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While martech investments are growing, many marketing decision-makers are unsure of the effectiveness of their tech stack. In fact, 57% of marketers said ROI is one of their primary objectives for martech investments, yet they also cited this as one of the most critical challenges. Perhaps companies should be focusing on the opportunity to upskill their marketing teams.

We asked marketing leaders why they think more companies are investing in technology rather than the recruitment, education and training of marketing staff, the value of each, and how to better balance the investment in all going forward.

Why Companies Continue to Invest in Martech 

The growth of martech, in part, is because the marketplace and even consumers themselves are rapidly evolving, according to Mark Kirschner, CMO at Albert. “The range of devices and apps they use, as well as the way they engage with new tech like voice assistants, is forcing marketers to take a hard look at what they own, and how they can get maximum value from it.” Modern marketers, therefore, need their tech stack to enable them to keep up with the rise in consumer expectations and many existing technologies can’t meet the demand.

That’s why the martech space has seen dramatic growth, and in turn, fierce competition among software vendors. For many marketers, martech investment is an attempt to keep pace with digital innovation. “It’s also a badge of honor when a marketing leader can present that they’ve successfully implemented a stack full of AI, predictive analytics and one-to-one personalizations, whether or not it’s providing bottom-line business value,” said Cynthia Gumbert, CMO of SmartBear. There has been an enormous advancement in new technologies — many that didn’t exist just a few years ago — and marketing leaders want to be seen as innovative and at the forefront of digital marketing.

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Upskilling Marketing Professionals vs. Adding More Martech

Technology is crucial for modern digital marketing, but marketers are always going to be necessary for tapping into the consumer’s emotions. “While tech may help marketers engage more effectively in real time across channels, the strategy, inspiration and emotion that each of those touchpoints delivers has to be a product of the human mind,” said Kirschner. Martech can optimize marketing efforts, but software will likely never be able to understand the desires and decision-making process of consumers like marketers can.

It’s also essential to understand that software and artificial intelligence (AI) can complete tasks, not marketing jobs. “Whether a machine can deploy insights and optimize at lightning speed is meaningless if the brand’s value proposition isn’t right,” Kirschner said. That’s why he suggests investing in upskilling employees for big data analysis, understanding the customer journey in an omnichannel context, creative storytelling and building a consistent brand image across devices and channels. 

These are tasks that computers could never do alone, and that marketers would find challenging without the proper training and expertise. “What we have found is that when humans are given the opportunity to collaborate with intelligent machines something amazing happens: it makes both better,” said Kirschner. Martech can magnify the output of marketing professionals, but you still need to invest in human capital first.

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How to Balance Employee and Technology Investments

“All investments should focus on getting the most out of existing resources most effectively,” said Kirschner. That means investing in both humans and technology that can work in tandem. AI, for example, is at its best when paired with marketers that can leverage the insights to create marketing campaigns that are more optimized, and also more human. “This will ultimately empower marketers to reclaim the greater and original function of marketing: Building a powerful brand and audience connection,” said Kirschner.

There’s also no point in adding new martech solutions to your tech stack if marketing teams aren't at full capacity. “I’ll only invest in tech if I know we already have the people in place to fully take advantage of it,” Gumbert said. There are too many situations where martech solutions were partially implemented and never were able to reach their full potential. Moving too quickly makes the broader martech stack less optimized and reduces the overall ROI. That’s why Gumbert believes companies should invest in martech slowly and deliberately.

“It’s not a fixed pie — you need to do both at the same time. Hire or train staff for the skills, the overall marketing chops and the business sense to implement martech in a way that will help drive your strategy forward,” said Gumbert. The right balance between technology and human capital, therefore, comes down to the individual business and their marketing objectives.