No, It’s Not Just You – Marketing Tech Has No ROI!

No, It’s Not Just You – Marketing Tech Has No ROI!

In this opinion piece, Saul Flores (pictured below) the executive strategy director at Sydney-based creative tech agency DT, argues that choosing the right martech’s the easy part. Getting it to work effectively is most CMO’s problem.

Investment in marketing technologies is big business. The diversity of technologies in market, the price tag for big ticket items like CMS MA and data, and the pervasiveness of technology as part of the marketers toolkit continue to increase dramatically. Marketers are sprinting towards a future that is data driven, technology enabled, and performance oriented.


At DT we’ve partnered with Australia’s leading companies to build nearly every cutting edge marketing technology available. The challenge we’ve seen most clients struggle with is not how to build the tech, it’s how to get value back after go-live.

There are three key areas to focus on before, during, and after the build of marketing technology that give you a head start on getting return on investment:

  1. Planning for success
  2. Roles, team structures, and partnerships
  3. Project management versus continuous improvement

The problem in detail

Anyone who’s been around the block a few times has seen it happen: a company invests in technology that is promised to make work easier, automate cumbersome tasks, delight customers, and unlock a sexy strategic vision. Months and quarters roll by, and then, like Christmas morning, it’s here: go-live! But then what happens?

The system doesn’t quite work either for technical or operational reasons. The big resources and attention devoted from leadership during the build have moved on to other projects. Training falls short of the mark. Many of the capabilities of the new system are left untouched. Years later no one can quite remember what the promise of the project was, and the transformational bottom line results never seem to materialise.

The fundamental risk with any enterprise scale technology project is confusing the idea that building a tool will solve a problem. Tools don’t solve problems. Think about how we construct buildings: it takes more than hammers and cranes. Success takes planning, people, teamwork, and a rigorous methodology for coordinating effort and managing the unexpected.

When the people selling marketing technology promise out of the box solutions that will transform your business overnight, you need to remember that tools don’t solve problems. Building marketing technology never gets customers across the line.

The organisational change required to get value out of a cutting edge CMS, Marketing Automation, or advanced data and analytics is a huge gap from how you currently operate. In the following sections, we’ll address the three main gaps that clients fail to address, and share our recommendations for how to avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Plan and Communicate Success

If you’ve got $1 million to invest in marketing technology, cut it in half. Take the $500k you’ve saved, and spend it on training your team and on partnerships that put experienced experts onto the tools alongside your team after go-live.

You shouldn’t build every feature for your first release. You’re going to build a significantly less sophisticated product. This is a good thing. You learned to drive on the family car, not Lewis Hamilton’s F1.   Phased releases of software that limit the complexity your team needs to manage will lead to a deeper adoption more quickly. And, if you’re working with a technology partner who is comfortable with an agile methodology, there’s no reason you can’t quickly add features as you go (more details in the next two sections).

You also need to carefully consider the payback schedule on your $1 million investment, and have a plan for managing your CFO, CEO, and board’s expectations.   If you’re modelling ROI to begin in the same quarter as Go-Live, you’re probably shooting yourself in the foot. Make sure you’ve got a good model in place, and that you’ve got capability to show quick wins and long term results against the investment back to your board.

On that last point, choosing a partner for build and implementation is crtical. The software vendor will help you create a model for ROI to pitch the project to your board, but they likely wont be as involved in demonstrating results once the project goes live. Selecting a partner who will not only build the tool, but continue to partner with you to make the investment successful ensures you’re not alone in the ongoing stakeholder management effort.

Don’t stop planning at the C-suite. Often times the top executives are aligned, but no one outside the boardroom knows the vision. Good communication of your plan is worth paying for. Plan on creating videos, e-learning modules, and an on-going email campaign for stakeholders at all levels. If you don’t have capacity to do it yourself, ask your agency to help.

Case Study: Tourism Australia has worked closely with Adobe and DT consultants to make long term decisions about the future of their technology stack, and have leveraged the change in technology to bring about a transformation of their global approach to marketing and operations. Check out this testimonial from the leadership team at Tourism Australia.

  1. Roles, Team Structure, and Partnerships

Your job descriptions, experience, team structures, and processes are all wrong. Every organisation we’ve worked with has underestimated the degree of organisational and operational change needed to take full advantage of their investment.

For example, one of the key selling points for a cutting edge CMS is the ability to rapidly improve content and customer experience, along with an ability to analyse and A/B test the impact of changes. How will your team work together in this environment to ensure that changes made are on brand and support the overall experience on the website? Who’s job is it to report results of a change? How often will you meet as a team to review progress? Who leads that meeting?

Starting to plan these changes before the technology has been rolled out can be difficult or impossible if you haven’t led this type of change before. Working with a partner that can provide a new operating model is be critical for accelerating success. The ideal partner should be able to work with you before go live to set up the roles, team structures, and working processes you’ll need.

The second option for ensuring success is to bring in a team to compliment your existing team that does have experience working with the tools you’ve invested in. Continuing the example above, if you’re excited for your team to begin rapid A/B testing, but they haven’t done it before, consider contracting a complete team of strategists, data analysts, designers, and UX who can act as “role models” for your team while they get up to speed.

Case Study: OzForex chose Sitecore as the experience and content management platform for their global growth strategy. DT worked closely with them to identify key roles, experience, and team structures to re-tool their tech, UX, and analytics teams. DT also embedded an Optmisation and Personalisation team of strategy, analytics, design, and content to role model strong practices on the new tools.

  1. Project Management versus Continuous Improvement

Don’t build it once. Build it as many times as possible. Project management is driven around the idea that you only have one chance to build something and get it right. While that framework has many virtues, there are limitations. Keeping in mind that ROI only begins after go-live, your optimal approach to investing in Marketing Technology will minimise the time and money spent before your team starts using the tools in production.

Typically this means working with a partner who can help you identify critical requirements upfront, work quickly to build out the core system capabilities, and then switch gears from project management (waterfall) to continuous improvement (agile). This partner should be able to provide a team of developers, analysts, and project managers who are comfortable working in both frameworks and will be dedicated to your business throughout both phases to ensure IP is retained.

Once the system is live, the marketing team needs to continue working closely with the technology team to make changes and enhancements to the tools. Both sides, tech and marketing, need to have KPI set at a department, team, and individual level that are oriented around serving customers and getting ROI from the investment.

Case Study: Working with Kmart on a major site redesign, we vigorously tested hundreds of CX hypotheses to define the optimal customer experience and increase on-site revenue. Rapid testing and daily reports help us build the plane as we were flying it. 


The three areas outlined above are highly interrelated. Setting a plan that includes change management, implementing changes to roles teams and processes on the marketing side, and setting a collaborative technology development pathway are only possible when leadership at the top level is closely aligned. Choosing a partner who can work with you beyond go live is critical. While a great partner is essential, it’s important to remember that the leadership needed to get maximum return on marketing technology investment can only come from within an organisation.

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