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Why planning to fail is critical to martech success

Technology & Data

Why planning to fail is critical to martech success


Ben Shapiro writes about why the industry needs to focus less on perfectionism when it comes to launching and deploying martech and focus more on continuous improvement, even if that means occasionally failing.

2020 was a year of disruption on many fronts – socially, economically and professionally – however not all the disruption was necessarily negative.  

While we’re still living and navigating a COVID-19 world, what’s interesting to reflect on is how the initial phase of global lockdowns accelerated the digital revolution, and how digital solutions across all aspects of life were being adopted at an unprecedented pace.  

In the space of just a few months, a vast number of companies accelerated technology investments that would have normally taken them years, and it was interesting to see how quickly technology projects rose up the corporate priority list. 

Marketing too saw a definite shift, with an increasing number of businesses placing greater importance on and investing more heavily in digital experience platforms and ecommerce to engage in their customer’s online brand experience (CX); a trend that has helped contribute to a thriving martech industry now reportedly worth $121.5 billion worldwide. 

Turning to martech to adapt

Over the past twelve months, an increasing number of Australian businesses have turned to martech in order to adapt to this new normal; to better connect with customers and drive profitable growth in a highly disrupted landscape. 

However, while this powerful set of tools can transform an organisation and help it achieve its commercial goals, the key to success often lies in having the right people, processes and operational approach to actually guide the transformation. 

In fact, with demand for services accelerating and business requirements expanding, I would argue – and go so far as to caution senior marketers – that the traditional hours-based, agency billing model is not only flawed but actually set up to fail, limiting its ability to help drive true business transformation. I believe that in order to realise true martech success, martech agencies and providers need to move away from this hours-based billing model, but also let go of perfectionism and more importantly, develop a plan to fail.  

Develop a plan to fail

What exactly do I mean by ‘develop a plan to fail’? When it comes to driving commercial results for businesses and clients, there are often three primary considerations: time (how long the activity will take), price (how much it will cost) and tech (what technology is required). Traditional thinking is that you can’t necessarily have all three. For example, if there are budget constraints, you may need to compromise on the tech, or if there are time pressures, then it likely comes at a cost.  

However, I disagree with this notion entirely and believe it not only possible but also the way of the future to deliver on all three – that being, a swift execution that maximises the best technology, delivered at a guaranteed price (i.e. no surprises) and of course driving profitable growth for the business.  

I also believe a fundamental industry challenge is a perception that absolutely everything needs to perfect before launching or deploying any new technology, a process which can take months and even years – by which time budgets are exhausted, technology can become outdated, and organisational motivation becomes depleted due to lack of results and business impact. Businesses then become less inclined to invest in or believe in the power of marketing technology to truly transform a business. And there is absolutely a better way.

The five fundamentals  

Therefore, the ability to effectively use marketing technology to transform your business and drive profitable growth, I believe, comes down to the following five fundamentals: 

First Party Data: To create an effective customer experience (CX) implementation – and one that drives business impact – businesses need to truly understand its customers. To achieve this, first-party data is essential. While this may sound simple, it’s often overlooked with many businesses happy to rely on second or third-party data to inform decision making – data that is often outdated or not entirely relevant to the problem or opportunity at hand. Put simply, to transform a business using CX, businesses must invest in first-party data.  

C Suite Involvement: It’s also important to ensure you have C Suite buy-in from the outset. Fundamentally, everyone involved should be working to a defined business strategy – one most often set and articulated by the C Suite – and the martech goals should always align with the broader business growth goals. That way you can work towards and report directly on how the martech implementation has helped drive the overarching business strategy and outcomes. While this may seem like a simple sentiment, it’s not necessarily commonplace.  

Operational Rhythm with Marketing and Technology: Creating an operational rhythm with marketing and technology is fundamental to effective business alignment and supercharging martech success. What does this mean exactly? Put simply, it’s about cross-functional teaming and ensuring that the marketing and technology teams – teams often made up of different people and diverse skillsets – come together to work efficiently and effectively on a common business-related goal.  

This hybrid approach is the new normal for getting the most out of a digital landscape and a digital world, and marketers who don’t have a cross-functional view, run the risk of falling into a tactical way of thinking, which doesn’t drive business transformation.  

Ideally, all of this results in a sharing of skills. The developers can talk in a marketing language. The marketers can talk in a developer language. Everyone can talk in ‘business outcomes’ language. You’re being clear about how that works and articulating that well to customers.   

Learn to Say No: The traditional martech model often sees agencies taking up to nine months (if not more) to plan and deploy. I believe this is far too long and costly for any business to not be seeing any business impact. Our model is built around a 90-day launch and business transformation, and the reason we can achieve this is because we’re very clear on what we need to focus on in order to drive the transformation. We’re also comfortable saying no to anything that doesn’t support that goal.  

Being very specific on the business goal is also important. Instead of setting broader goals like ‘increase sales’, we instead set smaller, more specific goals and focus on holding people accountable. Once these goals are met, we continue setting small, specific goals according to the ongoing business needs – that way the goals feel attainable and the business and its people feel a continued sense of accomplishment.  

Take an Always-on Approach: To achieve true business transformation, switching from a campaign or project-specific activity to an agile, always-on approach is necessary. One that supports a longer-term view of the business and it’s goals rather than a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality.  

Rather than chasing a view of perfectionism (with no outputs), the key to martech success and creating profitable growth for clients is to create a culture of continuous improvement. Executions may not always be perfect, however being in the market sooner and having an ongoing process of testing, learning, adapting and improving will derive greater and more impactful results over the long term – but to succeed, businesses do need to be prepared to fail.  

Ben Shapiro is the founder and managing director of Triggerfish, one of Australia’s leading CX and MarTech companies. 

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash.


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