As CMOs around the globe strive to build brands, fuel growth, and contribute to excellent customer experiences in our digital age, they have prioritized martech. If you look up the definition of martech, you’ll find quite diverse answers. We define martech this way:

Martech, or marketing technology, is the system of tools and technology that executes key marketing strategy and functions in a scalable, efficient, and effective way. 

CMOs have devoted a quarter of their budget to marketing technology for the past six years to build their capability to execute. Yet, 61% of CMOs report they still can’t execute their strategies because they lack in-house capabilities. That’s a big, multimillion dollar stumbling block at a large company or organization. What is causing it?

Many, many, many research firms cite the lack of training employees and partners to facilitate correct and efficient adoption of martech as the cause. I agree that’s true based on Content Science’s experiences. And I also know that’s only part of the cause. If training gaps were the only cause, wouldn’t the investments CMOs have made in training (in response to those many calls for training) have started working by now?. 

So, if you’re a marketing leader tired of being stuck with incremental improvements in your marketing capabilities, this article is for you. Specifically, this article helps you better recognize content as a major cause of martech problems so you can form better solutions faster. How? By explaining the role content plays in five problems—and potential solutions.

Related: The Ultimate Guide to End-to-End Content?

Martech Problem 1: Automation Is an Afterthought 

While automation potential is often mentioned in sales pitches for marketing technology (and rightly so), it often doesn’t happen or doesn’t happen at the level of sophistication CMOs need.

What This Martech Problem Is

A company or organization can leverage automation to do a wide variety of tasks, such as

  • Add new email subscribers.
  • Send drip email campaigns to nurture leads.
  • Suggest relevant resources
  • Send email or SMS reminders for all kinds of scenarios.
  • Add new contacts to CRM software, score them as leads, and route them to an appropriate follow up process.
  • Schedule and confirm demos.
  • Manage and even generate content fueling website, email, social media, SMS, and other digital communications.
  • A/B test content in digital communications to further optimize it.

Again, that’s only a sampling of the possibilities. So, this problem is falling very short of these possibilities. And the result is big disappointment. 70% of marketers are unhappy with their marketing automation software, and 85% of B2B marketers feel they are not using marketing automation software to its full potential.

Why This Martech Problem Matters

Marketing automation has potential to make the way marketing teams work more efficient and effective. Here is a sampling of the evidence:

  • A recent systematic review of 16 published marketing automation case studies found the potential ROI is great–$5.44 for every $1 spent.
  • A recent survey of nearly 400 marketers (B2B and B2C) around the globe found
    • 38% reported marketing automation made better use of their time.
    • 35% reported marketing automation improved data and decision making.
  • Another recent survey of B2B marketers found
    • 49% report marketing automation saves time.
    • 45% report marketing automation increases efficiency and ROI.
    • 39% report improved lead quality.
  • Still another recent report found successful marketing automation can result in a 451% increase in qualified leads.

Conversely, investing in marketing automation that fails can cost an organization greatly:

  • That 25% of marketing budget is wasted.
  • The gains in efficiency and effectiveness noted above are lost.
  • The opportunity to spend the time and resources on another project or effort is lost.

So let’s take a closer look at the role of content in success or failure.

Content As the Cause and Solution

Recent research shows the big barrier to implementing marketing automation is mapping out complex processes. That requires aligning on and defining marketing businesses rules, workflows, and more in robust detail. A significant part of that detail is content, the substance of digital marketing and sales interactions. It’s impossible to define marketing automation successfully without addressing questions such as

  • Who will create what content for which touchpoints in what regions or markets?
  • Who must review and approve what content when?
  • What rules and standards for brand style, legal compliance, and more must apply to our content?
  • What are the lifecycle(s) of our content?
  • What are our content models, including content types and templates, to support marketing automation?

I’m only scratching the surface of questions to consider. And marketing alone cannot answer many of these questions; they cut across business functions. Yet, most marketers, and even the martech experts, fail to identify content as critical to marketing automation success.

Related: Certification in Content Engineering with CSA

Let’s turn to a second, closely related martech problem that’s really a content problem.

Martech Problem 2: Missing Personalization’s Potential

You could consider personalization as part of marketing automation, and you would not be wrong. However, we think this martech problem is big and unique enough to be its own entry in this list.

What This Martech Problem Is

If you search for a definition of personalization or personalized marketing, you’ll find a surprising variety. And that might be part of the problem; different professionals have different ideas of what personalization means. At Content Science, we define it this way:

In marketing, personalization is when a company or organization tailors messages and content experiences to be more relevant, useful, and meaningful to their customers–while keeping those customers’ data secure and privacy respected.

