7 pitfalls in marketing technology

and tips to overcome them

Peter Desmyttere
May 21, 2019
⏱ 8 min. read

Do not underestimate the laws of marketing technology implementation. After all, the choice of a MarTech tool is just a choice. Afterwards, people and processes will determine success. There are few ‘bad’ tools within the landscape, but there are masses of inadequate implementations. In this article, I will list the most critical pitfalls in the implementation of marketing technology for you and immediately give tips on how to make a success of the set-up or implementation.

The marketing profession is on the threshold of in-depth digitisation. In a previous article, you could read that one-third of the marketing budget gets spent on marketing technology on average. The marketing technology landscape is, therefore, exploding. In 2011, the marketer had a choice of some 150 digital tools to work faster or more efficiently. In 2019, that offer has risen to more than 7,000 tools.  

ChiefMartec's Technology Landscape from 2011 to 2019.

This abundance of choice (there are dozens of tools for every question or challenge) is, on the one hand, good news for the marketing profession, which in recent years has been digitising more slowly than, say, the sales or HR organisation. However, there is a downside to this. Marketing managers, marketing directors or managers of marketing agencies encounter a lot of unexpected problems when choosing and implementing marketing technology in their team. The hallelujah feeling after selecting the tool(s) will, after some time, give way to discussions, loss of time, frustration and even a return to the old (inefficient) way of working.

Pitfall 1. The IT department chooses

It is not uncommon for marketers to come across the comments "We already have a system with Microsoft365, make use of it." or "On IT we use Jira, which works fine for projects." in their search for digitisation. It is logical that IT prefers to limit the number of tools in a company, if only because of security and privacy issues. 

It is unfair to force a platform that works fine for IT on marketing without any changes. After all, IT projects differ fundamentally from marketing. The former almost always bring a project from A to B, while marketing projects run more on constant actions and campaigns. Moreover, marketers often have specific needs that are unprecedented for the IT team. It is, therefore, improper to equate the world of IT technology with the pervasive and differentiated MarTech world.

Tip: Take a thorough look at IT to see why they are putting 'their' tool first. Then go and check the arguments against the shortlist or choice that you as a marketer put first. Identify all the pros and cons and motivate why you would like to choose a particular tool, especially if it is not the choice of IT. Marketers should respect the fact that IT professionals come from a period in which they had full control over software within the company. The rapid rise of SAAS (Software As A Service) software in marketing, where the data runs in the cloud, is often a breaking point for IT. 

Pitfall 2. The team has no say in the choice of the tool

A marketing team is not only a collection of individuals (from scatterbrains to hyper planners, from digital illiterates to nerds); it also includes various planning techniques or digitisation needs. Did you think everyone would change their mind when the management announced that they had chosen a new tool? No way. Only when the team has sufficiently endorsed the need for a specific solution, there will be support for the search for technology that will undoubtedly meet the wishes and obligations of the team.  

Tip: Identify all the tools used within the team at an early stage. Let employees motivate why they work with them and check their needs in terms of marketing technology. Don't go on the rocks at this stage! After all, you will be confronted with change management in this phase. The more your employees are involved in the choice of tools, the higher their involvement will become later on. You don't have to include all team members in this exercise, often a strategic team of 'early adopters' is sufficient.

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash.

Pitfall 3. The choice for a self-service tool

As stated in my intro, there are thousands of marketing tools. Most of them are very accessible in the form of a free trial period. Enter your name, e-mail and start! Auto guidance, onboarding videos and an extensive help centre will then (in theory) put you on the road to success. 

However, you will quickly encounter detailed questions. You will have problems translating your specific way of working into the tool or you will be overwhelmed by the 'bells and whistles' that the tool offers. In the fascinating world of marketing technology, do-it-yourself usually means under-utilisation of the system or the wrong design that leads to half-hearted collaboration within the marketing department.

