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Martech (Marketing Technology): What It Is And What It’s Not


By Victor Ijidola

Technology improves lives; we all know it does.

Instead of climbing tons of stairs in skyscrapers, we have elevators. Instead of making a trip to the bank to withdraw money, we can buzz past an ATM.

I mean, you know all the advancements tech has made across the board over time.

In the same vein, marketing technology (martech) is a way to improve the lives of marketers and make them better at their jobs.

More importantly, it’s a way to serve customers better.

It’s not a way to quickly scale, at least not primarily. Scaling and revenue come after effectively using martech to listen and communicate.

In fact, using martech as a medium to primarily get results can make you annoy people. Or as veteran marketing consultant Mark Schaefer puts it:

In my own beloved profession of marketing, the primary application of technology is to find increasingly sophisticated ways to annoy people.

“In my own beloved profession of marketing, the primary application of technology is to find increasingly sophisticated ways to annoy people.” - @markwschaefer Click To Tweet

But it shouldn’t be. Marketing technologies are tools to serve people better, not annoy them. Let’s delve more into what martech is and what it’s not; starting with what it’s not.

What marketing technology is not

Here’s a list of what martech isn’t — or at least, what it shouldn’t be:

1. Martech is not a way to trash marketing fundamentals

The same fundamentals used during the times of marketing legends like Ogilvy are still the ones in action today. Martech is not a way to skip them and make money.

Who are you targeting? Where do they hang out? What problems do they face? What features in your product will help them solve those problems?

These are the basic principles that make up any good marketing strategy, and they’ve not changed regardless of the advancements technology has brought into marketing.

Marketing success is almost always about repeating these fundamentals.

When looking at the fundamentals that can satisfy the child, it was frankly pretty simple. Diaper clean, *check* (it’s overrated how hard it is to change them), fed, *check*, burped, *check* or move the child around. All done. Go back to the basics when you are trying to solve problems. Keep it simple. — Noah Kagan of AppSumo.

We shouldn’t, as marketers, lose sight of marketing fundamentals because of the glittery spell of technology.

We shouldn’t, as marketers, lose sight of marketing fundamentals because of the glittery spell of technology. - @VictorIjidola Click To Tweet

You might remember when Bank of America replied to anyone who tweeted at them with something along the lines of “Hi, we’re Bank of America, how can we help you?” — regardless of the content of the tweets.

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The bank was clearly using a marketing software tool to respond to their Twitter mentions — forgetting that martech is nothing without an actual human manning it to ensure that the fundamentals of marketing are duly followed.

Hey, if you’re selling marketing tools or services, see how five marketing-related brands like yours scaled from zero to millions using content.

Gizmodo called it a “hilariously epic mistake”. And it was.

But that was back in 2013.

Bank of America has a better grip on their social media customer service. They’re now using social media as a tool to really be helpful to customers.

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There’s clearly nothing wrong with using marketing tech. But it must rely on the  fundamentals of marketing — it must provide customers with what they really need.

2. Marketing tech is not a way to spam Google

There are marketing tools, like KWFinder and SEMrush, that provide you data concerning what your customers search for on Google. These tools show you the keywords that get queried every month in your industry, including how many queries those keywords get.

Or better put, SEO tools are not meant to be showing you how to rank in Google. They’re meant to show you how you can provide users with information that they need.

SEO tools are not meant to be showing you how to rank in Google. They’re meant to show you how you can provide users with information that they need. - @VictorIjidola Click To Tweet

For example, Founder of Powered by Search Dev Basu once asked expert SEO Joy Hawkins why companies in Mississauga were showing up when “Toronto SEO” is searched on Google. To answer Basu’s question, Hawkins decided to investigate a little further.

She found that these businesses figured “Toronto SEO” gets thousands of searches a month and decided to just rank for it, regardless of whether they could really offer searchers the services they need.

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Hawkins shared a screenshot that shows how the local results looked before she started reporting all the listings:

toronto seo Google Search

The marketer’s mindset is my main target here. SEO tools aren’t meant to help you learn what people search for so you can place yourself as the go-to provider of the resources they seek.