So, personalization can cover everything from using a customer’s first name in an email to suggesting products based on a customer’s recent purchase to promoting a new whitepaper to a specific customer segment.

Talk of personalization has been around since businesses started using the World Wide Web. Talking about it is easy. Doing it at scale the way Amazon, as an example, has done is hard. Many frustrated marketers don’t get much further than using a customer’s name in an email.

Why This Martech Problem Matters

Customers consider appropriate personalization to be table stakes. Recent research indicates 71% of consumers expect personalization. Expectations are high for B2B customers, too, with 66% of B2B customers expecting personalization when making a purchase. 

Personalizing well has many upsides. When effective personalization is in place for consumers, for instance, a comprehensive study found

  • 76% of consumers are more likely to consider purchasing from brands that personalize. 
  • 78% of consumers are more likely to make repeat purchases from companies that personalize. 
  • 78% of consumers are more likely to refer friends and families to companies that personalize.

Those positive results mean substantial ROI for marketers. As an example, Adobe has found 89% of marketers see improved ROI when using personalization in their campaigns in areas like these:

  • 53% increase in loyalty.
  • 49% increase in revenue. 
  • 43% increase in retention.

Personalizing poorly, however, has downsides that are growing more intense. Besides not achieving the results and ROI noted above, poor personalization can backfire in two significant ways. 

  • Inconveniencing or frustrating customers to the point that they turn to another brand. 
  • Misusing customer data and, consequently, raising customer concern about their data’s privacy and security, which destroys trust and invites lawsuits.

Related: Content Trends 2024: The Epic of Extremes Intensifies

The losses from these backfires add up quickly. Recent research indicates poor personalization and lack of trust cost U.S. organizations $756 billion last year.

Content As the Cause and Solution

It’s hard to express just how interlinked content and personalization are. Our recent study of What Makes Content Operations Successful? found 60% of content professionals are prioritizing personalization, and 44% are actively working on personalized content experiences.

44% of content professionals actively work to provide personalized experiences.

Content is the substance of personalized experiences–those emails and landing pages and white papers and suggestions and more tailored to customers. That might be obvious. What might not be obvious is how much work tailoring that content is. What’s more, content also is a mechanism to gain more data and insight about customers without being invasive. As you work to make the most of personalization, consider questions like these:

  • What customer segments or cohorts make sense for us to develop content for? What do we know about their behavior and preferences?
  • How can we model our content at the right level of granularity to enable delivering different messages to different customer segments?
  • How will we assess our content effectiveness in personalized experiences and use resulting insights to improve those experiences?
  • What governance, standards, and business rules are we putting in place to avoid sending messages or content to customers without their permission?
  • Do we have content that effectively communicates to customers what to expect when they sign up, subscribe, opt in, or otherwise agree to receive communication from us?
  • Does our personalized content approach meet current or imminent legislation for consumer data protection?
  • In what moments in the customer journey can we delight customers with a personalized message, reminder, or suggestion?
  • Do we have an aligned approach across our products and services to sending emails to customers, or are we at risk of bombarding customers to the point they opt out?

Related: What Makes Content Operations Successful? Full Report 2023

So, without a modern approach to content strategy and operations, effective personalization will be tough. Let’s turn to a third martech problem with strong content ties.

Martech Problem 3: Getting Stuck on Integration

As the number of content technologies and marketing technologies innovate and proliferate, integration grows in importance.

What This Martech Problem Is

At Content Science, we define technology integration (martech and otherwise) this way:

In technology contexts, integration is how well a tool, platform, or other technology works with an organization’s internal and external systems.

If your company uses martech that doesn’t integrate well with your systems, your company will limit its potential value or impact. And, if your organization is like most, you have many tools, platforms, and technologies that are part of your systems—which means many integration points that can become sticking points. Consider these facts:

Integration challenges slow or hamper digital transformation (including martech) in 80% of organizations.

Why This Martech Problem Matters

Many marketing and technology leaders (and their teams) have been burned by integration. For example, our own research into CMS (content management system) selection found the top challenge for rolling out a CMS is integration / backend implementation. So, it’s no surprise that integrations have emerged as a top, if not the top, consideration in buying marketing technology. Chief Martech has found

  • Integrations are the #1 and #2 most important reasons companies decide on a martech vendor. External integrations are the highest priority, with internal integrations coming second.
  • Integrations are the #1 factor behind switching martech software.

