What do enterprise marketers really think about marketing tech?

Marketing Technology — State of the Union

The following is a guest post by Tony Byrne, founder of Real Story Group, a research and advisory firm that covers marketing technology.

The past several years have been exciting times for the digital marketing industry, with major marketplace expansion, ample M&A activity, and fresh understanding about how MarTech should work in the future.

What’s less well known is the state of customer adoption of marketing toolsets. Real Story Group recently surveyed nearly 100 enterprise digital marketing leaders from around the world, and not surprisingly, the results are mixed. (You can get your own copy of the survey results at tinyurl.com/MarTech-RSG.)

At a high level, we can generalize about the key themes that customers are reporting:

  1. Enterprise-wide digital marketing strategies are getting put in place
  2. Marketing leaders still struggle with toolsets
  3. Expertise availability — especially in-house skills — remains a limitation


Here’s the good news from the results. 59% of you have elaborated digital marketing strategies at an enterprise-wide level. Pundits almost universally caution that technology should follow from strategy, while counseling a holistic approach to the challenge. It looks like increasingly you’re following that advice.


There’s angst here. Only half of you think you have the right tools in place, and three-in-five find your existing toolsets under-utilized. To be fair, we find these sorts of ratios in other technology segments that RSG evaluates. But perhaps that’s the point: marketing technology still suffers from the same sorts of challenges that bedevil other types of enterprise technology. As a community we haven’t cracked the code yet on tool fit and exploitation.

Skill Sets

The survey finds a mixed story here. On the one hand, only half of you think you have adequate digital marketing expertise in-house. This tracks pretty consistently with anecdotal conversations we have with RSG subscribers, where talent acquisition and dealing with expanding organizational charts have become frequent topics over the past year.

On the plus side, two-thirds of you report access to adequate external expertise. The ecosystem of MarTech analyst-advisors, consultants, integrators, and events continues to expand and sop up growing needs for enterprise support.


In-between strategy and technology lies execution. Here again the results prove middling. 55% of your MarTech projects came in on-budget, but only 39% came in on-time. Technology implementations are always fraught, regardless of category.

Of course, a modern marketing technology environment favors ongoing programs and products over one-off projects, and continuous delivery over big implementations. Budgets still matter, but improvements (and set-backs) should come in frequent increments.

Such a model then begs the question of ongoing institutional effectiveness. Here the data from customers seems less well known, but we can take a stab at some provisional results by examining some early data from RSG’s RealScore benchmarking service. (You can try it yourself here.)

Actual vs. Potential MarTech Effectiveness

Note these are early tabulations from a smallish set. What’s interesting is that out of a possible score of 15, the average across customers falls between 7 and 8 in each category — again, fairly middling. It looks like customers report slightly greater effectiveness in breadth of functional capabilities (“we have a lot of different tools…”) than process maturity and the underlying technical/data infrastructure, but it’s still early and these benchmarks could change.

Final Thoughts

One always has to be careful about self-reported progress and effectiveness. In this era of the humblebrag, I sometimes find that enterprise customers actually tend downplay their successes. Although it’s a statistical improbability, most of RSG’s enterprise subscribers rate themselves as “behind” relative to their peers. You can’t all be behind, but maybe most of you just feel that way.

Still, the data suggests some authentic discontent in MarTech land. Basic marketing principles have long been known and passed down, but the application of new engagement technology remains difficult, with many of you still skinning your knees. If that reflects the situation in your enterprise, at least take solace that you’re not alone.

Thanks, Tony!

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