If your mindset is to just use these tools to rank on Google, you may get blindsided by technology and end up giving customers what they never asked for.

There are also tools that show you how to communicate to Google that you have, on your website, what potential customers are looking for. They’re often called on-page SEO tools — which includes YOAST, All In One SEO, and SEOPressor.

These tools also help you tell Google your site is a good resource for people.

YOAST, for instance, may tell you to mention your keyword at least six times in the piece — which is good as it tells Google what your focus keyword is.

But being overly focused using tech as a way to rank can make you feel you should stuff keywords even in places they don’t fit in your content.

As much as these tools encourage reasonably placed mentions of your target keyword, you want to ensure your content still looks good and feels natural to people.

SEO tools are strictly a way to find what your customers need information about and then, they are the way to tell Google you have the information they need.

3. Martech is not a way to “get customers to do what you want”

Marketing technology isn’t a medium to make customers do what you want. Rather, it’s about convincing customers you have what they want.

Marketing technology isn’t a medium to make customers do what you want. Rather, it’s about convincing customers you have what they want. - @VictorIjidola Click To Tweet

For example, the first Twitter paid advertising I ran was so much about what I’d get people to do. I had an offer (a gated piece of content), Twitter ad platform was my choice tool for amplification and my landing page would seal the deal.

It was all about how people would sign up for the content after they see my ad and click through to my landing page. But, what about what they wanted? These people are seeing my brand for the first time, why would they hand over their personal information to a total stranger?

What they needed first, perhaps more than anything else, was a level of trust. And I hadn’t considered that.

The campaign began. And I watched as Twitter spent my tiny budget on the clicks I got. In the end, I got over 11,000 impressions but only six leads. Yep, six.

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Nothing wrong with Twitter of course; the platform did its job, getting relevant eyes on my ad. But my own part was flawed. I promoted a piece of content that required the personal information of people who didn’t know me from Adam.

Before people hand you their names or emails or convert in any way, they really need to know one or two things about you.

You see, it’s not just about the technology to promote content. The focus has to be on the customer.

Lessons learned: I should have gotten people familiar with my brand first by promoting an ungated post to them, and then retargeted the same readers with my gated content. Chances are good I would have seen a higher conversion rate.

This is like what growth marketer Chris Von Wilpert recently shared about how he helped Sumo get 100,000 visits to 200,000 in a month.

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Chris wrote some content for website traffic tool Sumo and promoted it via paid ads on Facebook. Then Sumo’s team retargeted those same readers who clicked the ad into a sign-up group.

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This is a classic example of shifting your perspective from incorrectly using marketing software —  to get customers to do what you want —  to actually caring that they need to trust you first.

What marketing technology is

Here’s a list of what marketing technology is:

1. Martech is a way to connect with prospects on a simpler level

The marketing technology landscape has clearly brought simplicity into how marketers communicate with prospects.

140 characters on Twitter, for instance, and you’re already doing a great job talking to current and future customers. Where it can run off the road is when you begin to use the platform as a means to drive nothing but traffic and sales for your business.

Instead, just engage. Even if you’re going to share a link to a page on your site, seek to engage your customers first. After all, it’s all about them.

Hiten Shah put it this way…

We all should remember the social in social media. Otherwise it would just be media. Social media on the whole is all about people.

“We all should remember the social in social media. Otherwise it would just be media. Social media on the whole is all about people.” - @hnshah Click To Tweet

Just sharing a tweet or post with a link to your site may not cut it. Make it more fun; it’s social media. If possible, make most of your updates all about the customer, and nothing about you (or your links). Engage users with really interesting content so that when you eventually share a link to your site, the engagement rate on that link will skyrocket.

That’s like what Stephen King, for instance, does on his Twitter. He shares interesting tweets without links and gets massive, massive engagement:

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King doesn’t try to sell anything, he just posts tweets that entertain and inform his followers. But he has 1 million+ twitter followers. Could that be why he has this level of engagement? Nope.

There are numerous other brands and influencers with scads of followers, but most of them don’t get this level of engagement. And that may be because their tweets aren’t entirely for the customer.

