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Digital Marketing Tools Aren’t Easy – And They Shouldn’t Be

Last week I participated in a Zoom call with a client who was getting a demonstration of a new digital asset management system. 

The sales engineer deftly clicked through the interface, configured a new set of images, assigned the metadata, and set the rights-management properties. Then he logged in as different users to demonstrate a sophisticated workflow. Next, he published an asset and showed how the system would present it in different formats depending on the channel. 

During the 20-minute presentation, he mentioned no fewer than five times how “easy” it was for the “business user” to do something previously available only to experts. 

I had to interrupt.  “Here’s the thing,” I said, “It actually isn’t easy.” 

The sales engineer looked confused. 

I clarified, “You make it look dead simple. But to someone who doesn’t understand what you’re doing, you might as well be controlling the Mars Rover. Managing this kind of technology is not easy. And that’s okay.”

You never see product marketing materials for airplane flight control systems that say, “We make it easy for new pilots to fly planes.” You never see anesthesia machines marketed with phrases like, “We make it easy for anesthesiologists to knock out their first patient.” Computer network architects aren’t promised technology solutions that “empower the non-technical creator or business user.”

Marketers in these industries may use familiar technology marketing adjectives like “ergonomic,” “intuitive,” or “scalable.”  But they don’t make claims that someone who isn’t an expert will be able to just pick it up.

Why not?

Pilots, anesthesiologists, and computer network architects are considered professionals who should have the experience and training to handle complex technology interfaces. The technology they use is tied to how they do their job.  

Therefore, while new tools may be made more intuitive than the previous ones, everyone expects these professionals to be trained on the different kinds of tools they’ll need. 

But with marketing tech, there’s an expectation that it has to be made so basic that even non-marketers can manage it properly.  

Today, marketers work with some of the most sophisticated digital technology and interfaces in any industry. Try sitting airline pilots down in front of a digital experience platform and asking them to set up a new section of the corporate website. Or tell a network architect to give you intelligent insights from an analytics system that connects to four different content technologies. 

Marketers are becoming proficient in specific expert systems. We should embrace and encourage that. 

In many businesses, marketing technology gets purchased with the notion that it should be “interchangeable” or “easy” to implement. 

But in CMI’s 2020 Content Management and Strategy Survey, only 3% of respondents considered their organization’s level of proficiency with technology “expert.” Most (42%) said their level of proficiency was “intermediate.” And those numbers haven’t changed markedly in the four years that we’ve conducted our research. 

It’s simple: Marketing departments aren’t getting better at deploying and managing technology. Could that be because we’re told that it should be “easy,” “simple,” and “interchangeable?” That’s not the way any of this works.

Marketing technology will get easier – but it may not be simpler. It will become cheaper – but it may not be more efficient. It may be faster – but it may not help us move any quicker. 

The rising tide of technological capability is wonderful – but it assumes we have invested in a boat. As you think about marketing tech acquisitions, recognize the need to invest not just in new capabilities – but in the expertise that helps you steer them in new directions.    

It’s your story. Tell it well.

If you’re ready to build your expertise in digital marketing technology, join us for the virtual ContentTECH Summit this June. Explore the agenda or sign up today.


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