Why B2B Marketers Aren’t Using More of the MarTech They Have

Ever buy something you didn’t use?

Be it a shirt or a timeshare or the latest tech gadget, we’ve all made purchases that sounded great upfront… but never actually got much use.

This happens a lot with marketing technology. Depending on the source you cite, the problem is either catastrophic, or simply a missed opportunity.

The truth probably falls somewhere in between. While marketers could certainly be better about using more of the marketing technology we have (rather than just buying another shiny new toy tool), there are reasons why we’re not leveraging the technology we already have to its full potential. Until we define and address those blocks, we can’t expect much to change.

First, let’s define the issue: how bad is this problem of unused martech? How much of our marketing technology actually goes unused?

One recent study found “only 3 percent of marketers get full value out of their tools”.


On the sunny side, that same study reports that marketers are actually fairly confident about their ability to leverage the marketing stacks they have. They may not feel like they’re squeezing every dime of potential out of the technology, but half of them rate their ability to use what they have as “good”.

That certainly leaves room for improvement, especially as more than a quarter of them rated this ability as “fair”. But it’s not quite as dark a view as that first stat suggests.

Still… why aren’t we doing better than this? With performance expectations rising ever higher, and the competition breathing down our necks all the time, why aren’t marketers using more of the tools that could help them drive and show results?

The answer to this is a blend of logical reasons and human nature. But fundamentally – if we had to describe it in just a few words – it comes down to a matter of money and management.

Let’s talk about the money first.

How Money and Budget Play a Role in B2B MarTech Adoption

To wit:

  • Ascend2’s recent study of marketing technology strategy shows that finding enough budget is the primary obstacle to adopting more marketing technology.
  • Half of the marketers in another study (cited above) named “budget” as the primary reason they aren’t adopting marketing technology faster.

So, is this issue simply a financial constraint? Is all this underused martech just a consequence of not having enough money?

It may be part of the problem – a big part, but while money may be a problem of not enough martech getting used, it may not be the problem.

Especially because we are putting more and more money into marketing technology.

The average B2B company already spends 10-19 percent of their total budget on marketing technology. Software and technology companies spend even more – an average of 20-29 percent of their budget goes to martech.

Most companies are increasing their budget for marketing technology, too. In both the studies mentioned above (from Ascend2 and Walker Sands), about half of the companies surveyed are increasing their marketing technology budget “slightly”, while 20-43 percent of them are increasing it “greatly” or “significantly”.

And, as you’ve probably heard before, CMOs are now spending more on technology than CIOs are.

So there’s quite a lot of money already going into this.

While more money helps (sometimes helps a lot) simply “throwing money” at any given problem may not be the best move. But when so many marketers cite lack of budget as the primary thing blocking them from adopting marketing technology better, that suggests that maybe some more money would help.

This is the first item to troubleshoot when determining why your company isn’t adopting marketing technology. Ask yourself and your team: Are you allocating enough budget to make the adoption possible?

“Throwing money” at your marketing adoption problem may not solve the whole problem, but it can at least give people more resources to work with.

Which leads us to the next issue – and what I think is the real underlying cause of why more martech isn’t being used.

Implementation Challenges and Resistance to Change

A lot of martech is a nightmare to implement. There. We said it.

Maybe not all martech is a nightmare. Maybe not even your martech. But even if implementing and integrating any given piece of marketing technology isn’t a nightmare, it’s hard and it takes time.

And nobody has any time.

The reality is that a time-starved marketer who lives on deadline will almost always backburner a new martech product that requires a significant amount of implementation. She simply cannot afford to take a week, a day, or even a few hours to figure out how to make the new tool work. That deadline has to be kept.

She’ll do what she’s done before – choose the devil she knows, as that old saying goes – and stick with the old technology. The old way of doing things.

And sure enough, the one marketing technology study that asks about “internal resistance to change”, it’s named as the second most common obstacle (25 percent) as to why more marketing technology isn’t adopted.

Now, is our marketer being resistant? Yes. But never underestimate the tyranny of deadlines. We expect our people to meet them – and that goal is primary. As in, other priorities have to be ignored so those deadlines are met.

I worry this situation is exacerbated when it’s the C-Suite who decides which piece of martech to buy. CMOs are usually the decision makers in purchases, and because they don’t have to go down into the trenches of implementation meetings, it’s possible they dismiss (or at least underestimate) how hard implementation and integration can be.

Fortunately, there is a solution to this. It’s not necessarily giving this more money.

It’s giving implementation more time.

