A great philosopher once said “The barrier to change is not too little caring; it is too much complexity.”
In 2011 a marketeer called Scott Brinker produced an infographic called the Marketing Technology Landscape (MarTech). This had several categories, for example, CRM, marketing automation, social media analytics etc and, in each category, 5 to 10 logos of brands and platforms you could consider. So, for CRM you had Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics and so on.
In total the marketing landscape had about 150 options to choose from in 2011.
Fast forward a decade and this year that number totals 9523!
As a thought experiment let’s assume you want to review all the technology offerings Martech has to offer. Assume you spent a day researching each platform or technology and had short discussions with various stakeholders about the benefits and costs etc.
Obviously, some technologies would take a lot longer to research and evaluate and some would be quite quick. But for the basis of this thought experiment, let’s assume each one averages out to one day of your time. Arguably not nearly enough but let’s stick with this logic for now.
Also, you deserve a holiday so you get 21 days off every year and will be working a 5-day week.
In this case it would take you 39 years, 6 months and 16 days to finish your evaluation. Also, you did not take a single day off sick so well done you but now go see a doctor!
The less comforting news is that now you have finished your work over 39 years later you have to start all over again because the landscape has changed. Safe to say if the Greeks had invented the internet, this task would have been one of their labours in Greek mythology.
What this really tells us about the challenge for small marketing teams
This thought experiment tells us that the exponential growth of marketing technology and marketing channels makes it impossible for one person or small team to fully cover. There is a human instinct to feel we must know all of it, but it is literally impossible.
Part of the trap is not that long ago you could know most of it. Maybe not all of it, but you understood where each category was placed in the marketing mix and had deep expertise in one or two areas. This thinking was summarised by the idea of a “T-Shaped” marketeer” and perpetuated the belief that if not everything, marketeers could know ‘almost’ everything.
The exponential growth of technology suggests this is no longer the case and this is particularly a challenge for smaller marketing teams which maybe constitutes 90% of marketing teams globally. It also throws up several challenges …
1. Overwhelm and Decision Fatigue:
The sheer number of choices can lead to decision fatigue, making it difficult to determine which solutions are most appropriate for their specific needs.
2. Integration Complexity:
MarTech tools need to work seamlessly together, but with thousands of options, integrating them can become a complex puzzle. Small teams may struggle to manage and maintain these integrations effectively.
3. Resource Constraints:
Small teams typically have limited budgets and personnel. Acquiring and managing a wide array of MarTech tools can strain their resources, making it difficult to optimize their marketing efforts.
4. Skill Gaps:
The diverse range of MarTech tools often demands a broad skill set. Smaller teams may lack the expertise needed to leverage these tools to their fullest potential, leading to underutilisation.
5. Data Security and Compliance:
With the increasing number of MarTech tools, data security and compliance issues become more challenging to address, especially for teams with limited resources.
So, what’s the answer?
Perhaps the first step is accepting it is no longer possible to know everything and equally acknowledging where your strengths as a marketing team are. The four other steps include:
Opt for MarTech solutions that offer seamless integration with your existing stack to minimize integration complexities. But also, where possible, think about solutions that can plug in and out, so if they end up not being suitable you can easily swap them out of your technology stack
Focus on Specific Goals:
Clearly define your marketing objectives and select MarTech tools that align with these goals. Avoid the temptation to adopt tools that may not be immediately relevant.
Invest in Training:
Allocate resources for ongoing training and development to bridge skill gaps and maximize the potential of your MarTech tools.
Lean on Expertise:
Consider outsourcing certain tasks or consulting with experts to fill gaps in your team’s expertise. Perhaps this is the obvious conclusion, but finding specialists who can manage the technology will be worth the investment because it gives you back headspace and capacity to focus on the things you are good at.
Small marketing teams are usually the guardians of the organisations brand and message. They are often unsung hero’s spinning plates and wearing a multitude of hats that people are unaware of. If some of the technical side of marketing is absorbing too much time, it makes a lot of sense to outsource this, to give back time to focus on what the team does best.