But of course, I’m not saying sharing links to your site on social is entirely useless. I’m saying you should put engaging customers at the top of your list and every other thing second.

Social media guru Gary Vaynerchuk says…

You gotta throw some jabs (good, non-promotional content) before you throw your right hook (promotions). My favorite analogy to illustrate the difference between jabs and right hooks are cartoons from the 1980s. When the Transformers cartoon was on Saturday mornings, you would tune in and watch for free. You’d do the same with The Care Bears. Or GI Joe. You’d watch the cartoons and not have to pay a dime. But when the movie or new action figure or toy came out, you went and paid for that. Cartoons were the jabs that pulled you in so you would then pay for the movie or toy.

In other words, the mainstay of your social media content should not be salesy promotion. Engage people: that’s your set-up. Engagement will help drive attention to your brand. Once you have their attention, you can then introduce your pitches. And you will have a good chance for a knockout.

2. Martech helps you collect and use data, but you verify your acquired data.

Acquiring data and actually using it to grow your business is smart.

Dominique Jackson of Sprout Social says it like this:

Collecting data just for the sake of having it is almost as bad as not collecting it at all.

There are many marketing tools out there designed to acquire data, and there are also many tools that help you effectively use data.

But not all acquired data is true — until you verify it. That a tool has told you 70% of your customers are students does mean it’s accurate; you need to go a little further and verify your collected data.

…we can take an anecdote of data that we hear once — perhaps from some survey that someone ran years ago, with who-knows-what kind of methodology, that produced a tantalizing soundbite that has bounced around the web with various interpretations and embellishments — and accept it as gospel. We can then weave it into our own sermon. We believe it. And with enough passion, we can persuade others to believe it. But that doesn’t necessarily make it true. — Chief marketing technologist Scott Brinker.

You also want to be especially careful if you’re looking to use some data for a decision that will affect the entire success of your organization; you want to be sure you’re taking the right step.

To verify data, talk to relevant people. This will improve your chances of getting things right.

When I was a young marketing executive in the pre-Big Data days, I worked for a Fortune 100 company that had hundreds of customers all over the world. To keep on top of this diverse marketplace, I pored over every sales and service report looking for ideas, feedback, and trends that would give me an edge. I was on the road with customers all the time and once a year we had ‘listen to the customer’ visits, where a trained, cross-functional team sat down in a very formal, structured research meeting to unearth new product and service opportunities. — Mark Schaefer of Business Grow

Talking to relevant people — asking them questions — is a great way to find out whether your data is trash or spot on. Get on the phone with them, email them or pay a visit if you have to.

You’ll unearth truths about your business like never before, and if your data says A while a good number of customers say B, you’ll know your data needs to be reviewed and verified.

3. A way to establish trust between the customer and the seller

You’ve probably come across one of those messages on LinkedIn that pops in your inbox right after you accept a connection request.

I certainly have:

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The fundamentals of human connections don’t change because there are new tools on the market. These tools help to facilitate our connections; they’re nothing in and of themselves.

Take CMS platform Medium for example. The platform is nothing more than a content marketing technology that helps you connect with target customers.

Again, it’s a mindset issue. If you don’t see the tool as a way to serve customers better — but rather, a means of getting your products out — you’ll end up pushing out salesy content that does nothing but annoy your target customers.

In the end, martech is all about satisfying the customer

This post is in no way aimed at condemning marketing technology or it’s users, it’s meant to address the way the marketing technology landscape is viewed and how marketing tools are used. Or as neuroscience expert Christine Comaford says it:

I hope this article helps to address fellow marketers’ behaviour around martech tools, and not condemn them.

What is marketing tech to you? And what is it not? 

Author avatar

Victor Ijidola

Victor helps B2B and SaaS brands generate leads and revenue via content marketing and copywriting. He's the founder of Premium Content Shop and has been featured on sites like The Next Web, MarketingProfs, Forbes, Inc.com and so on.

1 comment

  1. Wow!

    Great and insightful analysis of what martech should and shouldn’t be.

    Using this explanations, marketers can position their businesses to attract high quality leads the Inbound way.

    Great read, I’m so bookmarking this one.

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