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Is the growth of martech shrinking our marketing capability?

“Data is sending us all crazy.” A recent direct quote from the top marketer at one of the UK’s most prestigious consumer brands.

As we’re all diligently locked into the process of designing the budgets and marketing plans that will help us hit our targets next year, uncomfortable truths hang in the air; truths it would be healthy to voice and reflect upon before we start a fresh year of activity.


Marketing is in a bit of a state. In the past decade our discipline has obsessed about digital transformation, performance marketing, automation, content, social media, customer experience, personalisation, big data, creativity and more.

Read Mark Ritson’s latest takedown of Gary Vaynerchuk: No two leaders or gurus of marketing or brand management agree on what should matter the most to marketers – or why.

At times we seem to gift our counterparts in other disciplines the chance to project lazy assumptions about the marketing department’s bearing on and relevance to the central strategy of a business.

And as we look to prove our case as the engine for growth we naturally look for support and solutions to improve our processes and outputs. We buy or license software to help us speed up or sharpen our delivery.

The marketing technology landscape has doubled in size in the past two years and shows no sign of slowing. There’s a tool that performs every conceivable part of our role. I know this first-hand because my team and I make a living out of helping some of them grow their businesses.

Marketers now spend more on martech than they do on people – however many apps you already license there are 1000s more, ready to rinse your budget, focus and energy.

But there’s a question over how sustainable it is to keep adopting new tools to perform various elements of the job. The Drum recently cited a new Gartner report that marketers now spend more budget on martech than they do on full-time staff or, taken separately, agency suppliers.

For every app and tool employed by a marketing team, there’s data. Not insights, mind, not yet anyway – not before a human has got their hands on it. Every bit of data from one tool overlaps with the data generated by our other apps and tools. It’s not a perfect jigsaw because not all of the tools were designed to work with one another. There’s no single clear picture as a result of all the data you own that drives a clear and obvious action.

Some enterprise businesses employ more than 40 vendor platforms to power their websites alone. Another 7000 tools lie in wait to rinse a marketer’s budget, focus and energy.

As the customer engagement landscape continues shifting, modern marketing requires some new skills and expertise. Many senior marketers have adapted and evolved but retain the strategic sense to step back, see what matters most in any situation and act accordingly.

Weaker marketers however, hide behind dozens of tools that generate barrels of opaque data, analytics and meaningless metrics.

Reporting empty numbers that speak to customer actions nobody else cares about gets us nowhere and helps us convince nobody that we’re performing a vital function.

So, the question: with new martech tools offering us new services appearing almost every week, are we building up our marketing stacks in search of ‘complete automation’ only to find we forgot to use our brains and our gut instincts, the stuff that got us hired?

Part of our job as marketing leaders is to promote and keep safe marketing’s role as the strategic heartbeat of the business. The stuff we do and the value it creates should act as constant reminders to other departments that, armed with the insights we generate and the creativity we possess to exploit them, marketing is still the best weapon a business can rely on to understand and deliver for its customers.

Read next: 7 Ways Simple Helps CMOs Reduce Marketing Complexity

Mark Choueke is co-founder at Rebeltech. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.

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