Marketing used to be a people business. But things are changing. Technology has become key and automation the nirvana, and that has led to a shift in the role of support, people or even the human IP in marketing today. In the race for marketing domination, Technology businesses are stripping away support services as they chase higher market valuations. It is beginning to appear that, for Technology vendors in particular, ‘support’ and ‘people’ are becoming dirty words.
However, our opinion isn’t the one that actually matters. We wanted to hear the views of marketers, so, working with TFM Insights, we commissioned the ‘Marketing Technology Support Report 2017’ and what we found is that there is a changing requirement from users, which can be typified as a growing shift away from traditional account management towards more expert and topic led support.
Nevertheless, I am still left with the feeling that there remains a dichotomy in MarTech surrounding the role of people and support as technology takes over more of what marketers used to do.
On the one hand the growth of tech platforms benefits end users. For instance, the development of predictive systems, machine learning and artificial intelligence are making more accurate decisions faster than human beings. This leads to improved ROI and ensures that users can achieve more with less resource than ever before. Or so goes the theory.
This leads to a changing role for people within the vendor organisations, a change highlighted by the report. The requirements of users are shifting. For instance, account management is less valued, but effective support services and consultancy is increasingly required.
I’m not a conspiracy theorist, I promise. But it serves the technology providers to strip support to the bone because the fewer people they employ the greater the valuation of their business! Technology businesses demand far higher share prices than agencies due to their scalability and future potential. So it is a goal of tech companies to reduce employee numbers to an absolute minimum.
For some organisations the reduction of support services from their technology provider mirrors their requirement to bring these services in-house and hence there is a good fit. But for others this is not the case.
And indeed, when is thewatershed line reached? For one respondent to our survey, the line has not only been reached but it sits miles behind them in the dust: “Using the tech in a previous role, the support was excellent. However, the tech has since been bought by a major industry player, and it's just crashed and burned. There aren't words to describe the levels of frustration.”
We realised that the responses to our report set out a clear vision for what levels of support buyers of MarTech want from their providers. At its core it represents the end of old fashioned account management and the requirement for vendors to develop new support services to meet the changing needs.
The new ‘support landscape’ looks like this:
Support, i.e. answering the phone to issues, is critical. Stories of automated ticketing systems meaning you wait days if not weeks for someone to discuss your issue are legion, and do not do vendors any favours. Fast, efficient telephone service remains a key requirement.
Vendor teams to resolve complexity. As technology is developed it naturally becomes more complex despite attempts to achieve all-encompassing marketing automation. This is made worse by mergers and acquisitions that result in bolt-together solutions. Without teams to help users overcome complexity the user will never maximise their spend or indeed the potential ROI.
Operators! The stripping of support services by the major MarTech businesses is leaves many organisations needing to hire agencies to run the technology they have purchased because they cannot resource it internally!
Training, training, training… specifically on new releases but also to support the user’s own revolving door of employees.
Integration specialists are increasingly in demand. This goes back to the subject of complexity, but take just one example, the growing use of API to integrate with 3rd parties. Marketing teams need support to help make APIs credible benefits clear to their business.
And finally, good old consultants. Instead of account managers, organisations want more expertise in the form of consultancy. Users need inspiration, they need external insight and they need confirmation that they are on the right track.
So in summary, we are in a period of change. Support is fracturing into different requirements. But I still believe that for many organisations there is no substitute for insight or indeed commitment from the vendor to help the end user to deliver the vision that they were sold. Who better to help deliver that vision than the organisation who knows the technology the best? At RedEye we remain committed to supporting our clients in any way they wish but also to developing to meet changing requirements. One of our stated values is ‘We’re in it with you!’.
I’d like to leave you with the words of another one of our survey respondents who stated - “Vendors are good at selling the vision - and potential - of the tech. However, for people on the ground, getting out the starting blocks and working towards that vision is a struggle. Particularly since vendors will only provide basics and high-level onboarding and then leave you to your own devices after 90 days”.