Additionally, our own research with leaders selecting a CMS found “easy integrations” is one of the top features they seek.

So, what’s at stake? Surprisingly, we haven’t found any data specific to how often martech efforts fail due to integrations. (And you know we love data here at Content Science, so you know we looked really, really hard.) But failing at martech for any reason means, at a minimum, falling short of the expected return on investment.

Failing at integrations also contributes to not-so-obvious technical, customer data, and content debt. We like Martech’s definition of this kind of debt, which is “the cost of rework caused by taking the easy road to a ‘now’ outcome instead of using a more reasonable approach that might take longer.”

Content As the Cause and Solution

Many discussions of martech integrations focus on the customer data, but customer data is only one element of an integration. Content is another big element in two significant ways:

  • Tools that manage and orchestrate planning, creation, delivery, and promotion of content usually need to be part of your integrated martech stack.
  • The content assets and the data related to those assets need to move seamlessly through your martech.

So as you consider adding to or changing your martech stack, ask questions like these:

  • What are the lifecycles of our content types? How will our content and / or its related data be available through the martech stack across each lifecycle?
  • How will we run reports on the content assets we have, their characteristics, their performance, and their effectiveness?
  • How does our content need to be modeled to support delivery in different channels, contexts, and / or languages?
  • What data about the content and the customer needs to be available to drive personalized or relevant experiences and when?

Related to that last question, our research has found that organizations that offer or are working to offer personalized experiences are using these types of data:

  • Business criteria such as industry, location, organization, size, etc. 
  • Behavior criteria such as previously viewed content 
  • Demographic criteria such as age and gender 
  • Other criteria including segmentation by product and personas 

Related: What Is the State of Content Operations in 2023?

Now let’s consider a related martech problem, content migration.

Martech Problem 4: Content Migration Mayhem

Content migration can wreak havoc on martech aspirations.

What This Martech Problem Is

The Content Science team defines content migration this way:

Content migration is the process of moving content from one system to another. Steps should include assessing, preparing, migrating, and testing.

Content migration might sound straightforward, but for most large companies and organizations with thousands or hundreds of thousands of assets, it’s a complicated proposition. What can turn complication into mayhem is when a company has lacked content governance and accumulated extensive content debt, then tries to migrate that mess into a new system. 

Why This Martech Problem Matters

Problems with content migration slow martech implementation. As a result, the cost of implementing martech rises and the time to realizing ROI increases. In terms of cost, today a content migration is often part of a larger cloud or data migration. A slow or failed such migration can take any technology project over budget, with Gartner predicting 60% of relevant leaders will encounter cost overruns through 2024.

Content As the Cause and Solution

The fact content plays an important role in a content migration might sound like a no-brainer, but we mention it because we find most organizations treat such migration as an IT issue, not a content issue. That approach, limited by an IT-only perspective, increases the risk that a content migration will fail or not achieve all it’s intended to achieve.

The number one action you can take to ensure content migration succeeds is to audit the content in your digital ecosystem first, then address content problems. A recent study found that 61% of companies that report content success run audits at least twice each year.

Similarly, our research finds the successful actively address content debt. Chris Hester of UL Systems explains it well in What Makes Content Operations Successful?.

If you can start managing your content debt — remove content you don’t need anymore, manage the size of your images, start managing your page weight — you can start laying the groundwork for more sustainable content practices.

Related: Content Auditing Course with CSA

Now let’s turn to our fifth and final martech problem.

Martech Problem 5: Adoption Gone Awry

If the right people don’t use your martech stack, it might as well not be there.

What This Martech Problem Is

Adoption is essentially how your organization accepts and uses new technology of any kind, including martech. Spinning up a new tool or platform isn’t enough to see results. Your teams have to use your martech stack effectively and consistently over time. If your teams are slow to embrace the martech stack for any reason, you have an adoption problem.

Why This Martech Problem Matters

If your company is not using the martech it has, you’re not alone. A recent investigation found the average martech utilization at large organizations dropped from 42% in 2022 to only 33% in 2023. Yet, as we mentioned earlier, the spend on martech has held steady at about 25% of marketing budgets. This disconnect means marketing leaders are at risk of not only failing to achieve the predicted ROI, including up to 40% increase in revenue, but also losing budget for future martech investments. Ouch.

