Thursday, May 30, 2024

How Much Is Too Much?

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ChatGPT would introduce this topic by talking about the vast and swiftly expanding landscape of marketing technology. And it would be right to do so. According to Scott Brinker at chiefmartec.com, we’ve seen a 500 percent increase in MarTech solutions over the past decade. And ironically, thanks to ChatGPT and AI, we’re poised to see even more growth in the years to come.

These solutions are coming into existence to help marketers with incredible challenges and opportunities, such as understandingly increasingly complex customer journeys and datasets, but at great prices. Costs not just financial costs, but also costs in efficiency, direction, and even internal influence.

How should marketing teams approach the challenges today before turning to yet another piece of marketing technology? That’s what we’re covering in today’s episode of The MarTech Show, where Robin and Mike Allton dish on what’s shiny and new in the MarTech space, then do a deep dive into a specific platform or technology that can help you in your business today.

Listen to the complete podcast below or read on for the transcript.

Latest MarTech News Updates: Augmented and Virtual Reality

Mike Allton: Now there’s an interesting topic this week that I want your take on Robin. Earlier this year, Apple’s Vision Pro headset was released to a lot of hype and interest and cost $3,500, which is a lot for a virtual reality headset, particularly considering Meta’s Quest is a fraction of that cost. Now we’re learning from Apple analyst Ming Chi Kuo that interest has waned and that Apple’s cut expected shipments by 300,000.

Is this a sign that marketers should keep AR VR at arm’s length or at least steer clear of Vision OS and the Apple ecosystem for virtual reality? What do you think?

Robin Dimond: I think there’s a few takes. So I know we pushed it several weeks ago and we were talking about it, and we were super excited. I own one. The comments came back as, “It’s really heavy, it’s bulky on the face.” And we knew that. We knew the weight. I do think Apple is more strategic than we’re giving them credit for.

As a marketer, let’s think about that. And as a technology enthusiast, I want to also think about that. They called it the Apple Vision Pro. Knowing that there is going to be a dumbed down version, it gave them that growth. It gave them that price point to see what people would pay. But yeah, launching for next year, they’re already cutting that. It’s not going to happen in 2025. And they’re also saying it’s very unexpected. The results will keep going like they are. I want to give Apple a little bit of a cheer on, “Hey, you knew what you were doing by calling it PRO.”

Let’s get the scaled down version. And, Mike, I know you’ve tried on the headset when we’ve spent time together. There are a lot lighter headsets. You still have to stay ahead of the times. And I think we’ve actually talked about that staying ahead of the time. So, as a marketer, be prepared for leveraging augmented reality.

Mike Allton: Yeah, for sure. There’s definitely going to be additional headsets coming. I think you’re absolutely right about that. And then there’s this entire app ecosystem that’s going to take time to build out and develop. I think those are both very great points.

These days, though, most marketers don’t have an extra 4k in the budget lying around to snap up a Vision Pro headset for testing and eval, right? With economies and businesses continuing to struggle and gain momentum, marketing budgets are tightening, and yet spending on marketing technology continues to rise year over year. 2023 saw a 31 percent increase. In 2023 over the year before to over 670 billion total.

Introducing Jim Williams and Uptempo

We’ve got more tools and solutions than ever before. And we’re investing more budget than ever before. But at what cost are all these tools helping us drive more pipeline and positively impact the business?

Are they creating new challenges with our organizations and what are we supposed to do about it?

Jim Williams will give us his insights and answers to those questions. He brings over 25 years of perspective on the profound changes that continue to shape the business of marketing and leadership roles at category-creating MarTech companies. He’s both witnessed and contributed to the creation of the massive MarTech ecosystem and explosive growth of marketing operations. He was the first marketing operations leader at Eloqua, where he helped implement and evangelize modern demand practices, then went on to pioneer customer advocacy and the power of word of mouth at marketing in B2B and now serves as the CMO of Uptempo.

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Budgets and Investment for MarTech

Mike Allton: First, could you share what Uptempo does for marketing teams?

Jim Williams: Uptempo is an enterprise marketing planning software. We manage plans for some of the world’s biggest companies as well as their budgets and investment plans.

You can think about us as very large global organizations where you might have thousands of marketers and dozens of products and operate multiple geographies. And we basically tie that all together to keep marketing teams on the same page, and our product is a marketing system or record that allows people to plan better, spend smarter, pivot faster, and execute with confidence.

