“Attention Deficit … Ooh Shiny!” (ADOS) An epidemic amongst marketers?

Shiny Golden Ticket

It was a fellow speaker at a  conference in Stockholm that first alerted me to this phenomenon and since then I’ve been tracking it like some kind of obsessive virologist.

It may have just been a disposable (yet very insightful) quip, but it does point to an interesting challenge that modern marketers confront – how to know what technology to buy and how much of it is needed to be successful.

ADOS might well be a new term to you so let’s start with the background and what has helped incubate this condition.

It’s fair to say that technology has revolutionised the world of marketing and the continual advancement has left the average marketer with a bewildering array of options and an uphill battle to adapt their core skills to balance the spectrum of technologist versus marketer.

This continual shift has seen more and more technology choices for marketers and this has seen a directly-related migration of traditional marketing budget into the technology buying arena.

Alas many marketers are not experienced or skilled enough to understand the level of technology investment they should make the achieve their goals and couple that with some very skilled and persistent sales people in the tech sector, constant media buzz around the next great thing (which so often is technology-based) then it’s no surprise that many marketers contract this rather nasty condition. And frankly why should they have to be so skilled? You can easily argue that it’s unfair to expect one person or department to cover such a diverse and differing set of core skills – a technologist is rarely a good marketer and vice versa.

So how exactly do you know if you or somebody like you has this condition?

Easy – a case will likely show the following symptoms:

  • Large (relatively or absolutely) spend on technology.
  • Below-expected uptake or use of this technology in the marketing department.
  • Lots of different tools and platforms (more than five or six)
  • Far too many buttons or features in one of these systems that the majority of the team don’t know what do if pressed or turned on.
  • AND, importantly, little or no evidence of the value or return on investment of each tool or platform.

It’s becoming a real danger to the careers of some of those that fall victim to it too. Take Marketing Automation and my longstanding view on the reality of how much technology is bought versus the actual use of it. If you’re the person in marketing that championed the purchase of such a system and it’s not being used to its potential, not only could that contribute to less-than-required results from your marketing program, but it could easily stick out as a very costly purchase to the senior finance people in your business who look at such stark anomalies with a very dim view if not accompanied by clear evidence of the contribution to the bottom line they are making.

Put bluntly, if you are going to put your name to investing big in technology for marketing, you not only put your reputation along with it, but your regular monthly pay cheque too.

It’s vital that we take a more considered and measured approach to such investments. Do the requisite level of requirements gathering, due diligence and roll-out and adoption planning to be confident that the majority of what you are buying is going to be used and that what it offers aligns to your marketing goals and measures.

Pleasingly this potential conflict is being addressed latterly by many marketing organisations as they create new roles such as Chief Marketing Technologist (CMT), but not all of those will even report into marketing (only 80% of US companies that employ them actually place these heads in the marketing team, according to Gartner) but it is a start and recognises that it takes specialist skills to procure the modern marketing arsenal that an organisation needs – where hopefully the equilibrium of cool (and shiny) features are balanced with clear business benefits and evidence of value-based return on that investment.

If installing a CMT isn’t a workable or affordable solution, then what else can you do?

It would be lazy for me, an agency worker, to just say that employing external expertise is the answer. It most certainly can help – seeking advice and support from an independent can be a solid investment. I’ve personally written and managed vendor selections for marketing departments on many occasions and the fees are easily covered in the savings in the amount of tech bought (or not bought).

But you can also make life easier by ensuring solid requirements before you start – break down the list in to must-haves versus nice-to-haves and be really honest about the reality of how quickly your organisation will roll out all of the features and tools the technology comes with. Often the bloat of the cost comes from those shiny extras that you don’t even get near from an implementation point of view in the first year of the licence.

This may seem a slightly cautious approach but my experience from seventeen years of using and buying technology for marketing is that you don’t get fired for starting small and scaling (once the incubation has worked) in fact you tend not only save budget, you make friends in departments not commonly pro-marketing (finance, IT) and you set out a road map that gives your organisation confidence in that often means the overall success links directly to your progression and promotion.

Do it, be brave – believe that when it comes to marketing technology, less is nearly always more (and avoid the temptation for all of those shiny bells and buttons)

Image courtesy of cinemanostalgia.net (and Charlie Bucket)

Steve Kemish

Managing Partner, Junction @skemmo

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