The impending collision of Mar & Tech

Recently I spoke at the inaugural MarTech Conference in Delhi, and both the excellent presentations and the many off the cuff conversations led me to be a bit concerned about where this market is heading. MarTech is a term that has been used for a few years now, and simply connotes the merging of marketing and technology. If the cheerleaders are to be believed, marketers today spend more on technology than the CIO {according to Gartner} and their world is immersed in the application of artificial intelligence. Neither of those things is true and hopefully never will be. Though there is no doubt that marketers need to leverage technology more today than ever before, there is a danger that marketers will be sucked into believing that technology is the answer to all their problems.

Marketing skills have always been in short supply, and marketing itself has long been undervalued and misunderstood. At its heart, marketing is all about strategy and psychology. Good marketers understand customer needs, and are able to shape a corporate story that meets those needs, and can fuel future growth and innovation. It’s a dark art, but an essential one.  Yet today, marketing is being pushed to become little more than a short term lead generation engine for sales. An engine that is solely focused on promoting and selling current products and services. Such a blinkered view of marketing sells a company short, and leaves it short-sighted.  

MarTech, aka Marketing Technologies, can provide many valuable insights and there are many excellent tools to help marketers in their work. MarTech, can help target, launch and manage campaigns, spot problems in a customer journey, improve conversion rates and analyze the heck out of current and past campaigns. But MarTech can’t build customer relationships, nor can it innovate and lead change.  That’s what marketers do, and though the technology can help, it can never replace those core skills.

Our concern is that AI (Artificial Intelligence) is already over-promising and under-delivering in many sectors and that marketing is now a sector firmly in AI’s sights.  Marketers should love data and analytics, this is the source of so much, often the only, insight we have in a digital world. But AI takes analytics to another level, AI starts to make decisions for you. Yet the data that AI feeds upon can only ever provide a partial and often biased perspective of reality. Marketers certainly need to become more tech-savvy, but they also need to approach technology with a healthy dose of skepticism.  They need to be judicious in their use of MarTech, play it to its strengths and be wise to its weaknesses and limitations. However, in such a hyped upped marketplace, marketers are in danger of falling prey to the over marketing of AI.

In Delhi, I recapped our recent CX report and stressed the importance of identifying manual hand off’s, that you should never pretend to truly know your customer, that knowledge and relationships only come through dialogue and mutual understanding. Other presenters such as Alexander Low and Carlos Doughty also talked about the importance of putting people and process before technology. Strong voices are there in the MarTech community to guide the way, but the appeal of the shiny new object is also there and it’s hard to counter the appeal of shiny new objects. AI is important, and at Deep Analysis we are, oddly enough, big proponents of its use,  but only in the right situations and with the right people and skills attached to it, marketers beware…..

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