Robin Dimond: You’re coming from a marketing operations software company as a CMO.

Why do you think marketing teams are investing too much in marketing technology?

Jim Williams: Some question about investing too much and what the right amount is, but over the last couple of years, we’ve actually begun to see quite a bit of pullback and concern and questions around utilization of the MarTech that has been purchased. And what is the return on the MarTech that was purchased?

We were talking before the show about big events, and I’ll be going out in June to the Gartner Marketing Symposium, and last year, at that event, they put up some stats that said 75% of CMOs are facing really intense pressure to cut back on tech spend because they’re having a hard time seeing the return.

There’s a number of reasons for that. What is it? 13,000 MarTech applications, I think that Scott Brinker tracks now and is in his landscape. Not all of those are market-leading technologies. Many of them are experimental in nature, but the vast majority of them are what I call front office applications, meaning they’re tools to help you with the activation of your marketing plans, right? The execution of your MarTech?

They’re email marketing tools, customer journey tools, ad tech, data service providers, social, event apps, webinars, SEM, SEO, blah, blah, blah. All of these tools designed to better engage customers or buyers. And what they deliver back to the marketing org is an overwhelming flood of very tactical data, metrics, you know, clicks, impressions, etc.

What that leaves is a couple of problems.

One is what we call it the fog of marketing, where you have this overwhelming amount of execution data coming back into the organization, but a real challenge trying to analyze that data and level it up to the point where you can answer fairly basic questions about is the marketing strategy working, dollars allocated to marketing, delivering a return on investment.

And if not, how would you change your plan? That’s the problem that we see often.

Mike Allton: I’m glad you mentioned Scott and his landscape of the marketing technology. We’re actually going to have him on the show in a couple of weeks in a special bonus podcast episode because he’s coming out with his 2024 version. We want the scoop. We want to understand why we’re seeing what we’re seeing. And I’m glad you made this distinction between spending more or spending differently.

It’s not necessarily increasing or decreasing budget, per se. It’s making sure that we’re spending and we’re budgeting and we’re prioritizing in the right ways.

That was a conversation I had just this morning with my CEO. Are we prioritizing the right things here at Agorapulse and are we spending our time on those priorities? Whether that’s technology or individual time and efforts and initiatives, or are we doing the busy work, right? Or are we, like you said, getting drowned in this cloud, this marketing fog of data that’s coming at us?

Spending Habits That Hurt CMOs and CFOs

So, we’re doing these spending habits, but probably not well. How are they hurting CMOs with their CFO counterparts? Has this created this kind of impossible marketing and finance divide, where we’re always just fighting over budget?

Jim Williams: It’s certainly not an impossible divide, but it’s very difficult, I think, for CMOs to navigate with their CFO counterparts, particularly in this environment. It’s been a pretty tough market for, say, the last 12-18 months.

And that, of course, creates pressure on budgets, spend, resources, etc.

A couple of things that really need to change, I think, in the relationship between marketing and finance.

One is that marketing overall needs to improve their financial acumen, like speak the language of the finance team. A finance team operates in terms related to general ledger codes and what their spend is, and typically marketers fall back on impression data. You know, “I’m getting this many clicks. I’m getting this many visitors, etc.”

That’s not necessarily the language that translates to business realities. Certainly not language that the board would appreciate or your investors would appreciate. And so that’s something that’s definitely needs to change.

But even more so than that, I think CFOs today expect marketers and who may be given 10 or 15 percent of revenues to go spend to drive business growth, to actually come back and justify that spend. They should know what is planned, committed, forecasted, and what’s actually been spent in real or near-real time.

They should be able to answer those questions and tie that expenditure back to return performance data such that. Do you really know what is your cost of acquisition by segment, by region, by product? What is the lifetime value of those segments? What is the performance against strategic objectives, not marketing tactics? And that’s really where marketing needs to go, especially in an economy like this.

Robin Dimond: I love that. That was where my next question was leading to: Where are we supposed to focus? And you put it very clear. It’s not just about everything being black and white, and you really need to focus on what is the return.

And so I love that you said that. I was writing down notes. And I love that you said the fog of marketing, too, and analyzing the data.

Where to Get Started

As we’re looking at that, you talked a little bit about this, but that return, you said 10 to 15 percent is what they’re spending, where should they start first—but what should marketers start focused and be focused on first?

