MarTech Overwhelm Syndrome: A Growing Concern Among B2B Marketing Executives

January 12, 2017

karen hittleman pareto blog.pngDo you suffer from Martech Overwhelm Syndrome? If so, you’re not alone.

Okay, I just coined that term. But I think it works well to describe a common ailment among marketing professionals. Namely, a severe form of stress brought on by the colossal number of marketing technologies available – and an inability to make smart decisions about which ones to use.

Scott Brinker talks about this problem in his blog, “Martec’s Law: the greatest management challenge of the 21st century.”  Martec’s Law is an idea Brinker came up with a few years back, which states that “technology changes exponentially, but organizations change logarithmically.” According to Brinker, figuring out how to handle the massive influx of marketing technologies is a very difficult problem.

In other words, faced with thousands of new and emerging technologies, how in the hell are marketers supposed to keep up?

Excuse my digital-French, but seriously. Have you seen Brinker’s 2016 Marketing Technology Supergraphic? It contains a whopping 3,874 marketing technology solutions – that’s double the number in his 2015 Supergraphic.

Brinker offers suggestions for addressing Martec’s Law, one of which is to “strategically choose the few [technologies] that we believe will have the greatest impact.” And he emphasizes that “having a clear strategy by which to make these choices is essential.”

That got me thinking about the strategic part of the equation. What techniques can we use to figure out which technologies will have the greatest impact?

And that got me thinking about an Italian guy . . .

Victor Pareto!

If you’re a marketing professional, you’re probably somewhat familiar with the Pareto Principle – also known as the 80/20 Rule (other aliases include the Law of the Vital Few and the Principle of Factor Sparsity).

Put simply, the Pareto Principle suggests that 80% of all effects are derived from 20% of all causes. Here’s a brief backstory:

Back in 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto realized that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by just 20% of its population. He also noticed that 20% of the peapods in his garden produced 80% of all the peas. Later, a management consultant named Joseph M. Juran expanded on Pareto’s observations and developed the principle.  

The Pareto Principle in B2B Marketing  

The Pareto Principle is widely applicable in sales and marketing. Here are some examples of common trends:

  • 80% of sales come from 20% of advertising channels
  • 80% of conversions are generated from 20% of a website’s pages
  • 80% of search visits come from 20% of the keywords
  • 80% of social shares come from 20% of the social updates
  • 80% of a company’s sales come from 20% of its salespeople
  • 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers
  • 80% of leads in content marketing come from 20% of the content generated
  • 80% of your conversions come from 20% of your landing pages

The Pareto Principle is not an exact science, of course. The 80/20 breakdown is just a rough estimate. But perhaps it can provide some insight as we think about marketing strategy.

For example, rather than dwelling forever on all the new marketing technologies they need right now, marketing executives can think about how to “stair step” their strategy to create a process of continuous improvement.

And that’s where Pareto comes in again.

Borne from the Pareto Principle, Pareto Analysis is a technique used in Six Sigma (quality control and process improvement) methodology to identify the few vital actions that will produce the greatest overall improvements.

Going back to Martec’s Law, Brinker says that “great technology management is choosing which changes to absorb – ideally those that are best aligned with the organization’s overall strategy.”

Pareto Analysis offers a clear, strategic technique for making those choices. Here are the basic steps:

  1. Identify and list problems you’re trying to solve
  2. Identify and list root causes of each problem (here, you can lean on a variety of methods – from brainstorming to the Five Whys)
  3. Score each problem (scoring method based on type of problem)
  4. Group problems together by their cause
  5. Add up the score for each group
  6. Identify the group with the highest score

Done right, Pareto Analysis should provide a clear view of which few areas to focus on first in order to achieve the greatest outcomes. (If you want to learn more about how to conduct a Pareto Analysis, Project Smart’s step-by-step description is a good place to start).

Pareto Analysis is a very adaptable technique that can be used for a variety of decision-making scenarios. And it just might help cure marketers suffering from Martech Overwhelm Syndrome (c’mon, let’s make this term stick).

Let’s say, for example, that your demand generation strategy has hit a plateau, and you’re considering making some changes (or maybe you’re even thinking of transitioning to an ABM strategy). Following Brinker’s advice, you’ve decided to start with a few technologies that will have the greatest impact on your overall marketing game. Pareto Analysis can help you identify which issues to focus on first in order to make the greatest improvements. You can then choose the technologies that address those issues.


By  Karen Hittelman

Karen Hittelman is a freelance copywriter specializing in business-to-business technology marketing. From fast-growth startups to Fortune 500s, Karen’s clients appreciate her ability to create compelling copy for complex solutions—with no handholding required. She's been in business since 2004.