Related: 50 Crucial Content Facts

Content As the Cause and Solution

As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, firms such as Gartner are calling out training as the solution to adoption problems. On the surface, that seems logical. But it doesn’t seem to be working. If we dig deeper, it’s not hard to see how 

  • The other four problems called out in this article contribute to martech adoption issues.
  • Content, consequently, has a cumulative effect on adoption success or failure.

Let me explain. Let’s say your martech initiative does not factor in content needs for automation, personalization, or integration and then has a messy content migration. You could then easily face a situation characterized by pain points such as

  • The workflows in your martech tools do not match or improve upon content-related workflows, and developers are still needed to make significant content changes.
  • An integration problem means one or more steps in content planning, creation, publication, promotion, and maintenance are more manual and / or time consuming than they need to be.
  • Personalization is limited because the right content at the right level of granularity is not available or the right content or customer data is not present.
  • The martech tools are clogged with outdated, low quality, or otherwise unnecessary content assets.
  • Reporting on content performance and effectiveness is slow, confusing, or not available.

No amount of training can compensate for such an unworkable situation. And trying to increase training without addressing the content issues will only make your teams frustrated to the point they might leave.

So, if you’re facing a martech adoption problem, consider whether the cause is your teams really aren’t trained enough or the martech implementation is unadoptable. If the latter, then redirect your adoption budget toward addressing content in martech problems such as automation, personalization, integration, and migration.

We have covered much territory in this article, and the table below summarizes the highlights.

Addressing Content in Martech Problems
Problem + Supporting FactRole of Content
1. Automation Is an Afterthought
A martech effort turns few of the automation possibilities into reality.

70% of marketers are unhappy with their marketing automation software.
Acts as the substance of digital marketing and sales interactions.
Supports marketing automation with models, types, and templates.
2. Missing Personalization’s Potential
A martech effort achieves little more than using a customer’s name in an email.

71% of consumers expect personalization.
Provides the substance of personalized interactions, such as tailored messages.
Allows businesses to non-invasively gain insight into customers.
3. Getting Stuck on Integration
A martech effort struggles to integrate new tools with internal and external systems.

Integration challenges slow digital transformation in 80% of organizations.
Requires integration of content-specific tools into the martech stack.
Requires integration to move content assets and asset-related data through a martech stack.
4. Content Migration Mayhem
A martech effort tries to move a content mess from one system to another.

60% of leaders involved in migration will experience cost overruns.
Slows or hampers migration efforts when content is not audited beforehand.
Requires a content-centered perspective, not just an IT perspective, when migrating to a new system.
5. Adoption Gone Awry
Marketing teams do not use the martech stack to its potential, or at all.

Average martech utilization at large organizations sits at only 33% in 2023.
Factors into automation, personalization, and integration initiatives, which have a cumulative impact on adoption.
Cannot be addressed with training when content needs such as content-related processes, requirements, and more are ignored.

The Promise of an End-to-End Content Approach for Martech

Content is the difference between success and failure in martech. This article has outlined five critical martech problems that are largely content problems. The sooner your organization recognizes the role of content in these problems, the sooner you can make content part of the solution—and the sooner you can realize a return on your martech investment.

We find that these martech problems are related. So, if you’re experiencing more than one—or even all five—you’re not alone. And you might be overwhelmed with how to address content. Rather than hack a hasty content solution to each problem, consider a comprehensive, end-to-end content approach. Learn more about why and how to start an end-to-end content initiative from The Ultimate Guide to End-to-End Content.

The Authors

Colleen Jones is the author of the top-rated book The Content Advantage and president of Content Science, a growing professional services firm that turns content insight into impact. She has advised or trained hundreds of leading companies and organizations as they close the content gap in their digital transformations. A passionate entrepreneur, Colleen has led Content Science to develop the content intelligence software ContentWRX, publish the online magazine Content Science Review, and offer online certifications and training through Content Science Academy.

A member of Mensa and crusader against misinformation, Colleen has earned recognition as a top instructor on LinkedIn Learning, one of the Top 50 Most Influential Women in Content Marketing, and a Content Change Agent by Intercom Magazine. She speaks about content issues in artificial intelligence, digital transformation, and customer experience at corporate and industry events around the world.

Follow Colleen on LinkedIn.

Content Science partners with the world’s leading organizations to close the content gap in digital business. We bring together the complete capabilities you need to transform or scale your content approach. Through proprietary data, smart strategy, expert consulting, creative production, and one-of-a-kind products like ContentWRX and Content Science Academy, we turn insight into impact. Don’t simply compete on content. Win.

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