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It’s Not a Software Gap; It’s a Skills Gap

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: B2B companies have a lot to learn from the way B2C companies conduct business.

Yes, I know… Nothing about that statement is surprising, and the vast majority of us know that we must focus on marketing to individuals, even (especially) within the B2B realm where we talk to groups of individuals. Marketo released its latest ebook a few weeks ago proving we’re all firmly entrenched in the Engagement Economy, and personalization and experience are the two heavy hitters that we need to start in every game.

This is all well and good. But we’re still missing an entire segment of this conversation, and it’s going to serve none of us well to keep ignoring it. Here’s what I know, what you probably know as well – and what we all need to start talking about:

Thousands of Tools Later, and We’re Still Not Winning

There was an era (not long ago) when software was ahead of its time. Companies who were using it felt pretty good about how forward-thinking they were, and liked to give themselves congratulatory pats on the back. But then more and more tools began to be created, and the snowball went out of control.

Right now, there are 212 software vendors in marketing automation alone (not to mention all the others in more general marketing and sales categories). That’s a 36 percent increase from last year. So maybe we could reasonably expect that a 36 percent increase in marketing success would also have followed. But it hasn’t.

The real crux of the matter is that we’ve gotten carried away with all our technology, and we still are not winning with marketing at the level we expected. Before you start to think, “the answer must be that the marketing technology isn’t giving us what we need,” rein yourself in! And hear me when I say: The fix for this is not more software.

Dump the Assumption

I love technology and think it absolutely serves a purpose. Hell, I’ve built my career around it. But, when are the software companies (and every other company with common sense) going to take a stand and say enough is enough?

Here’s the kicker. The tech itself isn’t flawed. But there’s a fatal flaw in one key assumption that software creators are making. They continue to assume the people using their products are experienced, trained marketers. As long as software companies assume that their end users can implement, understand, set up and properly use their solutions, this saturation of tech will continue to be part of the reason that results are drowning.

So What’s the Fix?

Software people are a funny breed. They might read something like this and automatically think, “Ah, yes. We should probably add some more features so our users can have better success.” Meanwhile, the answer is really the opposite of that. First, stop adding features just for the sake of adding features. And second, invest in training.

If the companies making all this great tech would allocate their budgets away from adding on functionality and put it toward better education that equips their end users to properly use what they’ve already created, we could start to see a really positive shift. After all, the engagement economy is real and it really matters. We must engage with our buyers, and we need to adopt much of the focus on personalization and experience that B2C brands use with proficiency. That’s all true.

But marketers must acquire more “real world” skills, and learn how to get deep with the software systems they already have implemented. Asking for help and better training shouldn’t be a point of pride; I tend to think continuing to get weak results is the far bigger ego blow. So software companies need to provide better onboarding, check-in points and training, and the end user needs to ask for all this if it isn’t offered to them.

Oh and here’s a Secret about Tech…

After all this, you might be wondering about how technology fits into it and how we can continue to innovate and solve new problems if we halt the endless software creation machine that’s currently in high gear. The takeaway from my perspective is that technology can be immensely valuable, but only if it’s used properly. And while it can help us achieve a lot of our goals, there’s a lot we can still do without it. In fact, I recently collaborated with many B2B leaders to admit there are plenty of ways to succeed without technology – and without it as a crutch. It’s something many of us don’t want to talk about, but we better start talking or marketing is just going to keep taking a nosedive.

Let’s all agree to stop treating the widespread lack of marketing success as a software gap. It’s a skills gap, and each of us (marketers, software creators and business leaders) has some level of accountability to fix the gap. Let’s tear down the facade together, and get busy getting better at our jobs and elevating the reputation of our industry. Who’s with me?

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