Each year since 2011, marketing technology blog, ChiefMarTech has published an infographic featuring all the available marketing technology solutions. It began with a relatively short list of 150 logos but over the next five years, growth was astronomical. In less than three years, the list had 1000 names. In the just-released 2017 edition, the total exceeds 5000.
These innovations have been great for marketers. When I started building internet-enabled products 20 years ago, the idea of technology that could analyze and identify detailed customer segments and provide automated ways to deliver the most relevant content directly to them was not only revolutionary – to have it you had to have a huge engineering team and an even bigger budget..
Despite the huge new advantages available to the modern marketer, it became clear to me around 2015 that many companies were struggling to maximize their new MarTech investments. I started Mammoth Growth to help businesses who didn’t have the time, resources or skills to ask the right questions, instrument the right tools and provide insights that would achieve measurable results.
The creative bottleneck
At Mammoth Growth we want our clients to boldly go where the data analysis leads them. We work with our clients to eliminate the analytics bottleneck so they have quick and accurate information at their fingertips. Having accurate and timely data is a boon for companies. Problem areas in the acquisition funnel, retention or product become obvious. However, in light of these problems we found that companies then had a new problem: the creative bottleneck.
All the analytics and operations tools that have transformed marketing rely on creative content as the fuel that drives audience engagement and revenue growth. The time it takes marketing and creative teams (whether internal resources or external agencies and freelancers) to develop the emails, web pages, white papers, blog posts, images, banner ads and more is the source of the creative bottleneck.
For the most part, the creative collaboration process that yields the best content has remained untouched by technological advances. Even with some semi-standardized process in place, delays are all too common because of poorly written creative briefs, a lack of feedback from key reviewers, confusion about the specific meaning of feedback and a foggy approval process.
Any formal project management often relies on Gantt charts (imposing a linear model on the wildly unpredictable creative process) and endless status meetings that only serve to delay the project even further. In the end, content was often released that wasn’t as effective as it should have been.
The business costs of the creative bottleneck
With each new rushed, botched job, creative teams feel less proud of their output and less willing to try something new. This situation makes nobody happy, and it shows in the data.
Marketing managers waste time running after approvals and keeping disparate teams of content creators on the same page. Operations and analytics teams grow frustrated waiting for optimized programs to get to market. Finance teams wring their hands at the agency cost overruns, while revenue leaders bemoan the lack of content needed to power new sales growth.
If there ever was a need to bring technology innovation into play, it’s to break this creative bottleneck. Content Marketing Institute’s 2017 B2C Benchmarks, Budgets and Trend report confirmed that while over 70% of teams planned to increase the volume of original content produced, more than half pointed to content creation as their biggest challenge.
A leading industry analyst claims that “the content supply chain is the rate limiter to digital marketing maturity”. Based on what I’m seeing every day, I’m inclined to agree.
The next generation of MarTech will break the bottleneckThrowing additional content creators at the problem may appear to be a viable solution to breaking the creative bottleneck. But as teams become more dispersed, it adds a communication “tax” onto the process. Creative teams will find themselves spending more and more time on administrative conversations and status updates rather than doing the creative work itself.
Clearly, the way we’ve always done creative content development is no longer viable. As Hightail’s VP of Marketing, Deborah Holstein told me:
“Marketers and their creative teams have unique needs for their creative process that cannot be met by basic, generic project management tools. Using these tools to simply update status is a waste of their time. Creative teams need a solution that helps them collaborate to create breakthrough content.”
Which is why I see purpose-built creative collaboration solutions like Hightail as the next frontier for marketing technology. It’s what marketers need to break the creative bottleneck that’s preventing them from making the most of their existing investments.
Who knows how many thousand logos will feature on ChiefMarTech’s 2017 infographic? But with necessity being the mother of innovation, I fully expect creative collaboration to be a key area over the coming years.