Jim Williams: Start with company strategy. I think that’s where it starts.

All too often, what happens with that budget is the marketing team is handed a pile of money and then they start to think about what are they going to do with that money? What are the campaign objectives? They start to think about, “Okay, we’re going to run these programs, these tactics, these events, etc.”And often they’ll just take last year’s budget, copy, make adjustments and then start to execute.

And this is the persistent problem around planning. Planning is a top-down and bottom-up exercise for marketing teams, particularly global enterprise teams.

And what sometimes is missing is, well, what are the campaigns that are actually going to support company objectives, right?

That might be penetrating a new marketing or getting a new product launched, right? Or increasing wallet share or mind share.

I think all too often, marketers tend to fall back on: “We’re going to do these activities and kind of hope for the best.”

And so the first thing I’d say is get better at planning. There are planning methodologies that marketers need to embrace, that allow you to begin to cascade from a company objective to a marketing strategy, to a marketing theme, to campaigns that support that theme, to the different program types that might roll up to a campaign, whether it’s brand or customer engagement or demand or brand.

They’re all these program families.

They need to start thinking about, first, the taxonomy in their planning. What are these things called? And then the hierarchy. What is the relationship between different activities and the overall objective?

And so there’s a bit more science to this than I think many markers think about. But without that science, without that discipline around planning, it’s really hard to come back and answer those simple questions that you get from the board: Is our marketing strategy working? How much are we spending? And what return are we getting? And how would we change? We’re not getting the expected return that really starts with a good planning process.” And that is both marketing, objective, strategic, and campaign planning.

And then most importantly, how does that tie to investment plans? Where are the dollars being allocated today? And is that the best possible use of those dollars?

Mike Allton: What I’m hearing is I can’t just copy and paste last year’s budget plan, right?

No, but I also hear that what really helps is a solid operations department and a tool that is going to be able to give you the data so that you understand what worked and what didn’t, and you can learn and build stronger strategies.

Marketing Agility 

The concept you’ve mentioned before is marketing agility.

Is that essentially agile methodology applied to marketing, or is it different?

Jim Williams: I think about it as being different. Sure, there’s agile marketing, and Scott can talk to you all about that when you have him on the show. He’s written a book about it, which is quite good and highly valuable.

But when I talk about marketing agility, that’s different than agile marketing. It’s not as much about standups and scrums. It’s not about following the explicit methodology of agile. There are benefits to that, but a lot of that is activation and execution, folks being like, “Okay, how do we actually get a campaign to market?”

What I’m talking about is much more focused, as I’ve talked about already in this conversation on more of the back-office-of-marketing than the front-office-of-marketing. And that means: How do you architect a system of record that links your intent, your plans? What you plan to do with what actually is in market today against timeline with the dollars being spent against it, that’s your budget.

With the results that you’re getting, that’s performance data. Those things today are not linked. There’s a big hole in the center.

If the last 20 years of MarTech has all been all about collecting all of this data, what it has not been about is actually building a system of planning and a system for managing marketing budgets.

Today, those are managed, controlled, and on freeway, like your 2024 marketing plan is running on 1987 software, right? It’s PowerPoints and spreadsheets. So even in global organizations, you have the reality that when people want to know, “Oh, what is our plan and how are we changing it?” They go to some SharePoint drive and pull down some 200 slide PowerPoint. That can start sending that around by email to one another and when you want to know, “Okay, well, what have we spent so far in Q1 and how much do we have left to spend?” They go to version 923 of a giant spreadsheet that has many, many different worksheets linked together that comes from finance. It gets updated and sent over, and it just is hours and hours of wasted time, really poor collaboration.

It leads to a lot of really bad behavior. Grabs for budget to spend as quickly as possible, or dollars or campaigns following dollars instead of the other way around, like where a media team goes and buys a whole bunch of ad inventory and then goes searching for content in terms of the content team says, “You need to create something right now because we got to spend this.”

It’s just really, really bad behavior that can lead to a loss of credibility. Certainly, it can lead to overspending or underspending. You could totally ignore entire audience segments they need to hit, or you can oversaturate an audience that way when teams aren’t on the same page. Team infighting, lack of agility, lack of credibility, sometimes lack of employment if things get really bad.

There just needs to be a focus on kind of the back office system—what I call a marketing system record—to govern strategy through plans and finances. And then your front office MarTech stack can take over on the activation to pull that performance data.

