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In an already growing martech world, another category may be on the way: collaborative content martech PHOTO: Luis Dávila

Every year since 2011, marketing technology blog, ChiefMarTech has published an infographic featuring the names and logos of every company that offers a marketing technology solution. 

The list began with a relatively modest roundup of 150 logos, but over the next five years, growth was astronomical. In less than three years, the list had 1,000 names. By 2016, the total was 3,874.

The Challenge of Maximizing MarTech

This climate of innovation has been great for marketers. When I started building internet-enabled products 20 years ago, the idea of technology that could analyze and identify detailed customer segments and provide automated ways to deliver the most relevant content directly to them was revolutionary. And you had to have a huge engineering team and an even bigger budget to achieve those results.

Despite the major new advantages available to the modern marketer, though, it became clear to me around 2015 that many companies were struggling to maximize their new MarTech investments. 

Has MarTech Led to a Creative Bottleneck? 

Eliminating the analytics bottleneck allows marketers to have quick and accurate information at their fingertips. Access to that kind of accurate and timely data is a boon for companies because problems in the product, acquisition funnel and account retention areas become obvious. 

But all this information has resulted in a new problem for companies: the creative bottleneck.

That’s because all the analytics and operations tools that have transformed marketing rely on creative content as the fuel that drives audience engagement and revenue growth. 

The source of the creative bottleneck is the time it takes marketing and creative teams (whether internal resources or external agencies and freelancers) to develop the emails, web pages, white papers, blog posts, images and banner ads that power their marketing efforts. 

Endless Delays and Status Meetings 

Consider that, for the most part, the creative collaboration process that yields the best content has remained untouched by technological advances. Even with some semi-standardized processes in place, delays become all too common because of poorly written creative briefs, a lack of feedback from key reviewers, confusion about the specific meaning of that feedback and a foggy approval process.

Any formal project management often relies on Gantt charts (which impose a linear model on the wildly unpredictable creative process) and endless status meetings that only serve to delay the project even further. 

Is it any wonder that in the end, content is often released that isn’t as effective as it should have been?

The Business Costs of the Creative Bottleneck

What’s more, with each new rushed, botched job, creative teams start to feel less proud of their output and less willing to try something new. This situation doesn’t make anybody happy — and it shows in the data.

Marketing managers waste time running after approvals and keeping disparate teams of content creators on the same page. Operations and analytics teams grow frustrated waiting for optimized programs to get to market. Finance teams wring their hands at the agency cost overruns, while revenue leaders bemoan the lack of content needed to power new sales growth.

Technology to the Rescue?

If ever there was a need to bring technology innovation into play, it’s to break this creative bottleneck. Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2C Benchmarks, Budgets and Trend report for North America confirmed that while over 70 percent of teams planned to increase their volume of original content produced, more than half pointed to content creation as their biggest challenge.

Jake Sorofman of Gartner wrote in a blog post that “the content supply chain is the rate limiter to digital marketing maturity.” Based on what I’m seeing every day, I’m inclined to agree.

Resist the Urge to Grow Content Teams 

Throwing additional content creators at the problem may appear to be a viable solution to breaking the creative bottleneck. But as teams become more dispersed, that solution actually adds a communication ‘tax’ onto the process. Under that scenario, creative teams would soon find themselves spending more time on administrative conversations and status updates than doing the creative work itself.

Clearly, the ‘way we’ve always done’ creative content development is no longer viable. 

“Marketers and their creative teams have unique needs for their creative process that cannot be met by basic, generic project management tools. Using these tools to simply update status is a waste of their time. Creative teams need a solution that helps them collaborate to create breakthrough content,” said Deborah Holstein, VP of Marketing at Hightail.

Creative Collaboration Solutions Are the Future

Which is why I see purpose-built creative collaboration solutions as the next frontier for marketing technology. It’s what’s needed to break the creative bottleneck that’s preventing marketers from making the most of their existing investments. 

Who knows how many thousand logos will be featured on ChiefMarTech’s 2017 infographic?  But with necessity being the mother of innovation, I fully expect to see lots more creative collaboration solutions in the coming years.