Roundtable report: Are CMOs transitioning for the future of martech?

20 May 2019
By: Tom Stein
Chairman and chief client officer
Stein IAS

B2B Marketing’s Joel Harrison and Stein IAS’ chairman and chief client officer Tom Stein sat down with a room full of CMOs to talk about martech. Here they reveal the challenges leaders are facing

Martech is unquestionably a topic of constant conversation at present. It’s also undeniably a rapidly expanding area in B2B, as its importance to marketing success continues to rise. However, despite one recent study stating that B2B CMOs consider martech the single most important area to master at this point in time, the staggering scale and sophistication of today’s martech means that the quest for successful usage has actually become much more challenging.

With that in mind, prior to ‘Get Stacked’, B2B Marketing’s inaugural and highly successful marketing technology conference in March, we sat down with CMOs and senior marketing executives from a variety of B2B organisations. Here we discussed the myriad challenges they face to achieve martech mastery and gain the ability to build and manage a tech-enabled marketing machine that’s fit for 2019 and beyond.

The real-life, at-the-coalface barriers

Universally, investment in martech has increased over the past several years, this accounts for a greater slice of the overall marketing budget. Yet, for all the data supporting martech’s growth, many marketers’ proficiency in using martech and realising the desired benefits lags. So what are the speed bumps slowing them down?

The marketers we spoke to feel that though it’s a full quarter-century since digital marketing achieved mainstream adoption, we’re still relatively in the early days. Many are at the beginning of their digital marketing and martech journeys and feel like they’re “now rapidly trying to catch up with the whole martech agenda.”

Tech stack complexity and selection process has proved a key challenge. The vendor landscape has figuratively exploded, bringing into sharp focus the term ‘tyranny of choice’. While the size of the average tech stack and the number of platforms within it varies between about 15 and 50. Accordingly, prioritising platform selection – fully leveraging the capabilities of platforms in place, assessing new ones and integrating them all together to deliver collective impact – is the order of the day.

In particular, attribution is top-of-mind, and thus the search for tech solutions and analytics that help marketers understand the value and contribution to their businesses.

“We’re massively underplaying our contribution. We are not able to fully understand and optimise ROI, and we’ve not got the seat at the table that we should have”

CMO roundtable attendee,

Transitioning the team

Talent and skill-sets was also a key topic of conversation. Martech clearly requires new skills. The marketers we spoke with generally are taking a blended approach – building skills within their existing organisations as well as bringing new ‘martech-native’ talent on board. This particular challenge is magnified by the fact that “while talent is in demand, there’s more demand than supply.”

Managing the skill-set of teams and upskilling where necessary is vital. Having people that are numerate, organised and process driven, which many marketers aren’t particularly, is key.

As one CMO expressed, “Now is the time to be getting everybody on board, and getting people to really embrace it.”

Another bug bear raised was that the reluctance of IT to embrace digital marketing transformation. In the words of a CMO we spoke to, “IT’s not close enough to the business to understand how to deliver what’s required and its strategic importance,” they said.

“IT aren’t coming with us. My job has gone from being a digital marketing expert to a CRM expert, an integration expert and a martech training expert”

CMO roundtable attendee,

The evolving role of the agency

Agencies have long played an integral role in the development and delivery of B2B marketing. From our conversation, it’s clear that won’t change – but the nature of the role will vary per the needs of a given marketing organisation.

Said one marketer, “We’re continuing to use specialist agencies that bring something different” In contrast, another commented: “We rely on our agency to advise on martech adoption – we let them pick what’s best. We rely on their opinion. We work with them on a plan at the start of each year. Given the rate of change, we couldn’t manage this in-house.”

Importantly, the general consensus of those in attendance was that instead of adopting digital tools or adding digital approaches to the existing mix, marketers are transforming their go-to-market approaches, their organisations and their processes to be fully digital. Marketers are now starting to seek agency support to connect all the dots necessary to digital marketing’s transformation. They must connect strategy, creativity, content and technologies. Integrated competencies are now essential and agencies must not only must reflect that in their offering but deliver it reliably and at scale.

The martech roadmap

Interestingly, many CMOs revealed that they only have a short-term martech roadmap, no longer than a year, given the pace of change and challenges of realising impact. Some however are taking a longer-term view. One in particular revealed she has a five-year roadmap, with the support of their agency: “We know where we want to be in five years’ time in terms of technology and what needs to change in that time. We’ve developed and evolve our roadmap in partnership with our agency. They have a team that stays abreast of what the future looks like.”

Whether shorter-term or longer-term, the collective view is that technology investment has to be driven by organisations’ digital marketing transformation roadmaps. Our CMO’s agreed that building a transformation roadmap with tech at the heart starts by defining the overall business and marketing goals to ensure that each decision made aligns with the future destination. Conducting a SWOT analysis of your customer journey will also help assess current maturity levels and opportunity gaps. To help define the future vision, teams should consider and prioritise all the use cases relevant to their organisation, identifying which one have a place in the roadmap based on the value they can deliver if fully realised. Building an action plan for each use case will help identify technology requirements, investment, resources and KPIs to measure effective deployment. The outcome is a single vision that unites all teams on the transformation journey.

Among all the CMOS we spoke with, the one thing for certain is that those with the will and rigour to navigate digital marketing transformation will increasingly leave the rest behind. While there’s still a long road to travel, the destination surely is worth the journey.

Great news! Tom Stein will be presenting at Ignite 2019. Stein is also sponsoring the leadership stream where they will be discussing how to develop a transformative digital marketing road-map. Don’t miss this session, attendees will even receive full survey findings as well as a Digital Marketing Transformation workbook!