MarTech is now a buzzword..and no, that isn’t good

Yes, yes I know but before you go off like a Balinese volcano, give this a calm read and then let me know what your take is ūüôā

Synergy, Agile, Innovation …words used in decks & presentations that have become like ‘Despacito’ on the radio.¬† Overused and less fresh every.single.time it is played.¬† I put to the readers of this article that ‘MarTech’ has now become one of these words. Other words that are soon to join this exclusive club if my last few conferences were any indication…Machine Intelligence, Artificial Intelligence, and Chatbots.

For those of you who didn’t know me before I jumped into the start-up world, I created the Marketing Technology and Innovation dept at Aetna, a $60B health insurance giant based in Hartford, CT.¬† The premise was that MarTech was growing in the digital world and our multi-billion dollar company needed to embrace it.¬† You will not find too many people who are bigger fans of how this technology shift has transformed the abilities for¬† business users but I have come (back) to a reflection point on its role in digital. More on this later.

In my mind, the very promise of MarTech¬† was that vendors were now creating digital products that could be used by business users and didn’t need as much IT interaction for day-to-day ops.¬† We didn’t have massive installs on corporate hardware.¬† Products were now available in a cloud for a fraction of the cost.¬† Vendors were actually hiring designers so that their products were usable.

This didn’t mean that IT went away, but it did mean that if we needed to get analytics, get content changed, test and optimize sections of our site, there were now tools that would allow our business users to execute the work directly.¬† Doing the work became something that business users could take on without heavy technical expertise.

It made a great deal of sense for the first generation of these tools to be jumped on by a hungry group of marketers.  However, as large players started consuming smaller technology companies and adding their products to their clouds, it became obvious this was becoming way bigger than just marketing.  These companies all had more than just MarTech in their suites/clouds and they wanted to capture all the pieces of the pie on the front and backend at all stages of the lifecycle.

For those who have worked in large companies, they know digital is often owned by a variety of areas.  Customer Service, IT, Digital, eCommerce, individual Lines of Business and of course Marketing are all departments who have digital products and often customer-facing touch points.  There are many reasons for this but very few organizations have all digital wrapped inside one department.

We have spoken to many employees in the past (and now as consultants) who worked in digital outside of marketing who are offended that we call almost all their digital technologies, ‘marketing technology’.¬† Many of them want little association with marketing departments.¬† They believe their areas contribute more to the bottom line of a company than anything marketing does.¬† The insinuation that marketing can come in and use a word like MarTech to hijack the work that they have done for years is an anathema to them.

I know I don’t agree with everything they say, but I do know this.¬† The word MarTech is everywhere.¬† It is on LinkedIn, Twitter, Conferences, Presentation decks, Business cases, Start-up venture funding requests, Business cards, Resumes, hash tags etc… I see #MarTech hash tags attached to things that we would have considered regular articles about digital.¬† Was there really a reason so put it there? No, but it says MarTech so it must be really important, always a good warning.

About my reflection point, I now believe more than ever, that success is about the digital eco-system that business friendly digital platforms live in. Yes, you can use a web portal to do marketing but you can also use it to serve a very specific service need without any marketing.  Yes, a mobile app allows marketing to reach out and touch you anytime they wish, but it can also deposit a check or file a claim.  The point here is that successful digital products in large companies are almost always the product of multiple technologies, across multiple lines of businesses, serving multiple needs, encapsulated in a single outstanding digital experience that serves the needs of customers.  The creation of a unified digital eco-system that allows companies to build an experience WE would want to interact with is what we need to focus on.

It isn’t about a particular marketing platform silo but more about how all these pieces live inside large corporate technology architectures and whether they play with brother and sister systems within that architecture.¬† It isn’t about how many companies enter any particular category of digital products but whether there are new categories, new ways of engaging with customers for marketing or service. It isn’t just about marketing but about how all departments work together to drive an enterprise digital strategy forward.

Marketing was going to lead the digital transformation in organizations but the truth is in many large companies, technology is the least of their problems.¬† The static between IT and Marketing, the flawed archaic processes that are never changed because “things are always done like this”, the legal interpretations that paralyze a business partners ability to create an optimal digital experience, politics, turf wars and many other reasons too many to list, are far bigger threats to the ability for companies to execute digital transformation. Marketing Technology isn’t going to solve your digital transformation but I still read too many ‘promises’ being sold on the back of MarTech.

MarTech isn’t going anyplace as a word.¬† We all know that. One just hopes that we don’t get to the point of eye-rolling every time someone says the word.¬† I can already see some of that happening today.

Seeing how you are reading this on our site, I want to add that our technology startup has a Digital Technology Management platform, Open Lantern, and we help with silo-busting to understand whether technology is helping to move digital strategy forward or causing it to stagnate. If you want to chat, email us at or call us at 813.530.5740