off More Than You Can Chew

I’m guilty of biting off more than I can chew, particularly with core platforms. In my last company, we chose IBM/SilverPop as our core email platform, which was an excellent choice for us. However, it took more than 18 months before we could tap into all of the great features that sold us on the platform in the first place. 

Lesson learned, right? When acquiring a core platform, make sure your internal technical resources have enough bandwidth to drive the implementation or reach out to outside experts for help. 

But I’ve done it to myself again.

We selected Kissmetrics last fall to track user engagement on our platform and deliver cohort analysis. While we’re getting a lot of good data, we still haven’t cracked the code on cohort analysis. Again, this is a reflection of our limited internal resources rather than a problem with the platform. 

I’ve heard the same story over and over again. 

One CMO told me that she arrived at her latest company to find that after 18 months they were only using a small fraction of the available features in their Oracle Eloqua platform. Her takeaway: right platform choice, wrong implementation timing. The company wasn’t ready to take advantages of the many features of the platform.   

When choosing a core platform, make sure you have the resources ready and able to take on the implementation challenge, a well-defined plan for making sure it happens and clear vision where it fits within the marketing stack and priorities.

It’s Just Too Hard

Sometimes it turns out that a tool is just too hard to install or use and you never reach the point where you can tap all the great features. Not going to name names here, because if you don’t have anything nice to say .... 

Having been burnt, my advice is to check if there’s a Free Trial period or a cancellation clause that provides enough time to test a product and prove its value before locking the company into a long-term contract.

The Puzzle Pieces Don’t Fit Together

Sometimes the exceptional value of a product can only be realized when it’s used in combination with another product. 

In the last two to three years we’ve seen core platform vendors in marketing automation, analytics, CRM and other categories introduce APIs to support integration and actively promote their own partner ecosystems.

And all too often it’s left up to the user to sift through long lists of partners and pages of marketing jargon to figure out where the useful integration points might be. 

Try this approach to integration: map all of your technology into a marketing stack that aligns with how you think about the marketing flow, and identify where you think you would benefit from integration. Recently, we realized our operations would really improve if we could link our content curation platform (Curata) to our new email platform (Klaviyo). In this case, the two products didn’t actually connect but both vendors readily agreed to make it happen for us — I’m glad we asked! 

The Vendor Side

Vendors can do a number of things better to showcase the value of their tools.

Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Less is more when explaining the value and capabilities of the platform. A long list of every possible feature doesn't help. Group features as they relate to the business function they serve so that marketers can figure out what features make sense to implement first, and then determine the order in which to add additional features. 

Implementing features pragmatically allows users to validate the value of a product every step of the way.

Don’t Jump Ship

All too often the transition from personal service to online customer support or worse, community help, happens far too soon and too abruptly.  

Vendors that work alongside their customers through the entire implementation phase, troubleshooting along the way, are more likely to see better long-term utilization of their products. Any short-term cost advantages of moving quickly to mass, impersonal support may be lost in the long-term as customer frustration and disillusionment grows when they can’t figure out how to make the most of a product.  

Regular check ins to see how customers are doing and offers of help with new and existing features (new and existing) is the path to long-term customer satisfaction.

The Whys and the Hows Please

It’s not enough to provide a list of all possible products that can integrate with yours — marketers need to know the why and the how.  

A clearly defined set of value statements for each integration partner, and an indication of what’s required to successfully integrate, would go a long way in helping users understand how to can leverage one of your partnerships to improve marketing results and process.

Showcasing the full value of a MarTech tool requires effort by both the marketer and the vendor, working together.  

With that in mind, if anyone is a Kissmetrics expert and wants to help me with my cohort analysis, just reach out!

Title image by Lance Anderson