Marketing Automation: The Paradox of Choice (and a Simple Solution to Make the Right One)


Imagine taking your car to get the oil changed today and being presented with 100 different types of oil, 40 different filters, and 30 different kinds of coolant—all at varying price points and quality levels. Now, imagine pulling into a gas station and having to select from 75 different grades of fuel. If you didn’t know what you were looking for or what made each product unique, where would you start?

Welcome to the life of a marketer in 2017.

In 2011, there were just 16 vendors that classified themselves as “marketing automation.” Today, there are more vendors than that in the video marketing category alone. In fact, according to ChiefMarTech’s annual marketing supergraphic, the marketing automation platform category today stands at 212 vendors (13x growth), while the broader marketing technology landscape has exploded to more than 5,000 vendors (33x growth).

This landscape runs the gamut, too—covering categories like campaign optimization and personalization, proximity marketing, and programmatic tech, among many, many more. And with all of that innovation and choice, it would be easy to assume the average marketer’s job has become remarkably simple—a life automated by machines and fueled by deep intelligence.

But you know better than that.

Are Marketers Really Better Off?

If you haven’t seen it, psychologist Barry Schwartz gave a great TED Talk about the impact freedom of choice can have on consumers. You can watch the full talk here, but Schwartz concluded that choice doesn’t always make us happier or better or smarter.

In some cases, it paralyzes us.

While technology has undoubtedly improved marketers’ lives, many marketers are still trying to figure out which technologies (and vendors) best align with their unique needs. With such a vast sea of choice, finding the right match can feel like speed dating—an overwhelming and clumsy process that doesn’t always end in a great marriage. And that hasn’t exactly made marketers’ jobs markedly easier.

In fact, a 2016 Harvard Business Review and Salesforce report found just 15% of marketing organizations have advanced marketing capabilities. Similarly, a recent study of marketing leaders from more than 270 B2B companies found that 50% of marketers say their biggest frustration is managing too many technologies, followed closely by problems integrating technologies (49%). Just 3% of marketers say their marketing technologies are easy to integrate.

So, How Do We Fix This?

Here’s the good news: The best place to start is also the least complicated.

If you start by focusing on what you’re really trying to accomplish and how a particular marketing technology aligns with those goals, you’ll come away with answers that shape which vendors you evaluate and how you evaluate them.

This starts with three key questions:

  1. Who are you trying to engage?
  2. What do you want to send?
  3. What’s the timing or cadence that will be most effective for that particular target?

That might sound overly simplistic, but knowing who you’re targeting, what they care about, and how they want to be engaged can help you pinpoint the specific solutions or features that a technology must have to satisfy those criteria. From there, you can get more specific and make more informed decisions.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be publishing a series of posts that dive a bit deeper—exploring the core features that the best marketing technology vendors have, as well as some other qualities that can go a long way toward helping you tie your goals to the technology at your fingertips. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, download this white paper to get more information on how to choose the right marketing technology.

By Erik Kaiser | September 26th, 2017 | Marketing Automation

About the Author: Erik Kaiser

Erik Kaiser

Erik Kaiser has been working in the marketing automation space since 2006 with a focus on driving customer success & adoption.  His clients say he has a knack for taking sophisticated/complex tools and making accessible to his clients. When he is not driving customer success, he enjoys photography and playing cooperative board games.