The Glut of Marketing Tools--Good, Bad, or Ugly?

May 30, 2014

Article ImageHow many tools does the average marketer use in a typical workweek? According to a recent report, 53% of mid-sized companies use five or more marketing technology solutions, while 15% use 10 or more.

If that sounds like an exaggeration to you, take a minute to think about it. If you enlist the help of a social media marketing platform, a content management suite, analytics to track web traffic, a CRM system, and email marketing solution the tools adds up. However, it doesn't always end there. Throw in solutions for e-commerce, media relations, web optimization, and marketing automation and the picture starts to get a little too crowded. Marketers today seem to be drowning in a virtual sea of apps, platforms and online services. Which begs the question, are these tools helping marketers or are they making their jobs more complicated?

The report, "Marketing Got Complicated: Challenges (and Opportunities) for Marketers at Mid-Sized Companies" conducted by Lawless Research--surveyed 300 marketing executives at mid-sized U.S. companies--seeking to find out more about the challenges facing marketers, according to DNN Software, the CMS provider that commissioned the report.

While the increasing number of marketing technology solutions doesn't help the strategy portion of the job, "they make the marketing infinitely easier in the sense that we aren't flying blindly," says Kelly Harrigan, a marketing professional at engineering firm Commonwealth Associates. "I think of them as airplane instrumentation, sophisticated guides that lead us to relevance and resonance within the market."

One explanation for the growing number of tools available is the increasingly large range of expectations that marketers are facing today. One marketer is often responsible for online marketing, social media, content, analytics, ROI, and more.

According to the survey, the average marketer at a mid-sized company is responsible for six marketing functions, while 30% of respondents are responsible for five to nine and 25% take on a staggering 10 to 12. As for Harrigan, she frequently feels "spread too thin" and points to modest marketing budgets at mid-sized companies as a possible culprit.

On the flip side, Navin Nagiah, CEO of DNN, says, "The easy solution is to say if only we had more money and more resources we could do so much more. I think it's a prioritization problem because even if you double the doesn't really double the just double the expenses."

"More important than buying up five different software systems is to ask what is needed to take each one and ensure that it is well implemented so that it's making a difference to your organization in terms of revenue before moving on to the next one," he adds.

There seems to be a void in the market for comprehensive marketing solutions for SMBs. According to Nagiah, "Companies willing to spend tens of millions of dollars have solutions that can solve all of their problems. No one provides an integrated suite that does its job effectively, is priced aggressively, and can be deployed within a few weeks."

The report also reveals a blurring of the line between marketing and IT, with several survey respondents calling for a "mini CIO" to be brought on to manage marketing technology decisions.

"There are two big shifts that happened over the last decade. The ownership of the website has shifted from the CIO to the CMO. Additionally, every new piece of software the company buys today is from the cloud. Business units are able to make software decisions without involving the IT department. Once you accumulate three, four, or five software systems, you run into the problem of connecting the dots, especially at the data level," explains Nagiah.

In recent years, there's been an increasing trend of hiring marketers with engineering backgrounds, such as Salesforce CMO Lynn Vojvodich. According to IDC's Top 10 CMO Predictions for 2013 "after the CMO realizes that he/she does not have the skill sets in place for data analytics proficiency, 50% of new marketing hires will have technical backgrounds."

Technology has dramatically changed the marketing landscape. Today, marketing is less of an art and more of a science thanks to a tidal wave of big data. In order to overcome the glut of marketing technology, companies could consider hiring marketers with tech expertise while also aiming to resist shiny object syndrome.

(Image courtesy of Shutterstock.)