stack of wood
PHOTO: Michael Coghlan

Houston, do we have a problem with the marketing technology (martech) stack? According to recent Gartner findings, we do. Gartner found in its Gartner Marketing Technology Survey 2019 that marketers only use 58% of their marketing stack’s full capabilities and potential. 

Not exactly the most promising news for an industry a few months ago tabbed at $121.5 million. Are marketers wasting money when it comes to the martech stack? Are vendors over-selling marketing technology? Does this mean that of the average 91 or so marketing cloud services in a brand's stack, marketers only utilize about 53 of those services to their potential?

How did we arrive here, is the obvious question. Here is what Gartner had to say: “We asked those who responded to our survey to estimate the percentage of their total capabilities that they are actually using in their martech stacks,” said Benjamin Bloom, senior director in the Gartner for Marketers practice who co-authored the report with Charles Golvin. “We’ve seen so many of these integrated suite vendors such as Salesforce, Oracle or an Adobe type of company: sometimes they sell 10 things when maybe the key thing (marketers) need is maybe a much smaller kind of subset. There's definitely some right-sizing that potentially could happen as marketers try to take stock of systems that they have. And that potentially points you to getting more focused solutions as well.” 

Focus on Agility, Training

Don’t get the findings in the Gartner report wrong. They’re not saying the integrated suite vendors — those large marketing clouds — are the reasons marketers only use about 60% of their martech stack's full capabilities. In fact, the answer to getting the most of the martech stack may not even be related to investments — or de-investments — in marketing technology itself. 

Translating marketing technology into business effectiveness is correlated with martech utilization, according to the Gartner researchers. And therefore, marketing teams need to focus on “becoming more agile — putting extra emphasis on training, talent and system integration.” Skill and capability development should be major considerations in the martech roadmap, according to the researchers. Marketing leaders should create an environment where marketers can learn and master the tech in the martech stack and invest in workshops, training courses or conferences.

Related Article: Are Your Organization's Martech Investments Working? 

Marketers Left Focusing on Execution, Not Learning

Too often, Bloom told CMSWire, marketers are left without the time to really learn how these martech tools work. According to Bloom, many marketers get swamped executing marketing tasks, leaving little room for experimentation with their martech tools.

Gartner research shows that 29% of marketing leaders indicate that training and upskilling existing martech talent is a major impediment to their martech stack effectiveness. “I think there's a belief that the technology delivers the business benefits all by itself,” Bloom said. "When, in fact, the research shows that marketers find that one of the top considerations getting in the way is that they just can't find the right people or aren't able to foresee a lack of investment in training."

Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog and creator of the Martech Supergraphic, noted from the Gartner findings the top impediment they identify to achieving business success is investing in training and upskilling existing martech talent. “It’s more about the untapped potential in their own teams,” Brinker said. “Invest in learning and development. Invest in marketing enablement. Give people more freedom to experiment with new ideas. That's how to unlock the real potential of your martech stack."

Related Article: Striking a Balance Between Martech Investments and Upskilling

Competitive Pressures Lead to Poor Technology Selection

It’s not just on training when it comes to untapped potential in the martech stack, according to Bloom. There are times when acquired technology is just not a fit for a new business model. This is especially true “as we're seeing more enterprises go direct to consumer when maybe that wasn't a consideration in the past,” Bloom added. “And that could also be a driver of some of the talent challenges? You didn't use to have a lot of contact directly with consumers, and now you're being disrupted by your competitors or upstarts that are going direct to consumer. That would be one thing that the brands might find particularly challenging.”

Vendors Not Completely Off the Hook

While in-house training matters, clearly martech vendors have a role to play ensuring marketers are getting the full potential out of their capabilities in the stack. Gartner found 27% of marketing leaders report either integration between martech solutions or identifying and recruiting martech talent as being the largest impediment to effectiveness. We’ve been discussing integration challenges with marketing technology for many years.  “The vendor model has often been that we sell you the technology and everything else is your job,” Bloom said. “And I think what many vendors are coming around to realize is that enablement is a really important investment toward driving retention. A lot of these companies are being valued based on their ability to drive you recurring recurring revenue for that subscription. Keeping your customers, not just selling the deal, becomes a really critical task.”

“You didn’t buy the premium training package” is a ‘backwards way of thinking,” Bloom said. He noted vendor examples like the Salesforce Trailhead community and Adobe League Communities as “real efforts designed to provide in a scalable way more content then could really be consumed by only one person. If everyone who is on these platforms is able to dig in in a self service way, you have a better shot of being able to unlock some of that value.”

Large vendors are also trying to provide out-of-the-box integration capabilities to address the integration challenge and are now more open to the idea of integrating with tools that may even be competitors, Bloom said.

Related Article: How to Simplify the Martech Stack

Building Stacks on the ‘Highest Quality Data and Tools’

Ultimately for practitioners like Christina Mautz, chief marketing officer of Moz, it’s a never-ending challenge to proving ROI through expenditures like martech. “This can be daunting to marketers trying to optimize their software budget for the best performing tech stack for their business, especially in an environment where CMOs and marketing leaders are increasingly under pressure to prove ROI on marketing budget expenditures,” she said. “At Moz we focus on tech built on a foundation of the highest quality data and tools that help us work more efficiently and with the greatest impact for our customers.”