Don’t Fall Victim to the Tempting Allure of Shiny Toys

Marketing, particularly the promotion of Marketing, has certainly come a long way since sellers hawked their wares in the marketplace or from a traveling wagon. Chasing the next shiny toy seems to be a long tradition in Marketing. There has been a continuous flow of new channels and technologies for over 250 years!

New Milestones in Marketing: 250 Years in the Making

1760’s: The Royals endorse Josiah Wedgwood’s pottery.

1835: The ancestor to today’s billboard and the first use of direct mail for a campaign

1836: The first paid advertisement runs in the French newspaper La Presse.  

1851: The Great Exhibition, the father of modern trade shows, is held in London.

1905: The first recorded celebrity endorsement – it is for Murad Cigarettes – gives rise to what becomes Influencer Marketing.

1917: Three Marketing associations (The Association of National Advertisers, the Direct Marketing Association, and The Four A’s Association) emerge, each concerned with measurement.  

1922: The first paid radio commercial airs in WFAN advertising a new apartment complex.

1941: The first official paid television advertisement runs in the United States.

1978: Gary Thuerk, a Marketing Manager at Digital Equipment Corp produces and sends the first mass emailing to 400 customers over the Arpanet.

1991: The first web page created by Tim Berners-Lee goes live.

1994: Joe McCambley runs the first online banner ad.

1997: CSC launches the first ABM-like marketing.

2005: Major brands launch major SMS campaigns on mobile phones. The first ad appears on Facebook. Jawed Karim posted the first YouTube video.

2006: The first tweet.

More Marketing Channels Lead to Marketing Technology

The proliferation of channels has made gaining customers’ attention challenging. Most customers are now comfortable navigating across channels. As the channels have proliferated, so has the technology. In 1986, ACT!, a contact and customer management company, introduced the first database marketing software to the business world. Unica provided the first marketing automation tool in 1992. Before Marketers achieved success with websites and email, we were chasing search marketing, mobile marketing, and social marketing. All of these gave rise to new technologies we “just had to have.” By 2012, there were over 350 Marketing Technology companies. Today the Marketing landscape consists of 5,381 solutions! The average company is closing in on 20+ Marketing Technology (MarTech) solutions. According to the Transforming Marketing Through Technology and Analytics study, nearly 60% of marketers say they don’t get the most out of the MarTech they have.

There’s More than Cash on the Line with Shiny Toys

When it comes to shiny toys, Marketers can’t seem to help themselves. Influencer Marketing, ABM (account-based Marketing), new twists on well-established ideas, and now Artificial Intelligence are the sirens beckoning today’s marketers. There is a dear price to pay for the shiny toy addiction. Despite all the advances in technology and analytics, the Transforming Marketing Through Technology and Analytics study echoed the results of many studies, the most difficult Marketing challenge is “quantifying the effect that marketing efforts have on new sales revenue, or creating/quantifying the most efficient cross-channel mix possible to drive results.”

If we cannot connect Marketing investments and activities to business results, we risk being irrelevant to the C-Suite. This lack of alignment and accountability affects Marketing’s credibility and influence in the C-Suite. Marketing cannot secure an expense budget, add talent, or stay abreast of new developments if the C-Suites doesn’t believe in you.

Here’s how to remain relevant and credible:

  1. Align to the Business, Not to Your Sales Team. Aligning Marketing objectives to the business is vital to demonstrating Marketing’s focus on contributing to the business. The Marketing plan needs to be more than a list of what you plan to produce, the cost and timing.
  2. Prove Effectiveness. Demonstrate that your investments are adding value to your organization. This requires that you select the right performance targets and synch your channels with your customers’ buying journey. This means you must know your customer’s personas, buying journey and preferences. Your company’s outcomes and benchmarking will guide performance target setting.
  3. Speak the language of business. Avoid the use of Marketing jargon and translate Marketing into business terms that resonate with members of the C-Suite, especially the CEO, COO, and CFO, 
  4. Build a solid business case for any new shiny object. A business case provides the analysis that demonstrates to the C-Suite that you’ve truly considered the value of a new investment and what it takes to properly staff and implement it. Understand the strategic context and implications of your new toy.
  5. Master the toys you’ve already acquired.

Consider these five points before taking the plunge that will, at least, help you appear more strategic in your deployment of a shiny new toy:

  1. Customer and market demand. Have the customers you want to connect with and engage adopted the new channel, or are you getting ahead of them? Being first on the block may be irrelevant if the markets you serve or want to serve aren’t ready. The timing of deploying a new channel should be based on how stable it is and how familiar and comfortable people are with using it.
  2. Skill level. Do you and your people have the skills to successfully implement and use the new toy? If a successful implementation requires complex new skills, and if it is too time-consuming or costly to acquire that level of competence, it may be too soon for your organization to tackle the new channel.
  3. Payoff. New channels have a steep learning curve and are costly. The adoption of a new channel may require configuring systems, upgrading technology, or even adding new systems and training employees. Before you embrace the new shiny toy, develop and present the business case that assures your leadership team that the investment will pay off.
  4. Vehicle stability. Are the standards for the new channel or technology stable? The value of a new channel or technology increases once the standard of use is established. Otherwise, you may be in for a lot of rework—and that means time and money.
  5. Critical mass. One of the reasons new channels and technologies risk our credibility is that they often have relatively poor performance in their initial incarnations. A key strategic factor to consider before deciding to adopt a new channel or technology is whether there are enough suppliers in the market to make the adoption easy, cost-effective, and user-friendly.

Deciding what and when to deploy Martech, doing the research and creating the business case, selecting the right vendor and optimizing your manual processes before you automate them, and change management takes many resources. If your Marketing team is lean, or there is no one on the team with best practice expertise in some of these areas, or if you need a catalyst for change, or an objective point of view, consider bringing in a third party to help, ultimately speeding up achievement of the MarTech ROI and revenue-oriented benefits. Choose a company that has:

  1. Deep expertise
  2. Pre-developed tools/templates/frameworks
  3. Experience working with other companies in your industry  
  4. Knowledge transfer methodologies so that your team can implement best-practices for the relevant skills, change management, and communication going forward
  5. Relevant, satisfied customers as references