The Availability Of Marketing Tools Has Created A Glut Of Tech-First Marketers

Marketers would be forgiven for not understanding we’re in the middle of a Marketing Rebellion, that neither formal marketing education, nor self-taught, ‘tech-first’ marketers typically understand. Clients should take note: managing marketing tools is not ‘marketing’. Not by a long shot.

As George Lucas used to say about filmmaking technology he created: “The typewriter didn’t create more great writers.” It allowed mediocre writers to submit more elegant and ‘professional’ manuscripts. 

We couldn’t agree more, and the same is true about marketing technology: access to powerful tools has made it harder for the untrained eye to discern who actually understands marketing, particularly in the last decade

Access to powerful web development, SEO, analytics, tracking, tagging, and CRM tools hasn’t made more good marketers. It’s saturated the market with  more people who believe that managing these tools is ‘marketing’. 

Let’s take a minute and look at some of these classes of tools: 

  • For Your Website: Wix, Weebly, WordPress: All these solutions have gotten easier and more powerful than they were even 5 years ago. They all use templates or themes that allow even amateurs to rapidly deploy skin, color, font and logo changes. While this is all great and suitable for many applications, fewer and fewer web designers consider site organization, complimentary creatives (like custom icon sets), the quality of web copy, and so forth.
  • Paid Ad Platforms. Google AdWords has a new ‘rookie’ dashboard; signaling they’re happy to take about anybody’s money. While you can opt into the ‘expert’ dashboard, this feature just signals how common formerly rare tech skill sets have become.
  • Analytics Dashboards. This is probably our favorite. You can now watch every metric and dimension of your startup failing to make profits, in real-time. Just kidding. But seriously, the visibility provided by these tools is often a distraction. Especially because, while they have gotten easier to deploy and more and more powerful, they effectively conflate watching things happen with executing; monitoring with winning. They also tend to provide a false sense of control and predict.
  • Integrated Frameworks. More and more solutions are turnkey. Hosting providers come with Google Mail integrations, or web security options. Virtually any integration you can think of is getting ‘baked in’ to other platforms and services they’re commonly used in combination with. 
  • iPaaS (Integration Platforms-As-A-Service): Even integrations have gotten easier (often drag-and-drop user interfaces), with many solutions (Calendly to Zoom; Hubspot to AdWords) already integrated, off-the -shelf. Microservices, automation, event contingencies and dependencies are all managed by GUIs if a solution doesn’t already exist from MuleSoft or Twilio or SnapLogic or other iPaaS provider.

So, to wit, the tools have it easier for a tech-first, or novice, marketer to jump in and imitate marketing. And to the untrained eye, they are marketing – with no understanding of human drives, behaviors, motivations; without knowing people are information-overloaded, skeptical, stingy with their time, distrusting of advertising, and simply want help along their Buyer Journey. The technology has outpaced the wisdom.

We’ve written in other posts about the limitations of marketing stacks. Marketing stacks are great tools – and no, we’re not saying you should ditch them. We’re saying that using the tools, alone, does not marketing makeUsing the tools is the starting point, not the destination. And – just as with, say, fishing: a master fisherman with old equipment, who knows where the fish are and who uses his granddaddy’s formula for bait will out-perform the rich guy with the fancy boat, sonar, the wrong bait – in the wrong lake. That’s the difference that understanding makes next to technology. Ideally – you want to have both.

What marketing stacks can’t do

  1. Help you determine your unique sales proposition;
  2. Help you winnow your messaging down to meme-like simplicity;
  3. Intuit new platforms your customers gather – new ‘attention markets’;
  4. Create an inspired campaign;
  5. Develop a new product that gets unearned media;
  6. Anticipate or even recognize strategic or tactical moves of your competition;
  7. Tell you when to simplify your product;
  8. Tell you when to pivot;
  9. Tell you when to cut bait on your startup and work on a new company;
  10. Tell you which market signals matter;
  11. Help you create content;
  12. Determine why some content is popular or successful;
  13. Tell you that you need to fix your product;
  14. Tell you that you need to fix your workplace culture;
  15. Build or manage itself;
  16. Tell you when technology presents an opportunity cost;
  17. Tell you when to retire assets.

To wit, it’s like the difference between having AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti or Dale Earnhardt behind the wheel of a McLaren, or your cousin. It’s not about the car, and it’s not about the marketing stack.

Many marketers conflate managing a marketing ‘tech stack’ with marketing.

We’re a big fan of toolkits, tech chains and tech stacks; we use them all (we’re often gutting them and fixing them for clients), but they have their time and place. They should not be obsessed-over, and they should be targeted at helping rather than selling buyers.

Marketing stacks are useful for mitigating small losses (reducing the loss of energy), but not for creating big wins – which are exergonic, or energy-creating. Nobody had to market the iPhone. They chose to, but they didn’t need to. In truth, it’s unnecessarily dramatic to put them in a head-to-head comparison, because experienced marketers are able to utilize both these approaches.

Besides slowing losses without creating wins, marketing technology stacks can make a marketer believe he is doing more than he is. They can get her believing she has more control than she actually has. And lastly they can cause opportunity cost, because just managing unwieldy technology stacks becomes a job in itself.  

While losses are averted by smartly-assembled technology chains and stacks, you can’t create wins without actually marketing.

  • This means web design that’s not turnkey.
  • It means inspired content that helps rather than interrupts leads. 
  • It means understanding individual human behavior (the laws of self-interest).
  • And anymore, it means conducting your business like a ‘small business in a small town’, where reputation and good manners are everything. 

And ideally, you want to have both the technological and the psychological understanding, even if one is far more determinative for marketing outcomes than the other.