Last week I was talking with Jess, our Director of Operations, about the inordinate impact that technology has had on the sales and marketing function. I told her about my first “CRM.” As a new hire with Alamo Rent-A-Car, I was assigned 624 travel agencies in my territory. A couple days after I started, I got a thick envelope with 104 pages of cards (there were 6 cards per page) printed on a dot matrix printer. I separated my cards, placed them into a file box and went to work.
Sales and marketing technology (or, the growth stack) has moved from being a complement to the work that needs to be done, to being at the core of virtually everything that happens.
The Role of Technology in Sales & Marketing
Consider the following:
- The average company is spending almost $5,000/sales rep/year on sales technology. (source: Gartner CEB)
- The Marketing Technology Ecosystem had just 120 names when it started in 2011. Today, there are more than 5,000 technology alternatives (and growing). (source: ChiefMarTec)
- Investment in sales technology over the last two years tops $10 billion. (source: VentureBeat)
What’s clear is the mushrooming growth and impact of technology in demand generation and sales. Equally clear is that despite all of these investments, users are not seeing the returns they expected.
The Need for a Technology Strategy
Make no mistake, technology will not be the reason an organization is successful, but it will increasingly be a major reason it fails. This does not mean that you must use technology wherever possible.
Quite the contrary. It means that you must utilize (or not utilize) technology with intent and purpose. We see how hard you’re working on your sales and marketing strategies. The time has come to ask if your technology strategy is up to par with your demand generation strategy, and if it’s not, get to work to fix that.
Here are 5 keys to pay attention to when developing your technology strategy and building your growth stack:
1. Don’t Buy Technology, Hire it
At Imagine, we never “buy” technology, we “hire” it. We view technology through the exact same lens we view hiring new people. Both represent capabilities that enable businesses to do more, do the things they’re already doing better and/or do those things at lower cost.
The most common mistake organizations make when buying technology is that they fall in love with the idea and/or what it can do, without ever clearly identifying the problem(s) that need to be solved, and what’s needed to solve the problem. They invest in technology like it’s a toy, rather than a tool. So, before your next investment in technology, create a job description for the role that it’s going to fill.
This approach, commonly referred to as “jobs to be done” theory, puts you into a different paradigm and helps to overcome all the hype and sales force being brought to bear by the tech companies selling products. Building a high-value tech stack is a lot like building a high-performance team. Individual talents are certainly important, but the larger question is how does it fit with the team and raise the overall level of everything else? Sometimes the “best” tool doesn’t actually create the best result.
2. The Operative Question Today: Is it a People, Process or Technology Problem/Opportunity
I’ve always been a fan of systems thinking and regularly advise executives to build the genius into the system. This approach led me to regularly ask whether an organization was dealing with an issue related to people or related to process. Over the last year, I’ve added technology to the mix.
Answering this question is imperative before you make any decision surrounding technology. Note that technology is an accelerator and it doesn’t much care what it’s accelerating.
I’ve seen it time and time again. People buy technology based on the promises of an aggressive sales and marketing effort (on the part of the tech vendor) or the envy of the results someone else claims to have achieved. The problem, however, is that the process hasn’t been refined and with technology being what it is, takes the garbage that existed before and multiplies it.
3. Manage the Needs of Today, But Don’t Forget to Plan for Tomorrow
Tech debt is a concept that originated within software development “referring to the implied cost of additional rework caused by choosing an easy solution instead of using a better approach that would take longer.” If you’re not familiar with the term, it behooves you to do so today.
While selecting the right technology solution has always been difficult, today a new, and in many ways, larger challenge has emerged. It’s no longer enough to merely select the tech that addresses your needs today. Now, you must also consider what your needs will be in the future and determine how all of this will work together.
When you stop to think about this issue, you quickly realize how complex and hairy it is. This, if for no other reason, is why you need a technology strategy today. You simply cannot afford to make tech decisions on an item-by-item basis.
4. View Your Tech Stack as a Hub and Spoke System
As the image below shows, there are two parts to your tech stack. At the base is your foundation. Two core technologies make up the base of the growth stack: your CRM and marketing automation tool (MAP). When selecting the foundation, you must focus on what solution will best serve as the platform.
From there, you add the solutions that enable you to get key “jobs” done. We’ve structured our tech stack strategy behind the core elements of the customer acquisition process, broken into two segments: analytics and execution tools. We share this construct to illustrate one approach, feel free to organize yours in whatever way makes sense for you.
By the way, if this topic is of greater interest to you, don’t miss a recent episode of our podcast, where we talked to THE foremost expert - the ChiefMarTec himself, Scott Brinker.
5. Your Tech Stack is not Static: Review it at Regular Intervals
It’s smart to regularly review the performance of every member of your team. In these reviews, you share what’s working and what’s not. You track and share key metrics and objectives to assess how well someone is doing, to reinforce strengths and to highlight areas to focus on for improvement. In some cases, you may even place someone on a performance improvement program (PIP).
Here’s a question for you. Why don’t you take the same approach with the solutions in your tech stack? When’s the last time you gave your CRM, MAP and other tools a review? Does each piece of your stack have a clear objective, with metrics to back it up? If not, you’ve got work to do.
The rate of change in the technology space is wicked fast and it’s getting faster. If you don’t implement a strong discipline of reviewing, adding and paring key components of your growth stack you quickly lose the impact you're looking for.
Not a day goes by where I’m not awestruck by the opportunities and capabilities available to even the smallest business today. I can only imagine how much more and better I could have been if I had the tools available to use today, instead of 624 index cards.
Yet I remind myself that I did quite a lot and did quite well when my CRM was an index card box. I use that lesson to regularly remind myself that a tool is only as good as the way it’s being used. Implementing some simple disciplines will enable you to leverage the power of technology to drive greater results into the future.