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We Are Only Using 33% of Our Marketing Tech — And Draining Our ROI. Here's What Needs to Change to Profit Off Your Investment. Thousands of martech tools have been discarded this year, mainly because of misaligned expectations and misguided implementation. Here's a better way to get value out of your martech stack.

By Zack Rosen Edited by Maria Bailey

Key Takeaways

  • Question 1: What are your business goals — and how can marketing tech help you get there?
  • Question 2: What do we need to change about how we operate to get the outcome we want?
  • Question 3: How do we determine we're on track to getting long-term value?

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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In the aftermath of the pandemic, many companies purchased new software – a lot of it. Then came the downturn, and those same companies were forced to examine how much – or how little – value this new tech was driving. This has been especially true for marketing teams, which have been prime targets for shiny object syndrome amidst a rapidly growing array of martech solutions and the pressure to do more with less. With most organizations only using 33% of their martech tools' capabilities, it's perhaps not surprising that as budgets shrink, teams underleveraging their martech tools have been forced to shelve them.

But the problem may not have been that the technology "just didn't work." Software on its own is not a silver bullet. And, while vendors have a role to play in ensuring customers can implement their tools, the actual value is the change in how your organization operates *enabled by the software*. You only get this value after the software gets implemented and you change how you do things, including team coordination and buy-in, planning and execution.

Simply put, every tech purchase also needs to come with a mindset shift about the required change in operations — starting with the end goal and working backward toward the implementation. This approach requires addressing important but often difficult questions, such as how your team is set up, how responsibilities will change and how you will adapt and improve the way you work together.

Related: Invest in These 5 Technologies to Redefine Your Marketing Efforts

Great software with built-in workflows that act as guardrails for your team makes these changes much easier. But you will only get there if you answer these kinds of questions:

Question 1: What are your business goals — and how can marketing tech help you get there?

Rather than taking a bottom-up approach to buying martech, marketing teams should instead start with their business goals — and how software can help them get there. The key is to be explicit about expected outcomes. At a minimum, you'll need to align the head of marketing and the technology lead for marketing on the fundamental goals of the project — and clear expectations on roles and timelines.

But what if this doesn't happen? I've seen this situation play out more than once in the world of digital marketing. The recent push for decoupling front-end and back-end website architecture has led to the introduction of tools like Front-End Sites. At face value, these tools make some pretty enticing promises: more modern and elevated web experiences for users and more seamless integration within a brand's digital ecosystem on the back end. Where things go off the rails is when the technology investment and approach aren't tied back to the marketing team, their needs, expectations and goals. The technology is complex, and it often comes with drawbacks for marketers – like more challenging publishing workflows – which they usually aren't aware of upfront. These issues can be overcome as long as the teams involved go in with the recognition that the tools don't always offer a quick fix.

The outcome is never just the purchase of the software itself; it's about having a plan for internal transformation to get the desired results, whether your intended outcome is optimized workflows, increased efficiency or better customer experiences.

Question 2: What do we need to change about how we operate to get the outcome we want?

Here's an uncomfortable but important truth: Without making internal changes geared toward extracting value, software is essentially useless. Martech buyers (and sellers) need to be willing to get honest about the internal changes required to achieve the outcomes they are after.

Collaboration between marketing and IT is key. Developers know that any complex software is going to be complicated to deploy, challenging to integrate and won't always work. Marketers must be aware of this, too – and it must be communicated and planned for. Ideally, you'll want to pull together a team including marketing, UX design, development and IT to collaborate on an approach that enables the organization to make iterative improvements on a phased timeline.

It may also mean taking an incremental approach to building and rolling out features. Our digital agency, TNB, did this with their clients to help them deliver better and more valuable online experiences. They undertook an extensive roll-out process to test Front-End Sites as they implemented it, ensuring they made it easy for clients to use the tool right away. And because of that upfront investment, their team has been able to shift budgets away from back-end work and over to front-end work, where it will have the most significant impact on users.

All software implementations should be treated this way – with a cross-functional team and an agile approach that enables everyone involved to get what they need – if not immediately, then at least with a measure of transparency. If your organization isn't set up to approach implementation this way, then aspects of how you communicate and collaborate may need to be addressed.

Related: How Automation Can Change the Face of Your Martech Stack

Question 3: How do we determine we're on track to getting long-term value?

Smart tech buyers know that the job doesn't end when the tech is acquired. I've lost count of how many projects I've seen fail altogether when teams didn't plan how to track value over the long term.

So, how do you know the tech is working for you? This is where having clarity on the desired outcome becomes critically important. To measure this, establish baseline metrics according to your specific value drivers (marketing teams will likely want to tie them to customer experience outcomes). Then, track your progress over time. You don't necessarily need to hit all of your goals overnight. Start with rolling out basic functionalities that will improve the customer experience and then build over time. This will instill confidence in the team and show that progress — and results – are possible.

Ultimately, successfully buying and implementing martech is more about taking an intentional approach than it is about technical specifications. The tech that empowers business transformation can change people's job descriptions, organizational structure and processes — in a good way. But getting there requires patience and a concerted effort.

When you do all three of these things and you align all stakeholders (including finance, procurement and even the CEO), you will be amazed how much easier operating can become. These simple but sometimes hard early conversations so often make the difference between the success and failure of technology investments.

Zack Rosen

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Co-founder and CEO of Pantheon

Zack Rosen is the co-founder and CEO of Pantheon, an established leader in the WebOps space, and a passionate proponent of advancing the open web.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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