Martech promises the moon on a stick: Every customer behavior neatly converted into a metric and tracked, data rapidly analyzed and packaged into a story, conversions tested and optimized.

They tell you that you’ll be able to target, in an ultra-personalized way, just the people who are most likely to buy, at the very moment they’re in buying mode — and at scale too.

It’s a compelling promise: Beautifully presented, up-to-the-minute data that we can serve up to the CEO and CFO to prove marketing really does "move the needle" and, of course, get our budget requests signed off.

But if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

The Martech Reality: Stack Bloat

So what’s the reality? Well, most marketing databases are error-ridden and out of date. Programmatic adtech puts our ads in front of bots and scammers on cheap websites. And attribution is largely a mess.

Analytics throw up meaningless metrics like impressions — meaningless because they can’t be tracked back to anyone who might spend money with the business.

And then there’s the issue that one martech solution does not "fit all." Different bits of software do different things, so we don’t buy one, we buy five or 10. And, of course, not all of them integrate with each other, or with incumbent systems (despite the promise of an API for that). 

The result is that we’ve reached peak martech, and we’re suffering from a serious case of stack bloat. A decade ago, marketers could choose from 350 martech providers. Today, there are more than 9,900 on offer, reports Scott Brinker.

Martech is also responsible for consuming a seriously big chunk of allocated funds. Gartner’s Annual CMO Spend Survey found that it accounted for an average of 26.6% of companies’ total marketing budgets in 2021, which is more than paid media (25.1%), labor (25%) and agencies or services (23%).

And yet it’s replaced all the time. There’s even a company that tracks this — the Martech Replacement Survey 2022 does what it says on the tin. Over 18 months, almost a quarter (24%) of the companies surveyed replaced their marketing automation software, 23% their CRMs, and 22% their email marketing apps. 

Related Article: 5 Insights Into the 9,932-Marketing Technology Landscape

What Should Be at Core of Martech Stack

Martech is often much like fast fashion: cheap, easily replaced, quickly forgotten and of dubious quality.

But to do our jobs without technology would just be silly. This is 2022 after all.

Learning Opportunities

So what does a pared-back, capsule martech stack look like? Just four things:

  1. A CRM that integrates with sales.
  2. Analytics e.g. Google (or for the GDPR-focused, Fathom).
  3. A CMS to run your websites e.g. WordPress.
  4. Some form of marketing automation e.g Marketo, Pardot, HubSpot.

The rest is often overkill. 

But what about all that insight you’ll gain from all the social listening, insight-predicting add-ons? Isn’t that worth "enriching" your capabilities with? 

Given the apparent (in-)accuracy of most of these offerings, probably not.

Related Article: What Martech Buyers Need to Know About Products, Platforms and Ecosystems

Real-World Information Comes From Real-World Conversations

Ultimately, the ONLY way to get a true sense of your real-world buyers is to speak to your real-world buyers. Getting meaningful insights requires a more analogue approach — picking up the phone or organizing a focus group (though beware bias and group-think). Speak to people? Who’d have thought?

A series of one-to-one interviews can often deliver deep, actionable insights, especially if you do this anonymously using external consultants.

In every case, the goal should be to understand our customers in a more profound way. We need to know what keeps them up at night, what they’re trying to get done and what makes their work enjoyable. We need to know their past experience of working with suppliers and how they honestly view the stuff we sell. And we need to know about the dynamic with their colleagues who are also decision-makers. 

No piece of software can offer this level of detail. Don’t be lured by the prospect of tech that says it can do it for you. It’s time to simplify and humanize your approach.

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