While sound understanding of marketing technology is mandatory for marketers, riding every hyped tech wave is bound to spread you too thin. Selective participation is key to succeeding.

Technology has become an integral part of marketing, no doubt. And navigating the multitude of new technologies, the art of prioritisation is arguably the most important challenge to address. Data from Econsultancy’s Marketing Budgets 2011 Report gives food for thought.

Taking a look at small companies (less than 100 million Sterling revenue) 74-77% entered 2011 with a plan to increase their digital marketing budgets. So more money going out.

Presumably spending more money is accompanied by a focus to spend that money wisely. E.g. by leveraging some state of the art marketing technology. And indeed more than 75% were planning to increase their marketing technology spend as well.

No additional headcount to do the additional work

However, learning to operate technology takes time. I’m yet to meet a marketer with a lot of extra time on her hands. So when considering the fact that less than half the marketers surveyed were expecting to increase headcount, I’m guessing that there are a few marketing teams out there feeling the heat.

The key to not spreading yourself too thin is selective participation. This discipline should be a the top of the agenda for particularly small marketing teams.

Selective participation means sometimes being uncool

Some types of technology are mandatory.

If you are an online merchant, even the marketing team need to be quite familiar with the commerce platform. The web analytics is impossible to strike off the list as well. So most small teams really only have room for one or a maximum of two more technologies that they can operate well enough to maximise returns on the time and money invested.

So when implementing selective participation you face the unpleasant situation of only being able to afford very few ”yes” decisions. And that’s how you might end up being uncool. Because you probably have to pass on that funky new thing grabbing the headlines this quarter.

Don’t drink their Kool-Aid

It’s incredibly easy to get caught up in the hype of something new and novel.

The last-click-wins attribution model is obviously flawed but does that mean every marketing team should get an attribution management platform? There is probably money to be saved by rigorously shopping display exposures in real time across ad exchanges but does that mean every webshop with a small display budget should be optimising this?

The answer to both questions is no.

While both attribution management and ad exchanges are ingenious inventions bound to make some marketers delighted, it’s not for everyone. At least not right now. Just because these companies are good at marketing and PR it doesn’t mean that it’s by definition going to change your life.

Have patience getting started, or you’ll need it once you’re stuck

I love Google Analytics. Sure, Omniture/Webtrends/Coremetrics are better, have richer functionality and so on. But GA is easy enough for me to understand in less than a day. And that’s what tends to happen to almost any technology if the value it ads is sustainable: someone will come along and create a simpler and cheaper version. And for most, it’s worth waiting around for that

I would recommend most marketers do three things (in the following order) when you get excited about that hot new thing:

  • Try to say no: there is a really really good chance that between the time and money you need to invest, you won’t get a return
  • Wait: if you think you really need it, wait for the easy version to arrive. The speed at which most things develop these days, odds are that you don’t have to wait for very long.
  • Trial and then commit: there’s (almost) always a way to try it out fairly easily and inexpensively. Do that. And if it seems to be worthwhile, commit and do it properly.