Instead of picking a random date (January of next year) for when your new technology should be up and running, define several phases of implementation. Then block out how long each one of those phases will take.

And then add at least 25 percent more time.

That’s your final implementation date.

If this seems like it isn’t aggressive enough, that’s OK. Push through these deadlines as hard as you want. Get them done early. Beat your deadlines.

However, odds are you’ll still barely get the implementation done on time.

Know why? Because marketers dislike learning new tech. Maybe not all of us, but many of us.

Marketing Technology’s Growth Is Overwhelming

The idea that marketers dislike learning new technology is not just an opinion, and it’s certainly not meant to knock marketers.

But as one study recently revealed, “Learning and using new marketing technologies” is among marketers’ least favorite things to do.

If you dread learning and using any new marketing technology, guess what? You’re not alone.

But actually, most of us are learning the new technologies anyway. Two-thirds of marketers agree or strongly agree with the statement that they are “always experimenting with new technologies for marketing”.

Unfortunately, while some of us may not like learning new technology, we need to. If for no other reason than because our competition is learning the new technology. If we want to compete (and keep our jobs), we need to know how to use the latest tools, too.

Moreover, knowing new technology can also help you get a new job. Our bosses – CMOs – value experience with marketing technology platforms a lot. I mean, really a lot. It’s the first thing they consider when hiring:

And yet, they don’t allocate a lot of money to help us learn this stuff:

This puts marketers in a crunch, because the speed that marketing technology is evolving and the rate that new products are being created is truly awesome (or terrifying, depending on your view).

To give you a sense of how rapidly the technology options are expanding, in 2011 Scott Brinker’s annual infographic of the martech landscape had about 150 companies represented.

In 2012, that more than doubled to about 350 companies.

By 2014, it doubled again to 1,000.

The count doubled again in 2015 to 2,000, and nearly doubled again to 3,500 companies in 2016.

Last year’s infographic, shown below, counted about 5,000 marketing technology companies.

Is it really any wonder marketers feel overwhelmed? That they don’t want to spend their very precious and pressured time to learn yet another piece of martech? That half of marketers (56 percent) think the martech industry is evolving faster than their companies’ use of marketing technology?

The takeaway here: It’s not just you. Having “too many technologies to keep up with” is the top frustration marketers have with their marketing technologies.

And yet, we’d better get better at implementing this tech, because next year… that infographic may double again.

Fortunately, we don’t have to use every product. The average number of martech products per B2B company is “only” 16.

And there are rich opportunities for improvement. Just adding better personalization to your messaging can make a major difference. Or use the new technology to improve how you nurture leads.

Or use it to get ready for GDPR, and clean up your data. Data quality is often one of the biggest roadblocks to implementing new technology. The old adage of “garbage in, garbage out” applies whether you’re building a sophisticated new predictive analytics system, or optimizing a gif.

I suspect you know all the capabilities of this new technology, though. The companies selling it (God bless them) are pretty good at explaining what is possible.

And we all know the technology works. Every study cited here reports that there is good ROI from most of the marketing technology being used. Even if it isn’t being completely used.

What we need is a change of mindset.

Marketers Need to Evolve and Embrace MarTech

Here’s the deal: Marketing has gone high-tech. That isn’t just a tagline to sell software – it means that marketers are increasingly “marketing technologists”. That means we need the skills of technologists, and the ability to embrace technology. As technology evolves, and evolves again, and evolves again.

Because there’s no going back. As hard as it may be, almost nobody who gets the new technology implemented wants to go back to the old tech. I, personally, do not miss reading hundreds of pages of server logs; I prefer to check Google Analytics.

While many of us feel unprepared for the coming technologies (and behind on even the current ones), this is the new normal.

Here are a few ways to adapt:

  • Petition your boss to boost the amount of training you get.
  • Consider investing in a few courses that expand your skills.
  • Slow down those deadlines. Give yourself the time to actually do a tutorial for even one piece of your marketing technology once a week.

This is also an opportunity (and a responsibility) for the martech firms themselves. Implementation has got to be made easier. Using these tools has got to be made easier. Training needs to cost less, be easier to access, and maximize every minute of a marketer’s time. The martech companies who get this may become the leaders of their industry. And may their tribe increase.

Final Thoughts

We’re not going back to index cards and server logs. And honestly, while the new tech might be hard to understand at first, I doubt many of us will miss much of the tedium and the clunk of the old tech.

What do you think about this shift toward technology? Are you up for it, or not?

How well is your company using the marketing technology investments you’ve made? Share your answer in the comments.


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