Tip: Never start from the assumption that the tool itself will help you 100% on your way to the solution. You will always need help: with the so-called 'onboarding', with the implementation and with the final use and perseverance in the team. Therefore, check at an early stage whether the company behind the tool offers support with onboarding, implementation and use. You will often have to pay extra for this, but this investment pays off. An alternative could be to involve your marketing agency in the choice, onboarding, implementation and use of the tool. They can become your preferred service partner.  

Pitfall 4. Looking for 'the tool that can do everything'

Marketers often have a hard time with the tsunami of tools coming at them. For almost every specific action, there is a category of tools available today. Wouldn't it be great if there would soon be a 'super tool' that can plan projects and campaigns, that directs social media, that does Marketing Automation, that distributes content to influencers, that makes data clear on a dashboard and that provides insight into customer behaviour? Unfortunately, this super tool is not going to happen. Consider digitising as building and managing a toolkit; every tool has its use and function.

Photo by Philip Swinburn on Unsplash.

Tip: Stop searching. That tool does not and will never exist. The average marketing team uses different tools at the same time. The trick is to connect those tools - each of which covers a specific question or need in its own right. In the technology landscape, there are so-called APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), which exchange accurate data between software. It is even easier to use an iPaas platform (Integration Platform as a Service), such as Zapier, which can immediately link your tool to hundreds of other tools within the ecosystem.

Pitfall 5. The team has no processes or internal agreements.  

Has the tool been chosen? Is the team enthusiastic? Awesome! They can work with the design and use the technology. Beware: the use of the MarTech tool is at least as crucial as the choice of the tool itself. A 'way of working' must be sought within the team in which everyone follows the same actions and processes. Does everyone do his/her own thing? Then the technology becomes a garbage can that nobody likes to work with anymore. 

Tip: 'A Fool with a Tool is still a Fool'. The key to success in the design of marketing technology is a synergy between people, processes and tools. Unmotivated people using the right tool in a chaotic working environment are doomed to fail. Always bear in mind the 'processes' component to the choice of a particular tool. How do you get team members on the same wavelength? Who takes ownership during onboarding and use? How do you communicate internally about the use? How will external parties be involved in the application? These are just a few of the questions you will have to answer. If you don't, they will come back to haunt you. A simple PowerPoint with screenshots and decisions can do wonders.  

Pitfall 6. The solution does not fit into the ecosystem around the team

New marketing technology runs in an ecosystem where there is more and more interference with other systems. For example, a KPI dashboard retrieves its data from other digital sources, a new content marketing agency will like to work with its planning system, or the proper functioning of a new tool may depend on its integration with the internal ERP system. Each tool may be an island in the vast MarTech ocean, but you can't manage without bridges between the islands.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash.

Tip: When choosing a specific marketing technology solution, involve all stakeholders around your team. Think in the first place of marketing agencies, marketing freelancers, any consultants, the IT manager(s) and the management to which you have to report. It would be a shame if, after the choice and design, you were to conclude that there was a better solution for you that just came from your network. 

Trap 7. Don't rush it

Setting a deadline or target date when setting up a MarTech tool is fine. Realise, however, that you can't start designing without a step-by-step approach. The complexity or diversity of features within each tool is so high that it is unfeasible to make a long sprint. As mentioned before, the human factor will be the most significant constraint. How fast can the team go? However, also, the complexity of the organisation will play a role. Integrating a comprehensive MarTech tool in an international marketing organisation with various departments is not the same as translating the Excel planning into a project management system for two marketing colleagues who are physically seated next to each other. 

Tip: Do you know the term Kaizen? It is a Japanese philosophy in which small changes or improvements in the organisation are brought continuously about. So draw up an implementation path or growth path for the design of marketing technology in your organisation. First, determine which questions and features should be tackled and used as a matter of priority. Know that it takes longer than you wish to implement technology in practice. After all, you work with people in a marketing team. It is more fun to strive for sub-targets together than to want to create a 'big bang' in a short time.


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