Sins of the Father: how to learn from the past and clear up MarTech messes

As part of an ongoing exploration of MarTechnical procurement and debt, Purple Square CX’s MD Timothy Biddiscombe looks at the challenges new starters and marketing teams face when it comes to making informed, unbiased decisions about marketing technology implementations.

We’ve all seen and experienced it. You start a new job, eager, enthusiastic to take on a new challenge and keen to make things better than you found them — only to discover that your predecessor locked in a three year deal with a principle marketing automation vendor that isn’t delivering.

As it turns out, the completed implementation project didn’t quite go to plan – or reveal all the functionality and data accessibility that were promised during the sales process. You’re left starting a new role on the back foot with a frustrated senior leadership team looking to you to right the ship from the course your predecessor set it on.

The reverse of this is, of course, also true. We’ve often seen passionate marketers arrive in a new organisation with a favourite technology in mind, determined to uproot what is there and implement their MarTech equivalent of a comfort blanket — all without giving the existing stack a fair evaluation.

Both of these examples reflect marketers’ unconscious bias for or against certain MarTech approaches and platforms, or what’s sometimes known as ‘predecessor decisioning’. To quote an old adage, “If your favourite tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail”.

It’s not just our predecessors that subconsciously influence these decisions, however. It is alarming how frequently pressure and underlying politics can play a role in procurement decisions. Here are a few examples we’ve encountered over the years:

  • Pervasive persuasion: With so many MarTech offerings, share of wallet competition has never been fiercer, leading to vendor salespeople being more persuasive than ever before.
  • Personal agendas: Historical decisions made to get some trendy tech to go on their CV, taking careers off in a direction the marketer personally wants to go in, rather than the right one for their business.
  • Trade-offs: In extreme cases, we’ve even seen people popping up as Non-Executive Directors (NEDs) down the line after favourable vendor and system integrator (SI) decisions have been made.

Clearing up the (MarTech) mess

The undue influence that outside factors like these can have on your internal and unconscious MarTech biases (through no fault of your own) can lead to making decisions that cause repercussions across the business as a whole. These issues can range from ignored or poorly built/maintained systems and processes through to employee dissatisfaction.

People are arguably the most important element of what we call the Five Core Principles of CX. The people on your team can tell the story of the company’s past, present and future, but they need direction and a common goal. Teams need a firm, clear vision to get behind and, when properly defined, that vision can be quite handy at spotting when bias is making a mess of your marketing!

So how do you clean it up? Firstly, acknowledging and being aware of outside influences and internal biases can go a long way to helping you to counter their effects when it comes to clearing up past mistakes and making smart MarTech decisions. Every day is an opportunity to live the best day of your life, and countering a little bias, real or not, is a brilliant way to go about it.

Secondly, while no two organisations are the same, there are a couple of areas where we see issues regularly popping up that can serve as red flags to watch out for:

Integration challenges. Broadly speaking, from Mailchimp or HubSpot all the way up to Unica, Adobe or Pega, the same things are being achieved with varying degrees of sophistication, personalisation and ultimately professionalism. However, the challenges always seem to come when you need technologies to talk to each other, to route data where it needs to be, when it needs to be there. The shady term ‘near real time’ is bandied about with impunity, but in our experience, things are either in real time, or they are not.

Whether due to a predecessor’s pet project, favourite tech or fast growth, you may be faced with a ‘Frankenstack’ of legacy fixes, work arounds and upgrades. While a best of breed approach can be beneficial to meeting customer needs, if not properly managed it can exacerbate integration issues, create yet more MarTechnical Debt and limit your ability to use data to effectively reach your customers. And we all know there are no prizes for second place in the B2C competition for a share of customers’ wallets.

Competition and siloed communications. If you look at any enterprise-level organisation, there will no doubt be at least a dozen department heads or VP level people with ‘Digital’ in their job titles. They will each be leading a team and controlling a swathe of functionality and information essential to the success of the organisation. As a result, siloes of knowledge, information and data are formed.

Ultimately, each of these senior leaders reports into a single CMO, MD of Customer or similar management title, but along the line, there is a tremendous amount of competition to contend with, not all of it amicable or productive for that matter. This can contribute to the data availability issues between teams and can only be resolved through building bridges and creating genuine, authentic partnerships with the interests of the organisation at the forefront. A good CMO is at least part therapist and part diplomat, after all.

No one sets out to make bad choices, but whether they are the result of our predecessors’ decisions or our own (sometimes misguided) preconceived notions of what success should look like, we are faced with the consequences of them on a regular basis. However, aligning the right team (People) with a strong Vision, Operations, Processes and Technology can help to keep our inherent (and very human) biases in check. Together, this approach helps us to clear up past messes, avoid future pitfalls and deliver great CX.

To find out more about how Purple Square can help you align your Vision, People, Operations, Processes and Technology to deliver a great customer experience, get in touch.

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