The role of marketers is always shifting with the tides of consumer behavior. One of those shifts is happening now. Consumer behavior is evolving faster than our tactics, and it’s time to rethink our approach.

In the past, marketers sat down with reports, strategic insights, and creative concepts in hand. They formed creative-driven marketing campaigns and then figured out what tools were at their disposal to execute them. In short, they were missing something — the bigger picture that is now accessible through martech.

Today, with over 7,000 martech tools and suites at our disposal, our job as marketers has evolved. We’re more than creatives or analysts. We’re being tasked with becoming practitioners of these technologies. It’s bigger than marketing campaigns — we can now engage with people at any point along the customer journey. Consumers have come to expect personalization, proactive communication, and the ability to engage brands on their terms. This 1-1 relationship between brands and consumers is only possible with technology.

According to Gartner’s recent CMO Spend Survey, martech has become the largest expense category for marketing departments. This exceeds salaries, paid media spend, and agency fees. In spite of the expense, only 23% of marketers see their marketing automation strategies as “effective”. Most marketing teams simply aren’t getting the results from their existing martech stacks that they’re capable of. It’s time to start asking why.

Are marketers equipped to harness new martech?

Marketers haven’t kept up with the pace of technology. We now have a full quiver of tools at our disposal, but it’s difficult to keep up with them all. Training can go a long way, but hiring a new breed of marketer could be the next step in reshaping our organizations.

Marketing departments haven’t traditionally built teams of technologists. To keep up in this quickly shifting space, firms are building independent martech teams or building those capabilities in conjunction with their IT departments. These tech-driven marketers are responsible for owning and evaluating the implementation of martech and aligning the martech stack’s functionality with the goals of the organization.

How is strategy affected by martech?

We need to start considering what’s possible through the lens of technology before creative comes into play. How do consumers want to interact with your brand, and what technology will make that possible? Most marketing organizations are creative-led, using technology to bring the creative to life through campaigns. These campaigns then drive sales or engagement with their customers, and analytics are applied to evaluate the campaign’s performance. This approach is flawed — it assumes that we already fully understand the customer journey and what the consumer wants to hear from the brand. It relies on these assumptions to form campaign briefs and then build creative that meets consumers where they are.

Consumers are empowered by technology. They have infinite ways to research and make decisions, and there is no way that any marketing team can keep track of it all on their own. We need accept that we cannot identify every touchpoint that consumers will have with us, and rely on martech to fill the gaps in our ability to form 1-1 relationships with our customers. With the use of big data, AI, and other technologies, technology now can learn from and interact with each consumer in real-time and allow the consumer to engage the way he/she wants to engage. For brands to take truly meet the consumer where they want to be met, their marketing teams must understand how to employ technology to enable these value-building relationships.

Which should come first – creative or technology?

We believe that a technology-first approach to marketing strategy has become more effective than the traditional creative-first approach. To be effective, creative needs to be informed by consumer behavior. It needs to consider the customer journey and specific audiences, and it needs to deliver personalized messaging to the right people at the right time. Once our business objectives are clearly defined, we can ask ourselves how we could be using technology to reach our audience. Answering this question allows us to provide value to each consumer — enhancing their experience through technology. From there, we can form more insightful briefs that lead to more powerful creative work.

This thinking challenges the status quo. The idea that technology should precede campaigns, creative, and even the consumer seems preposterous — but is it? Technology gets a bad rap in the marketing world as being viewed as a “tactic”, but it’s what consumers want! They want you as a brand to have given them the easiest and most personal ways to engage with you. Martech makes this possible. Consider the environments for building relationships that martech enables, then figure out what you want to say to form and strengthen those relationships.