How can we keep tabs on the growing martech toolkit?

A digital marketer is spoiled for choice if they’re in the market for tools - and let’s be honest, who isn’t?

It’s fair to say that we’re almost driven to distraction in the search world for the right tool for the right job. Every paradigm shift needs a new tool, every new platform opens up a fresh opportunity and there are additional workflows which can be shortened or optimised.

Spending on marketing technologies within in-house marketing teams or an agency comes with a number of challenges.

Balancing the return on investment of marketing activities and being able to demonstrate this are, in theory, becoming easier because of the selection of available. But the continued proliferation and the fragmentation of the marketing space make it harder to see which ones add value.

How can we keep tabs on this growing tool kit?

Marketing tech spend is on the increase

This feeling is typified by a recent Kentico survey suggesting that agencies are planning to increase marketing tool spends, and is one that is akin with challenges we (at StrategiQ) are faced with at present.

Whilst I would go so far as to say that there isn’t a digital marketer who couldn’t increase their spend given the chance, with budgets being finite and the long-term goals of any marketing activity being broadly the same, the level of scrutiny needed in order to be effective is only growing.

There are some important questions that we are faced with:

  • If we can automate 80% of simple tasks on a weekly/monthly basis with tools, should we?
  • What is the benefit (not just perceived, actual) of this process?
  • Will our clients see this benefit?

It goes without saying that the third point is the most crucial. What does this tool enable us to do differently and how will the clients benefit from this?

In the first quarter of this year, we recently rebuilt our reporting systems with an effort to bring together the insights across the channels we market on into one place.

Firstly, this was to bring more transparency to all aspects of the campaign, but perhaps more importantly it was to enable the marketing delivery team to make more informed decisions on the campaign management.

We’re not finished the process yet - unlikely anything will ever be ‘finished’ in this way - but the additional spend in this area has enabled significant progress.

Whilst machine-learning and AI are making great gains, thankfully for marketers, the need for a specialist is still high

There is no such thing as the 'right tool' for every task

There is no one-size fits all solution. No matter how ambitious the tool or how talented the team behind it, the need to increase spend as the tool-kit grows is inevitable.

Along the way in-house teams will likely be more confined by their choice in tools - mostly dependent on their annual budgets. But agencies will find themselves presented with a familiar choice: increase the tools budget when needed, but risk a bloated monthly spend OR attempt to build the bespoke solution for themselves.

Neither approach is unproblematic, and greatly depends on a number of points:

Large tool-box

  • How can you help finance know how important each tool is?
  • Which tools are paying for themselves (in gains)?
  • Can you afford the higher monthly costs?
  • How can all the tools/workflows link up? Does the fragmented nature of this cause more problems than it solves?

Bespoke solution

  • Do you have the skills/knowledge to build what you need?
  • How can you capture the requirements for the production accurately enough in the planning to ensure it meets the requirements after production has finished?
  • Can you afford the investment you’ll need into the production?
  • Are you prepared to deal with your own downtime/infrastructure issues?

Central to each of these points is, who does it really benefit? Are you trying to get more work done or be more effective with the work which is required?

Whether you build something bespoke to your needs or finding the right combination of “off the shelf” options, the end result is often the same.

Ensuring tools are being used for the right reasons

The above Kentico survey results suggested that from their sample 89% of those who planned to increase spend would benefit from greater efficiencies.

What it doesn’t give clarity on is where the efficiency comes from, and more importantly, what this means for the campaigns they deliver.

The effectiveness of a campaign and the streamlining of a process aren’t as intrinsic as many would hope. For example, do you check for issues on a daily/weekly/monthly basis manually, or only go looking for them when you’re alerted of a problem?

Being proactive in this process is far more time-consuming, but any kind of automation is only as good as the information you have and the rules you programme into it.

Key considerations for marketing tech

Very few can have their cake and eat it. Being able to have the tools you want and work to your specifications is a real advantage - many aren’t aware of the costs/time to achieve this.

Yet finite budgets will always have a constricting effect on which tools are actually employed and the wish list will never stop growing.

Being disciplined with the procurement and application of Marketing Technologies is trick to master. Just because there is a tool or a quicker method to your goal, it doesn’t always mean it is prudent to move in that direction.

There is a fine-line in a report that ticks a box and one that adds value to a campaign - understanding where you fit into this process can be challenging.

  • How frequently is the task  (daily/weekly/monthly)?

If it is something you’re doing frequently, there’s a tool which can likely do it for you. Monitoring the pagespeed of a website may only take 6 minutes, but done over 50 clients four times a month is nearly half a working week in man-hours. The £120 subscription to Pingdom (which will alert you when pagespeed becomes an issue) looks exceptionally cheap when balanced with £2,000 to £3,000 worth of billable time.

  • Does it require specialist attention/appraisal?

Whilst machine-learning and AI are making great gains, thankfully for marketers, the need for a specialist is still high. Many believe that many more day-to-day tasks could soon be completed without direct intervention, if a task in question doesn’t need your time - a tool could take the load off.

  • Does completing the task provide anything meaningful?

Receiving an alert when organic traffic drops by 25% can be useful, but what happens to that alert when received? Is the alert a true indication of something that needs action and is someone going to look into it? Or to look at another scenario, if you’re being tasked with populating a Twitter pr Facebook feed with regular, relevant content does your automated solution do so in a way which is beneficial to your client and meet the overall needs?

  • How can you demonstrate the effects of your tools, are you allowing for moments of introspection?

Allow time to really be critical about your tools/processes and reflect on whether than actual gains match up with the initial business case. The effectiveness of activities will always change over time, two years ago, for example, link removal was big business within SEO and a micro-industry spawned by Google’s changing emphasis (and enforcement) of its quality guidelines. For a relatively short while many tools which enabled whole service-lines to be built - but in the time since where the need for these services has dropped, who was checking this return they brought about?

What does this mean for the marketer’s toolkit?

Our main concern is that the toolkit remains fluid and flexible along-side the demands placed on it.

Spend will always likely change and increase, but the prosperity of company and industry at large will be the biggest driver on high tightly (or not) things are ran.

More interesting perhaps is the question on the role of marketing automation and whether more of our day-to-day duties will need a greater level of assistance for successful completion.

Effective customer nurturing programs which are personalised to the individual are only possible with new technologies that remove any prohibitive manual-work.

But what remains is the notion of over-encumbrance from tools. Will marketers of the future feel paralyzed without the support tools provide or will the core values of marketing transcend the methods by-which we complete the task?

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