The first is that I’m coming off an amazing week-long experience of a Caribbean vacation (see above photo for my view as I write this).
The second is that – adjacent to the temp Word file that is this post – the other thing I’ve been buried in; a folder with gigabytes of research about enterprise content and marketing technology and the methods marketing departments use to purchase that technology.
Would it surprise you to hear that by many estimates, despite being a decade into their existence, marketing-automation platforms have penetrated only single-digit percentages of midmarket businesses? (For example, see this 2014 study and this 2015 study.) Well, it surprised me.
Research also shows – and my own experience backs up – that most technology that’s purchased to help facilitate content management or marketing technology goes woefully underused and is eventually replaced with a focus on “What cool new thing could we do poorly” vs. “What old, boring, scalable thing could we do well?”
One of the things that I observe of late is how successful content and marketing programs are refocusing their efforts on creating new processes for developing, managing, and publishing content across channels. They aim to produce compelling content-driven experiences.
Why shouldn’t we get some of that too? As we think about how to implement some kind of scalable technology that supports these new processes, it may be time to rethink what we’re buying from the technology vendor.
When I chatted with my friend Carlos Abler (lead content strategist in the Global eTransformation office of 3M) about this, he captured this need more elegantly than I could. He said,
“The biggest challenge, of course, is that many of the people making decisions of what vendor to choose and how to deploy the technology are nowhere near the level of granularity to understand the day-to-day efforts of using the systems. And, fatally, these people are not aware of the complex orchestration of factors that would ideally configure them in an interoperable way to be best configured to business practice and the best customer experiences.”
Enterprises don’t help quell this need by continuing to look at technology acquisition as a Hunger Games of software vendors – fighting with spreadsheet feature bingo. “Let the highest score win, and may the odds be ever in your favor!”
And Technology vendors don’t help themselves either. One brand manager at a large company that was trying to make their Marketing Automation solution act more like an audience development platform asked their MA vendor how they might accomplish that. The answer was “I’m sure we’re capturing all the data – you can do whatever you like.”
That’s like looking at a closet full of food and asking your chef friend what you can make for dinner – and she says “whatever you like – I’m sure there’s a great meal in there somewhere.”
Historically, marketing departments (and businesses more generally) have gotten wrapped around the idea that a technology vendor was there to sell us software and then “teach us to fish,” enabling our team to manage (to the extent possible) our own destiny as it pertains to operating the solution over time. But while that looks good on paper, it puts the enterprise in the unenviable position of having to become an expert in not only the operation of an extraordinarily complex set of tools but also in the overwhelmingly rapid developments in the industry.
I think that the thing we should buy – whether it comes from the technology vendor or from an adjoining agency – is going to become increasingly inclusive. We will buy the experience of content management solutions, the experience of marketing automation platforms, and the experience of customer relationship management.
To be clear, I’m not talking about just software-as-a-service with an added service, upgrade, maintenance agreement. I’m talking about solutions-as-a-service, innovation-as-a-service, agility-as-a-service, facilitated by both technology and expertise. I’m talking about solutions that help the enterprise strategize, create, implement, operate, measure, and quickly move in and out of competitive arenas in a flexible way. What an opportunity for the right solution provider.
I wonder who it will be.
This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.