Robin Dimond: I think that’s so interesting, especially when you said 1980 or 1990, like going into the back office, how many things do we actually all see?

Unfortunately, we see it in so many different businesses.

Strategic Operations

So, when you talk to us about strategic marketing operations, what is that, and how can an organization implement that strategic operation?

Jim Williams: This is a great question. Something I’m very passionate about.

I started my career in marketing operations. The best way to think about it: I was at Eloqua for years when it launched, and we saw the rise of MarTech.

First, we saw the rise of digital marketing followed by the rise of MarTech, followed by the rise of operations to deal with configuring MarTech, and then do the analytics associated—but then something happened where marketing ops stalled out, is the best way to say it.

Today, the vast majority of marketing operations professionals are mired in MarTech configuration tool management. And I’m going to be talking to you about how to get started with building integrations, managing data flows, doing some analysis on this very tactical performance data.

And many of them are asking themselves: Where do I go? Like, what’s my career path? How do I become more strategic? How do I get a seat at the table?

I have a very strong belief that the way you do that is to get into the back office side, planning, financial management, right? Be able to answer the questions about what should we do next based on how marketing investments are actually performing.

In that role, you move from the person that configures HubSpot to the person that becomes the eyes and the ears of the CMO, what to do next, where do we spend our next dollar. That’s the level of guidance that CMOs want to get from operations teams, but might not be getting it today. And, just as a case in point, very, very often when we go in and talk to customers globally, global accounts, companies like Cisco, as an example, have thousands of marketers and all these kinds of products.

Often we end up talking to the role of the chief of staff to the CMO. Like, the person that the CMO relies on to be the eyes and ears. Someone that is an intermediary before, between the operational teams to make sure there’s team alignment, cultural alignment, there’s alignment with the finance department to make sure that marketing is staying on budget and using their dollars wisely.

And it’s often that type of role. Our message lands the best, not with, say, the head of marketing operations and so there’s this divide right now. And I think marketing ops professionals need to bridge that divide by getting away from the technology and starting to think about business outcomes.

How Changes Affect This

Mike Allton: I love that you’re talking about outcomes. You’re talking about systems. It’s basically more than just marketing operations. It’s marketing operating systems.

How do you see these changing and working to help this overall situation?

Jim Williams: A lot of it has to do with, frankly, integration, there is still persistent problems where data doesn’t match up on your activation and your sprawling MarTech stack that you’ve built. That SEO tool might not talk to your website analytics tool, which might not talk to your ABM platform, which doesn’t connect with the marketing ops tool, which doesn’t connect to your sales development platform.

All of these things still need to connect from the front office, so you can normalize the data and get real insights from it.

More so than not, there needs to be a central repository that holds the plans and financial systems, the dollars. So that you can start to marry up not just the performance metrics that comes out of the MarTech stack, but that can tie back to what was the intent, what was marketing trying to do, and how much did marketing spend against that intent.

If you can link those three things together—your plans, your finances, and your performance data—now you can begin to answer those questions about: What do we do next? And is it time for a pivot? Is there an opportunity in the market we’re not taking advantage of?

Just think about the notion of you’ve got a thousand marketers distributed globally, and suddenly it becomes obvious to you that there’s a supply chain issue, right? And that’s going to affect your marketing strategy. Or there’s a new opportunity in cloud. That you have a product that needs to get the market quicker and you need to change perceptions and messaging, everything else.

How can you possibly get that team of thousands of marketers aligned around the change, if the way you communicate them about what they’re doing today is in PowerPoint and Word documents? It’s just impossible.

There needs to be a marketing operating system behind the intent of marketing activities.

The AI Impact (and Connecting With Humans)

Mike Allton: How do you see with all of these different systems, all of these sources of data, AI coming to the fore and being of assistance to companies?

Jim Williams: We’ve got to address the AI topic. I think what we’re seeing right now is just the very tip of the iceberg in what we call generative AI in its infancy. It’s totally disrupting the creative side of the business content creation side of the business, etc.

We’re seeing that already. What we haven’t seen yet is to be able to apply those models to the data side of the business, again, tied to the plan.

If the question that’s always on the CMO’s mind is where do I spend my next dollar to drive growth in the business? That’s the prompt that isn’t being answered today.

