Have marketing technology and marketing become synonymous? The answer is no, at least not yet (cue movie of scary robots taking over the world); marketing technology is just one piece of the marketing puzzle.

human robot touch

The AMA defines marketing as “the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large.”

My version of this definition is: "the process of creating value for a company through the creation, distribution and promotion of a company’s products or services. It's about understanding customer needs and wants, and then developing a strategy to meet those needs. This strategy encompasses brand, product, and channel strategy, company and product positioning, company and product promotion and customer lifecycle management."

Where Marketing Technology Fits Into Marketing

Marketing technology refers to the tools and systems that are used by marketers to plan, execute, measure and optimize their marketing activities. It is the great enabler for all the marketing activities listed above; there is nothing that marketing does that is not supported by marketing technology.

Today’s marketing technology is incredibly powerful and is only getting more powerful, it can:

  • Deliver deep insights into the behavior of prospects and customers.
  • Recommend and map customer journeys.
  • Enable personalization at scale.
  • Optimize campaigns to improve performance.
  • Engage in “conversations” with customers.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! With all these capabilities it’s getting easier and easier to fall into the trap of thinking that marketing technology is what marketing is all about. I’m seeing some definite blurring of lines in discussions, articles and industry charts.

The danger of this thinking is that marketing then becomes a series of technology-driven tactics that are disconnected from an overarching strategy, and we lose, if not destroy, our relationship to our customers. It’s too easy to get lost in conversion metrics and optimizing those without considering the human part of the equation. Just because we can send 10,000 highly personal and precisely targeted emails a day doesn’t mean we should. Adopting the mindset that marketing technology is what marketing is all about leads to technology priorities that are driven more by optimization and tactical functionality than marketing strategy and objectives which in turn creates a disconnect that ultimately impacts marketing performance overall.

Related Article: Defining Your Marketing Technology Philosophy

Martech Can't Replace Customer Relationships

As of yet, marketing technology cannot generate a marketing and brand strategy or replace the relationship development between a company and its customers. And yes, I’m well aware that AI-driven technology may soon play a role in these things as evidenced by the new content creation tools but for the foreseeable future it will deliver an assist and not a replacement for the creative ideas of the marketing team or for points of human connection with prospects and customers.

Learning Opportunities

One of my current pet peeves is the reliance on knowledge databases as an alternative to providing customer service using customer service representatives. Knowledge-base driven service works well when the knowledge base is well structured, comprehensive and is used as the first line of defense with human beings on standby to help out.

I am a HubSpot user and am completely satisfied with their approach. On the flipside I have another vendor whose product I love but when I get stuck it’s an exercise in frustration — their knowledge base is incomplete, there’s no way to contact a human being, and every time I try to get assistance, I get sent a knowledge base article that doesn’t relate to my issue in any way. I’m sticking with the technology for now but my perception of the brand has been negatively impacted, and down the road it’s likely that I’ll prioritize a replacement.

Related Article: Want to Tame the Martech Chaos? Admit Your Addiction

Martech Is Almost a Living Entity Now

Marketing technology has already moved beyond the foundational infrastructure for marketing and is now almost a “living” entity that is capable of providing data, insights and recommendations. As technology continues to evolve, the lines between marketing technology and the larger scope of marketing will blur even further as we adopt technology that will give us a content assist and maybe ultimately positioning and brand recommendations.

modern marketing technology vs talent

Today, our job as marketers is to harness that functionality without subjugating strategy, brand development, company and product positioning and customer relationships to the power of that technology.

Marketers must drive strategy and drive the marketing plan and enable marketing technology do what it does best — drive and optimize the execution of that strategy and plan.

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