Marketers are only using one third of their stack’s capability

Marketers are using only one-third of their martech stack’s capability, according to Gartner’s 2023 Martech Report. That’s down from 42% last year and 58% in 2020.

Utilization has been declining amid huge increases in spending on marketing technology: up 35% from $15.3 billion in 2020 to $23.6 billion in 2023, per Statista. Organizations are spending 25.4% of their marketing budget on technology, says Gartner.

“Not only is [utilization] low, but it’s declining year over year while people are buying more,” said Domenic Colosante, CEO of 2X, a B2B marketing-as-a-service agency. “It’s a big problem. When I talk to CMOs, they all know it, they all feel it.” 

The reasons for this are skills, governance and stack sprawl and complexity, according to Gartner. 

Dig deeper: Data analytics: Your stack’s past and limitations

Colosante said the skills shortage is because no one — neither the vendors nor the marketing organizations — is teaching people how to use the new technology. 

No one is training

“Even with the marquee platforms or [relatively] new things like Drift and Bombora, no one is learning how to use those,” he said. “You don’t learn it in school and a lot of those vendors don’t really have training programs to teach it to you. Some of them have certification programs, but that’s a certification program, not a training program.”

He says research by 2X found that when it comes to things marketers have been doing for a while — like email or events — there are about 10 people with those skills for every job needing them. “When you look at the new stuff — like intent data or AI or ABM — it’s 1 to 1 or 2 to 1,” Colosante said. “And, oh, by the way, all those people already have jobs. The root of why they’re using less and less is because they’re buying more and more tech and they’re not training people on it.” 

The complexity and sprawl of the tech stack is making this worse. One of the reasons for the ever-growing stack may be short-term CMOs. At 18 months CMOs have the briefest tenure of any C-suite office. This can result in adding tech the CMO is familiar with, even if there is already a solution in place for that function. 

CMO turnover cripples strategic thinking

Whether or not the CMO adds tech, the turnover rate means the strategic view of the stack is constantly changing. This supports another thing Colosante believes is behind stack expansion: 

Adding solutions with redundant capabilities. 

“I look at it like you’re sitting on a couch with three universal remotes that are all supposed to control the TV and the DVD and the internet TV and the sound system,” he said. “But yet this one only does the TV, and this one only does the cable and so on. That’s a marketer’s tech stack today.”

The Gartner report also cites customer data challenges are often cited as a major reason for underutilization. Collecting customer data in the first place, or unifying it across different systems, can be a major obstacle to using it for personalization, advertising, and measurement. Gartner suggests reevaluating your approach to customer data to see if shifting the burden of data management to IT could be a solution.

How many solutions do you need to send an email?

“The CDP problem is really an issue that needs to be solved and I don’t think I have the perfect answer to it,” Colosante said, “but do you really need HubSpot and Salesforce and Outreach to be able to send emails?”

All this goes straight to the issue of governance. Who is the “voice of the stack”? Who is in charge of knowing all the functions, all the interactions and presenting that to people who are contemplating making changes? The CMO seems like a natural choice, but they aren’t there long enough and usually don’t have the technological chops. Besides, do they need another thing on their already overflowing plate?

Colosante says it should be a chief revenue officer, but not as it is today. 

Currently, “99.9% of them are heads of sales that are now running marketing,” he said. “They don’t really know about marketing and they acknowledge that. A true CRO is operations and technology management across the go-to-market engine: Sales, marketing, customer service and experience. That function should be a technology center that deals with architecture, that deals with what platforms are, and should also be responsible for who are we targeting and why and how and in what ways.”

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One Reply to “Marketers are only using one third of their stack’s capability”

In the ever-expanding realm of marketing technology, a noteworthy trend has emerged. Recent analyses indicate that marketers are harnessing merely a fraction of their tech stack’s full potential. This underutilization of marketing tools and software signifies both untapped opportunities and the need for a more strategic approach to tech adoption.

The Proliferation of Marketing Technology
The marketing technology (MarTech) landscape has seen explosive growth, with an ever-increasing array of tools and platforms designed to streamline marketing processes, enhance customer experiences, and boost overall efficiency. This proliferation offers marketers a wealth of resources to improve their campaigns and strategies.

The Discrepancy: Adoption vs. Utilization
While marketers may invest in a diverse range of MarTech solutions, they often fall short when it comes to fully implementing and maximizing their capabilities. Several factors contribute to this discrepancy:

1. Complexity: Many MarTech tools are feature-rich and multifaceted, requiring time and expertise to fully exploit. Marketers may lack the necessary training or support to unlock their full potential.
2. Integration Challenges: Integrating various tools within a tech stack can be complex, leading to underutilization of some components. Seamless integration is essential for harnessing the collective power of the stack.
3. Changing Needs: As marketing objectives evolve, certain tools within the stack may become less relevant. Marketers must regularly reassess their tech stack to ensure alignment with their current goals.
Unlocking the Potential
Realizing the untapped potential of marketing technology begins with a strategic approach:

1. Skills Development: Invest in training and upskilling to ensure that marketing teams possess the expertise required to leverage the full functionality of MarTech tools.
2. Data-Driven Insights: Leverage data analytics within the tech stack to gain actionable insights. Data-driven decision-making is a cornerstone of effective MarTech utilization.
3. Streamlined Integration: Ensure that all components of the tech stack work seamlessly together. A unified ecosystem optimizes efficiency and effectiveness.
4. Regular Evaluation: Continuously assess the relevance and performance of each tool in the stack. Be prepared to make adjustments to align with evolving marketing objectives.
The Path Forward
Marketers have a wealth of technology at their disposal, but realizing its full potential requires a strategic and holistic approach. By addressing the challenges of complexity, integration, and skill development, marketers can unlock the power of their tech stacks, harnessing a broad spectrum of capabilities to drive innovation and achieve marketing excellence.


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