The reason why is because it’s so such a constrained model. It has to be so specific to your business, that those systems just haven’t been built, and it’s missing this layer of: If AI was going to go out and search for answers to that question today, where would they search to find out what’s actually happening?

Most people across the enterprise today do not have any idea what campaigns are actually being put into market at any given time. Think about it. We’re talking about AI, and there’s been a never-ending elusive quest to just get a calendar. Just get a calendar that you can share.

Who has a marketing calendar? Everybody and nobody.

And that’s, to me, the first order of business, align people around a unified source of truth. But what’s marketing actually doing right now?

Robin Dimond: It’s like he knows what I was about to ask because I was going to say, “What are other marketing departments or organizations change like to help better function?”

But I think you just answered this. Let’s get aligned. I love that you say we all have a marketing calendar, but yet seemed no one has a marketing count. Like, why are no departments ever talking to each other? And where does this actually live? And who needs to know? Like you said, all of those things.

So, if there’s any other places that you should focus other than that part, but any other things that marketing departments should really look to change first?

Jim Williams: I think it’s fundamentals as well.

Let’s come back to the calendar. 20 years ago, when I was knee deep in marketing operations, there was a problem of language. The marketing team would be talking about impressions and clicks or leads that we got from somewhere, or these are trade show booth visitors or whatever the case may be, and then the sales team is saying, “Well, we want not leads, but people that clicked on something like a lead.” Meaning an account to chase down, because we think there’s a business opportunity.

Even the word “opportunity” is such a subjective squishy term.

Nobody really knew what it meant. And so there was this whole revolution that took place.

With the rise of marketing automation, and then from beyond there to define explicitly and get people on the same page around a taxonomy, it’s not just a lead. This is a marketing-engaged lead, marketing qualified, sales-qualified lead. All those stages with agreements, like a contract. That sales and marketing would sign in blood and say, “All right, we agree.” This is what we’re calling these things.

Now apply that to the planning side of the business. You have one team in some region that’s calling something a program and another thing, a tactic, and this is an activity and this is an event, and this is what a campaign is. A campaign in one region might be a 12-month theme going after a specific audience segment.

In order to get alignment, get to the idea of a true calendar, you have to agree to what those terms mean. You have to establish that taxonomy globally. Build that hierarchy, and then you have to figure out what metadata or attributes. Do I want to associate to each of those objects at each level in the hierarchy Perhaps when I run a campaign, once we agree on what a campaign is, I also need to know the audience? The journey stages focuses on the products that supports etc.

And that operating system needs to be created and implemented in large global accounts.

Mike Allton: I need to have you on more often to talk about these deep topics because they’re so integral to the success of our companies and the performance of our marketing teams.

And yet to your point, the conversations people aren’t having enough. I had to laugh because you talked about 20 years ago, we created this taxonomy for sales and marketing. I’m thinking we’re still working on that in some quarters and trying to define these things. It’s still in process.

Getting Connected

I know folks are going to want to learn more about you and the work that UpTempo is doing. Where should they go to find you and connect with you?

Jim Williams: Well, of course, you can check out Uptempo at uptempo.io. You can connect with me on LinkedIn, which I think you guys push, as well. Those are two good ways to check us out.

And if, again, if you’re in a marketing operations function, I spent a lot of time thinking about the role of marketing ops. Putting product aside and solutions aside, if you just want to have conversations with more of your peers, we run a monthly what we call the Huddle. It is a gigantic, massive, open Zoom conversation. We have hundreds of people show up. We bring in different people to talk about different facets of your career, career growth, contract negotiation, working with vendors, all types of things. And it’s very curated. We don’t open it up to any person. You got to be a marketing operations professional to get in. And then we support that with a live Slack community where a lot of people exchange best practices as well. So check that out. It’s on Uptempo’s website.

Thank you for listening to another episode of the MarTech show hosted by Robin Dimond and Mike Allton, powered by Agorapulse, the number one rated social media management solution, which you can learn more about at agorapulse.com. If you want to make sure you’re part of our audience during live weekly broadcasts, take a look at our calendar at agorapulse.com/calendar, or click the subscribe button in your email. Once you register for any of these events, is there a particular tool or topic you’d like to see us talk about? Or perhaps you think your solution should be featured? Email mike@agorapulse.com.

Are We Investing Too Much in Marketing Technology?Are We Investing Too Much in Marketing Technology?

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