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How Marketing Technology Will Impact on Your Small Business in the Next Twelve Months

In order to understand how marketing technology will affect your small business in the near future, it’s necessary to get an idea of what you’re dealing with. According to Scott Brinker of chief Martech.com the technological tools available to the modern marketer in March 2016 looked like this:

“marketing tehnology landscape”

Hint: You’ll need a magnifying glass or to go to the source at http://chiefmartec.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000px.jpg to appreciate the true level of detail and amount of work that went into this. There are in fact, about 3500 logos included in this infographic.

In an attempt to simplify the core ideas in the martech.com graphic, and to offer a range of tools more accessible to and more suitable for small business, Dave Chaffey and the team at Smart Insights came up with a wheel-shaped infographic not long after. It has the advantage that, of all 150 suggested tools, all of the free or low cost tools – the tools that are arguably the most attractive to small business, with their limited resources – are closest to the rim of the wheel:

Source: http://www.smartinsights.com/digital-marketing-platforms/essential-digital-marketing-tools-infographic/

But as great as these graphics are, even the most casual observer will note that, even in the simplified graphic, with 150 tools spread out over 30 categories, the sheer number of core concepts, and the range of tools available can be daunting. This is not a subject that you’re going to be able to get your head around in just a couple of minutes, or even a couple of days.
Which leads to the first major impact – being overwhelmed.
As a small business you have some advantages over larger businesses. You can respond faster, you can change direction more dynamically because you’re more flexible (or at least you ought to be). But the critical disadvantage is that your resources are far fewer.
With all these marketing tools available, where do you start? What do you do first?
Consider also that “overwhelment” works both ways. As a business, you’re not only a generator of marketing, you’re a recipient too. Other businesses are marketing to you. Which ones will you pay attention to? You probably already spend far too much time reading interesting but irrelevant emails as well as boring and irrelevant ones too.

Then again, your own marketing will generate information. Who are your customers? What are they telling you? Who, in your business is going to be doing the listening? Who, in your business, is going to listen and who is going to interpret the data that you’ll get so that you’ll know what’s working?

Most of the time, when people discuss the subject of how technology will impact our lives (and our businesses) the tone is either negative or positive. Negative news is stuff like “This innovation will force you to be more competitive – translation: work harder for less money” or, at worse, “this innovation will make you obsolete”. Your business does not exist in a vacuum. There are other people out there looking for a piece of the same pie you want and at any moment someone could come up with something that will make you irrelevant, which is why there are very few horse and buggies around anymore. This idea extends to marketing too. At any point, someone in your market might come up with a marketing approach that’s so great that it outshines everybody else in your field.

Then there’s the more positive slant, where technology, including marketing technology, is sold for its capacity to increase your options and help you to work more effectively and efficiently.

BUT!

It’s really easy for options to seduce us. “Oh wow!” you say to yourself. “Think of all the stuff that we could do! Think of all the stuff we could accomplish!” And that’s just fantastic, but someone in your business, or someone that you outsource, will still have to do the work. Sure, the tools might enable you to automate a lot of processes, freeing you or your people up to do less number crunching, but the technology in the end is still just a toolbox and the tools are not an end to themselves. The best tools can increase your repertoire, but they can only ever make it easier to get results. The tools can only be as good as the people using them. The tools can only ever be as good as the vision behind the reason why you’re using the tools in the first place.
Business has often been compared to war, where you and your competitors are engaged in a constant battle for the main resources of business – customers, clients and their money. Marketing is an important branch of this “warfare”. The “weapons” of marketing are the technologies available right now. How marketing technology will impact on your business in the next twelve months will depend on the tools both you and your competitors select.

The assumption is that you’re in business to win. If not, why are you even bothering?

However, the people with the biggest guns don’t always win the war (did anyone say Vietnam?).
The people who win are the ones who understand the terrain. As a small business you have to be very selective of which marketing technologies (weapons) you can afford and when and where and how to use them. Most importantly, will be the people who will be wielding those tools, people who have utter clarity about what they’re doing and why they’re doing it. Put the right tools in the hands of the right people, and you stand a fighting chance.