When technology companies mistakenly believe they’re marketing experts…

If you work in marketing you will no doubt be a recipient of the vomitron that is the content marketing of the “martech” companies.

I’ve never understood the claims these companies make about their marketing expertise. It’s the equivalent of a medical instrument salesperson claiming they’re a surgeon. Just because a company supplies software used by marketers, does not automatically translate into that company possessing marketing expertise.

After I sell you this instrument can I do a spot of brain surgery before I leave?

Many of these companies are highly successful. Marketo for example, was just bought for a casual few $Billion by Adobe. Generally though, they’re successful because they sell very good software, not because they supply marketing advice. They also usually have bucketloads of investor’s money to throw against the wall to get themselves noticed.

Ironically, it’s their “content marketing” that is usually the giveaway that they’re not too savvy at marketing, despite their posturing. Here are a couple of examples that arrived in my in-box last week.

Salesforce posted a blog laid out as follows:

You can tell from the headline, you’ll need to suspend your reality if you’re going to believe what’s coming. The layout is almost incomprehensible. The article claims to be “based on the shopping data of over 500 million global shoppers, we’ve outlined the five biggest trends that will dominate headlines this holiday season“.

I’m not sure what this means? Is it 500 million people in the USA who shop for things across the globe? Is it 500 million people from around the globe who have bought something online? Have they bought once only? Is it just measuring online shopping data or does it include all the people’s shopping? So many questions unanswered…

Depending in which country you live, online shopping accounts for between 3% and 9% of total annual retail sales. So if this report is only measuring online sales, it’s the kiddie pool of retail shopping that’s being measured here.

I also have no idea where these headlines will dominate? Newspapers? Christmas catalogues? Outdoor posters? Blog posts? Trump’s Tweets?

So the premise is confusing before we even start on the so-called “headline trends”.

The first trend is a blatant lie. It states: Holiday shoppers will buy more on mobile than on any other device

This could be construed as people who are shopping for holidays, but let’s assume it means people who are shopping during the holidays. This is an outrageous claim as it is nowhere near the truth. There is not one customer in a supermarket with a full shopping trolley, buying their groceries using their mobile. They are picking them off the shelf and paying for them at the checkout using credit or debit cards, and in some cases, electronic payment devices.

To reflect the truth, the claim should probably read: “Of the overall sales made during the holidays, the small percentage made online will be done in the most part via mobile devices.”

This is not news. Anybody working in marketing knows that mobile devices are now the preferred way to access the internet and shop online. This activity has been trending for the last decade.

The second trend is gobsmacking bollocks. AI-based product recommendations will drive 35% of revenue

How do these people sleep at night? 35% of all revenue will be driven by AI??? If online sales are less than 10% of all sales, how can 35% of all revenue come from AI? Gartner will have to develop a new section for its Hype Cycle. The “Fabricated Lies to Drive Enthusiasm” section. It’s just before the “Peak of Inflated Expectations” section.

If you’re interested, you can read the whole article here, but it won’t help your marketing in any way.

On the same day as the Salesforce blog, three hours apart, I received two emails signed by “Team Marketo”. Even the most junior marketer knows that teams don’t send emails, individuals do. How often in your organisation does the whole “team” sit around a keyboard and collectively hit the send button? Ever?

Even worse than teams allegedly sending messages, is a message that doesn’t include a telephone number. If your business model doesn’t allow for a customer to easily call you, then your business is at risk.

It’s strange how the digital marketing industry seems to delight in only delivering a less-than-average DIY customer service, while prattling on about CX and UX. That is, the companies force customers to search websites in frustration, while trying unsuccessfully to find answers to problems, because the companies refuse to provide customer service by telephone.

To prove my point I had to use Google to search for Marketo’s phone number and then call the Australian reception, as there was no number in the emails. A computer put me on hold and then a very polite person named Claire answered. I asked if I could speak with Team Marketo. Claire was confused.

A team preparing to send bulk personal emails…

So I explained I had receive messages from Team Marketo and wanted to talk with the team. She explained that wasn’t possible but she might be able to help. I asked how can a team send an email? Do they all gather around one computer? Claire advised it was a martech problem. Ironically, Marketo is migrating data in a Salesforce CRM system and the system can’t read all the data. So Marketo has to send personal mesages from teams, rather than individuals. Go figure.

At least Marketo won’t have to worry about Salesforce much longer, given they’ll soon be doing another migration to their new owners at Adobe.

I also have no idea what “empowering the fearless marketer” in the signature file means? Does it only work for extroverts? What about the shy marketers? It seems to be just another glib strapline to try to build credibility where it probably doesn’t exist.

As Mark Twain (and others) have said; “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail“. And so it is with martech companies. They only operate in narrow channels in the digital space, but they assume the whole world lives their too. So they only ever provide alleged expertise for a handful of digital channels. They never provide expertise on TV advertising, male urinal advertising, skywriting, railway stair advertising, radio, mail, outdoor, letterbox, blah, blah.

The reason is simple – they know absolutely nothing about these media channels. Which means they only know a smidgen about marketing communications in general. Their sweeping marketing generalisations to attain credibility are often more dangerous than helpful.

Here’s another that arrived today.

Any art director worth their salt, knows you never reverse type out of a dark or image background. Comprehension is reduced to around 12% at best, as it is impossible to read. And you never centre blocks of copy. You either justify it or range it left.

As for the copy, well let’s just say anything talking about “engagement” of any sort is a dead giveaway it’s likely talking platitudes rather than facts.

Email marketing success is relatively simple:

The “From Line” gets the email opened, while the “Subject Line” gets the message deleted. Recipients ask “who is sending this – do I know them?” and then “what is the message about, is it of interest to me?” Then they decide whether to open or delete the message. The rest is just process. You don’t need a technology company to tell you how to succeed.

Maybe the technology companies should stick to their knitting – delivering Software as a Service. Let the marketers worry about doing the marketing education. After all, I’m sure they wouldn’t let a marketer tell them how to design the code for their software…


  1. “never understood the claims these companies make about their marketing expertise. It’s the equivalent of a medical instrument salesperson claiming they’re a surgeon. Just because a company supplies software used by marketers, does not automatically translate into that company possessing marketing expertise.“

    Snake oil Malcom

  2. You’re so right. Companies who develop email marketing software and provide industry expertise in how best to use their platform, with decades of experience and in-house email marketing specialists behind them, are in fact clueless when it comes to email marketing.

    Email marketing success is also very simple – said every underperforming marketer ever!

  3. Thanks LOL, though email is simple if approached as one person talking with another, rather than as a broadcast channel. I’ve written two books on the subject, and not much has changed in 20 years apart from the functionality of the technology.

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