What is the ‘New Martech State of Play’?

By Caitlin Riordan, ​​VP Client Success and Services, APAC, Cheetah Digital

Earlier this year Arktic Fox, in conjunction with Michael Page, released a report on the Marketing State of Play highlighting key transformational, martech and data challenges marketers currently face.

To explore the report’s findings in-depth, Cheetah Digital and Arktic Fox hosted a webinar, “The Marketing State of Play: Leadership Matters”, where leading experts discussed martech and digital adoption opportunities and challenges, offering insights into how to best make the leap into the new era of digital.

The panelists included:

  • Caitlin Riordan, ​​VP Client Success and Services, APAC, Cheetah Digital; 
  • Teresa Sperti, Director and Founder, Arktic Fox; 
  • Natalie Gray, Expert Lead, Marketing Operations, ING; and 
  • Rae Leong, Director of Technical Services, Cheetah Digital.

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Martech implementation: where is the trust?

The Marketing State of Play Report found close to 30% of marketing leaders don’t feel like they can trust implementation partners or can’t find the right partners to support them. 

Teresa Sperti, Director and Founder at Arktic Fox, says the market lacks independence and most implementation partners have received some form of kickback from the vendors to influence purchasing decisions. 

Teresa says platforms should be chosen for their ability to empower marketers to achieve their business goals, rather than self-interest. 

“Commissions and kickbacks are far too prevalent in the industry, and more prevalent than most marketers realise. Marketers need to be aware that preferential selection occurs in the market, and seek transparency from providers. 

“Marketers need to decide if the recommendations presented to meet their needs, or are in the self-interest of the provider,” Teresa says.

Selecting the wrong platform is a costly mistake, Teresa explains. “It impacts your ability to realise benefits, demonstrate return and has a knock-on effect on the team’s credibility and the ability to secure additional funding.

“As marketers reach to own the biggest seat at the table, these types of things are critical. Platform selection needs to be done with eyes wide open, and it’s got to be right sized for the organisation.

“This means we’ve got to ask the tough question; who is benefiting from the decision I’m making?” Teresa adds. 

The critical need for a ‘holistic martech playbook’

There is no holistic “playbook” to help marketers vet martech solutions, according to Natalie Gray, Expert Lead, Marketing Operations, ING. This lack of knowledge encourages marketers to rely heavily on external partners and their recommendations. 

Natalie says she has seen partners bring “how to not” and “watch out” playbooks, and ultimately they dovetail into psychological safety around making mistakes. 

“Any vendor that can come along and help you navigate a complicated environment is worth their weight in gold,” she says. 

Rae Leong, Director of Technical Services at Cheetah Digital says as a vendor, Cheetah Digital works with many different clients across many different verticals and industries. This enables Cheetah Digital to predict what might work for a client. 

‘We regularly draw on our cross-industry experience and learnings to understand what worked well. We share these insights and best practices with our clients to help them with their marketing goals. For example, if we see there are similarities in demographics, we recommend strategic approaches that we have seen work. 

“It’s not a direct copy, cut-paste approach however, we need to understand and overlay the brand’s approach, the brand’s visions and goals before implementation.

“Being from the tech side, you need to consider the layers and layers of integration points, data gaps and capability gaps that need to be addressed,” Rae adds. 

In any martech implementation, there are going to be challenges, says Teresa. 

“Let’s not pretend that every platform is flawless, and is going to meet all of our needs. Platform providers and the implementation partners are much better placed if they’re open and honest when working together,” Teresa says. 

Natalie says one thing she is loving at ING is being able to get these issues on the table. 

“The journey to this point has been developing a collaborative environment. It has been about getting the right people together for these important conversations, and feeling comfortable to say ‘we don’t know, can you help?’ It’s okay to admit that. 

“That’s why I keep harping on about psychological safety in every meeting. By admitting “we don’t know” something, we begin to see this uncharted territory as an opportunity.” Natalie adds.

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The ‘confidence building’ role of the martech vendor

Experts agreed the client plays an important role in building confidence and psychological safety to enable the vendor to admit when they don’t know something. Rae notes that as a vendor, it’s sometimes difficult to come out and admit “I’ve not seen a requirement of this nature before”. 

“Instead of putting a smokescreen to say, ‘we can do this and hack our way through’, we think it is better to be upfront and honest and say ‘we’ve not seen this before’.

“By being open, it allows us to work collaboratively with the clients. It’s about finding a way to do this together, working through the use case together, and finding a way together. We’ll succeed together, we’ll fail together, and go on that journey together. We turn from just vendors to real partners by sharing the success together,” Rae says.  

Structural challenges and organisational agility

Teresa says she often sees organisations pull a structural lever quickly, as a way to address collaboration and agility, and other key issues. 

“The reality is of course, that structure can enable you to flatten and reduce hierarchy and reduce silos to reorient around the customer. There’s a lot of valuable outputs from engaging in some sort of restructuring. 

“But too often restructuring is seen as a silver bullet to address the broader, deeper cultural issues that need to be addressed within the organisation.” 

Teresa says if organisations truly want team members to collaborate and have greater agility, then the leadership team should model the right behaviours.

“As a leader, you need to unlock the obstacles and get out of the way so the team can do their job. You need to provide clarity around direction to serve as guardrails and be actively nurturing relationships across the organisation with your peers. 

“We still see significant misalignment between marketing leaders and IT leaders. They’re not actively working together to achieve common outcomes. They’re trying to work around each other and that sentiment filters through to the way that teams engage. No structural change is going to improve that. This is about culture and mindset,” Teresa adds. 

Rae notes organisations need to have an agile mindset. She says adopting agile principles will allow organisations to respond quickly to change and improve prioritisation.

“It’s all about providing clarity. It’s not putting a structure in place, for the sake of it, because it’s the latest buzzword. Personally, I have seen many organisations who say they are agile practitioners, they throw around the lingo and run agile ceremonies because it’s the hype. However, they’re not actually practicing the agile values wholeheartedly,” Rae says. 

“They need to ask, are we empowering individuals on a ground level? Are the objectives clear enough for them to know? If organisations today want to adopt that agile mindset and structure, it has to be done from a leadership level. Leaders have to lead by example. They have to fully embrace the mindset and create an environment that allows the organisation to transform successfully,” Rae adds. 

Thinking differently about the ‘future state of play’

The Marketing State of Play Report challenges organisations to think and to act differently. For the future, Teresa says marketers should lean into big challenges like digital transformation. 

“Be brave. Discuss what’s not working in your function. Leadership isn’t a title, it’s a mindset”. 

“I encourage every marketer and digital professional to challenge the current state. If something is not working, something needs to be improved. It can’t be changed if you’re not honest about the challenges. Be brave and speak up, and lean into those difficult challenges,” she concludes. 

About Cheetah Digital

Cheetah Digital is a cross-channel customer engagement solution provider for the modern marketer. The Cheetah Digital Customer Engagement Suite enables marketers to create personalized experiences, cross-channel messaging, and loyalty strategies, underpinned by an engagement data platform that can scale to meet the changing demands of today’s consumer. Many of the world’s best brands, including Hilton, Neiman Marcus, Walgreens, and Williams-Sonoma trust Cheetah Digital to help them drive revenue, build lasting customer relationships, and deliver a unique value exchange throughout the customer lifecycle. To learn more, visit www.cheetahdigital.com.

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