don't be a martech-fred

Sure, six grand seems like a lot of money for a mountain bike, but look at that thing! Standing in the bike shop I’m silently enumerating all the many merits of this carbon fiber miracle and attempting to justify spending more on a bike than many people spend on a car…This bike could make me enjoy riding more, which means I’d ride more often which will, in turn, improve my health and fitness…I’d ride this bike for a looooong time, amortizing the expense making it much more reasonable…This bike will radically improve my performance…It’s amazing how creative, and delusional, we can be when trying to rationalize a questionable decision. In the end, sanity, and monetary realities kick in and I leave the shop empty-handed.

That feeling of being enamored with cool, expensive, gadgetry knows no bounds. Marketers have our own version of the carbon fiber beauty in the form of modern marketing technology. The allure is strong; pretty interfaces, data visualizations, artificial intelligence and bold claims about how our most vexing marketing challenges can be solved. The price tags vary, but it’s easy to drop a pretty penny on marketing technology.

Within the cycling world, the term “Fred” is a non-complimentary term used to describe people with high-end bikes and equipment but very limited abilities. Most sports have some equivalent, people with expensive equipment whose skill level is nowhere near the caliber of their gear. Sadly, the marketing world has our share of Freds.

A Martech Fred has the sophisticated platforms and enjoys talking about their tech stack, but struggle to fully apply that technology. They have a marketing automation platform they still use like a $49 per month batch and blast email tool. They have a powerful CMS they use to deliver a static web experience or advanced analytics technology they use to pull the same reports available from a free solution.

We’re all a little “Fred-ish” about something in our lives. An area where we purchased something that’s ahead of our ability to use it. Maybe it’s a bike, software, coffee machine, (insert your example here) but most of us have a little of that Fred feeling.

The serious aspect of this dynamic in the marketing world is the impact of this gap between technical capability and marketing application, where substantial technology investments are not fully leveraged AND the benefits of applying those technologies are not realized. Squandered investments and missed opportunities are a very real problem.

So how do we fight Fredness?

Writing the check is only the beginning – Just like buying an expensive bike doesn’t make me a professional rider, buying an expensive platform doesn’t solve your business problem. It’s the beginning and a foundation to build on, but not the end game. Checking the box you possess a technology for a given category doesn’t mean you have an actual capability in that category.   

Commit to training – Becoming a better bike rider means putting in more miles and laying off the ice cream. Marketing technologies are tools and like any tool, they require skill to use and apply. These skills don’t just happen from a training blitz when the technology is implemented. It requires a commitment to continue learning about what the technology is capable of and how to connect it to your evolving marketing initiatives.  

Know it won’t happen overnight – Even with a commitment to training, the process to develop skill and ability can take time. Going to a gym and working out for ten hours straight won’t provide the benefit of working out an hour a day for ten days. It may not require the famed 10,000 hours, but in most cases getting good will take some time.

The good news is “aspirational” investments can be motivating, even if you’re way behind the potential, it may drive you to put in the work to improve. Consider the tools and tech you have and your ability to fully apply them and if you’re feeling a little Fred-ish, know you’re in good company.

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