Lately, some voices in the marketing world have been raised against marketing technology or martech. They claim that marketing is becoming too invasive, too loud, too automated, and too annoying. They suggest that content marketers are excessively reliant on marketing technology, overly obsessed with hunting and retaining customers.

A few of these long-time experts, weary and perhaps overwhelmed with the vast amount of marketing messaging in the world, are essentially washing their hands of the entire profession. Mark Schaefer wrote an article claiming, “In my own beloved profession of marketing, the primary application of technology is to find increasingly sophisticated ways to annoy people.”

It’s true that any form of communication can be used for positive or negative messaging. Content marketers can employ their martech power to annoy people — or they can use that power to add value to customers’ lives, improve products, and make the world a little bit better.

In a truly symbiotic buyer-seller relationship, both the seller and the buyer benefit from the partnership. I would argue that martech makes that kind of mutually beneficial relationship easier to attain — and here’s why.

Life without martech

Many marketers are forecasting that the marriage of big data and marketing is one reason why martech shouldn’t be discounted. In speaking about how big data is helping improve marketing, Adam Hutchinson, Senior Marketing Manager at Socedo, spoke about Marketo’s investment in big data, “Summit 2017 underscored a fundamental shift in the way marketers are required to consume and take action on data. Marketo is investing in its big data architecture to fuel the engagement economy.”

The arrival and increasing relevance of big data are making it impossible for mere human beings to manually handle all the necessary information and tasks involved in marketing products or services for a company. Hutchinson went on to predict that marketing technology and big data platforms will merge, and that “sending a single irrelevant message to a contact will become absolutely unacceptable for B2B and B2C marketers alike by [May] 2018.”

Mad Men marketing

source: Mad Men

The world is full of businesses, all pushing their products and services via print ads, mailings, TV ads, radio ads, and massive amounts of social media messaging and digital advertising. To completely reject marketing technology out of a misplaced desire to return to some golden age of advertising is to commit marketing suicide. Kicking the software to the curb just doesn’t work in today’s world, and is sure to leave your audience with an impression that your brand is irrelevant.

Staying afloat

Imagine a medium-sized company, with a reasonable array of martech solutions under the guidance of its content managers. With the software, the marketing team is able to maintain a blog with current, interesting articles. They can re-target visitors who leave their website without buying, sometimes turning reluctance into a sale. They can reach further on social media, growing their Twitter and Facebook audiences at an acceptable rate. Thanks to a few pop-up ads and some carefully targeted email campaigns, new customers are arriving every day.

This company isn’t growing by leaps and bounds, but the growth is there, thanks to the implementation of marketing technology. This business is keeping its head above the murky waters of big data. It has a clear voice amid the noisy splashing of all the other businesses bobbing around it.

Drowning in data

Now, what happens if this company decides to quit using marketing technology? Suddenly, its voice is much quieter, overwhelmed by the cacophony of other businesses. It isn’t able to reach its customers as effectively, so they begin to drift away. The company might be able to tread water for a while, but eventually, it will sink.

The true value of martech

Instead of rejecting martech and labeling all modern marketing as “annoying,” it’s important to understand how marketing technology actually enables better connections with customers.

Saving time

No marketing team member or content manager wants to spend days sifting through data, trying to identify optimal ad placements in the vast world of the Internet, or creating email lists from scratch. Why not instead spend that time being more creative with your ads? Crafting better content for blogs and webinars? Designing promotions that engage positively with customers? Martech solutions collect data and enable you to quickly target audiences so you have more time for the real work of marketing.

Saving money

Why spend your company’s hard-earned profits on a campaign that doesn’t reach the people who need your product? With marketing technology, you can tailor your audience more carefully and talk to the people who really want what you have to offer. Sure, you may have to invest some money into the martech software up front; but in the long run, it will pay off. You won’t just be yelling into the marketplace; you’ll have a direct line to the consumers whose lives and habits could be improved by your product.

Case study: saving time and money while gaining relevancy from martech

At my main employer, Kuali, we have leverage marketing technology to save time and money, and this has given us the time we need to make sure our marketing content and advertisements are more on target and better speak to customer needs.

martech stats

Before martech:

  • Launching a new webinar (getting emails together, landing pages made, campaigns set up, etc) would take a good 8 hours of logistics time.
  • The same online advertising messages targeted the full industry of higher education, even though Kuali has four different products that each only apply to their own small sub-segments of the higher education industry.
  • Emails announcing events, product improvements, and promoting value adding content were sent to our full database, even though the given messaging only applied to a segment of that database.

After martech:

  • Launching new webinars now only take an hour or two. We are realizing efficiencies in many other places too. As such, we’ve been able to publish more valuable content. From 2016 to 2017 we experienced a 3x increase in blog posts and other marketing content.
  • Online advertising is more targeted, saving us money but also making our brand more relevant to our prospects and customers. We have heard time and time again that our marketing content is seen as helpful and non-promotional… and yet it is also increasing our sales!
  • Segmenting our audience for more helpful email content has dramatically increased our email open and click-through rates.

While this case study example is specifically about how Kuali uses Marketo, I have seen it time and time again with a variety of marketing technology platforms across many client projects. Take the increased efficiencies you get with ClearVoice as another example: Brands using ClearVoice are finding better freelance writers and are doing so more quickly and more affordably.

Use martech appropriately

Like anything else, marketing software and automation can be overused or misused. As you continue to implement martech solutions at your company, keep a few warnings in mind.

Don’t interrupt the user too often.

Instead of filling your website with pop-up ads and offers that slide across the screen, limit those interruptions to just a few, on high-traffic pages. Be sure to link the ad content directly to what the visitor is reading or shopping for, and make the intervention more helpful than pushy. Does your pop-up add value to the visitor’s experience? Does it improve their knowledge of the product or service? Does it tempt the visitor to purchase in a subtle way?

Honor the CAN-SPAM Act.

Only email people whose addresses you obtained by honorable means. Give individuals a clear option to unsubscribe at the bottom of each email. It’s in your best interest that they unsubscribe if they’re not interested in your product; that makes your email list more tailored and effective. Martech solutions are all about targeting the right people, not blasting every possible email inbox with a one-size-fits-all message.

Streamline your martech stack.

Some marketing teams have too many pieces of martech software. If you suspect that your martech stack is getting bloated and taking up too much of your team’s time, cut off some of that excess. Get rid of martech solutions that perform duplicate functions, require too much upkeep, or don’t yield the results you need. Limit yourself to just a handful of top-quality solutions that are intuitive and highly effective.

Be honest.

Sure, marketing is all about clever wording and taglines and hashtags and the right images — but at the root of it all, there needs to be a product or service worth buying. Avoid using your martech in a sneaky way, like advertising a webinar as “Live!” when it’s actually pre-recorded. The attendees will know the difference, and they’ll feel deceived.

And consumers won’t like it when you throw click-bait onto your social media accounts without the pithy content to back it up. As a content manager or marketing team member, you can leverage martech to build trust with potential customers, rather than tricking them into coming to you.

Facebook's transparency rules for ads.

In an effort to combat the fake news problem, Facebook has issued new transparency rules for ads. If you’re not honest of your own accord, it will only be a matter of time before the platform you are using to distribute your content cracks down on any sneaky practices.

The heart of the martech matter

Maybe the problem with modern marketing isn’t martech, after all. Marketing technology is just a collection of tools, and many of them are high-quality, excellent tools that can broaden a business’s prospects and build solid buyer-seller partnerships. Are those tools being used to bombard, overwhelm, and annoy prospects? Or are they being used to teach, connect, and build customer relationships? The answer is entirely up to you.