Gartner Marketing Technology Survey 2020: 4 Steps to Improve Martech Stack Utilization

November 12, 2020
Contributor: Kelly Blum

Marketing technology leaders must focus on improving agility, collaboration and integration to increase martech stack utilization and effectiveness.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, marketing technology was one area that remained unscathed from initial budget cuts. New findings from the Gartner Marketing Technology Survey 2020 reveal that nearly 60% of marketing technology leaders expect moderate to severe cuts to their martech budgets as a result of coronavirus-related disruptions. 

These reductions come at a time when martech stack utilization remains a struggle for many marketing organizations. Marketing leaders report they still utilize only 58% of their martech stack’s full breadth of capabilities — a level that has remained flat since 2019.

As marketers invest in tools and add-on applications that ultimately go unused, this underutilized technology drains resources away from other programs. Interestingly, 66% of respondents facing a pandemic-related cut to their martech budgets have delayed a purchase of at least one previously approved marketing technology.

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“Low levels of utilization present a real risk for marketing organizations, particularly in light of looming budget cuts,” says Benjamin Bloom, Senior Director Analyst, Gartner. “The majority of marketing organizations facing budget cuts also struggle with utilization. That’s a real gut punch — one that demands attention to technology acquisition and usage.”

Gartner research shows that while 30% of marketing leaders have already begun a process to overhaul their martech stack, only 25% of those facing budget cuts have begun this process.

Overconfidence may hide unused martech

Respondents in organizations that are increasing martech investments may be using the pandemic disruption as an opportunity to capitalize on growth initiatives and get ahead of the competition. Overall, 81% of respondents say their current martech stack is effective at meeting organizational business objectives. The disconnect between confidence and underutilization further signifies that increased resources may simply make the problem more severe down the road.

One reason for this may be that marketers accustomed to growth are less likely to scrutinize and identify underperforming solutions. “What we are seeing is a false sense of security among many marketing organizations,” says Bloom. “Overconfidence is a major risk that could impede critical business evolutions.”

Marketers prefer integrated-suite technologies

The Gartner Marketing Technology Survey 2020 also reveals a sharp reversal from last year’s preferred best-of-breed approach, with 59% of marketing leaders now stating a preference to taking an integrated-suite approach to select technologies. 

Marketing organizations taking a best-of-breed approach have long recognized the need for greater investments in integration and martech talent to operate and connect a variety of solutions. Respondents with a best-of breed approach report using slightly more of their martech stacks than those with an integrated suite. However, those with a preference for integrated suites are significantly more likely to say their martech stack is meeting their organizations' business objectives (84%) compared to those following a best-of-breed approach (74%).

Four steps to improved martech utilization

To make better use of martech investments and resources and mitigate the risks of future budget cuts, marketing leaders should consider these actions:

  1. Implement regular audits of the martech stack. Assess the team’s utilization of the martech stack by conducting regular audits of deployment and usage. Look for opportunities to eliminate fringe tools or accelerate adoption of new solutions. The challenge of martech utilization is substantial across the board and will be felt most profoundly by teams faced with a paucity of financial resources.

  2. Determine your best vendor approach. Marketing leaders must strive to maintain balance between the hyped simplicity of integrated suites and the potential integration challenges of a best-of-breed approach. Do this by requiring even the largest of martech vendors to compete for the business on a best-of-breed basis. These detailed vendor evaluations should establish which vendor features support your required capabilities that generate business value.

  3. Collaborate to overcome integration and utilization challenges. Overcome talent and training challenges by relying more on other readily available internal resources, such as IT, and recruit the help of external agency partners or martech integrators to help ramp up new technologies and use cases more quickly.

  4. Adopt an agile approach. Deliver value more quickly and minimize waste in the face of fast-changing business demands by adopting agile methodologies. Activities such as “sprints” (short time-limited periods of work) and proofs of concept (POCs) enable greater martech agility.

Some Gartner clients can learn more in 2020 Marketing Technology Survey: Cost Pressures Force Martech Optimization and Innovation.

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