7 Ways to Learn the Tech in Martech
It’s nearly impossible to keep up with all the new marketing technology (martech) tools. Just look at the 11,038 solutions that show up on the 2023 ChiefMartech marketing technology landscape, which grew 11% from the previous year.
While understanding the functionality and benefits of all these technologies would be overwhelming (to say the least), you can still make learning a priority for you and your team. Well-rounded marketing technologists develop a habit of experimenting with new systems and technologies, seeking out martech training, and talking with technical experts.
Stay ahead of the tech curve
The future seems to change shape every time we map the technology stack that’ll move us forward. Previously emergent technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), the Internet of Things (IoT), and autonomous vehicles are no longer fantasy. They’re already here. So how do you get out ahead of a curve that’s constantly moving?
You can start with a tech stack that provides a solid foundation for solving everyday problems and preparing for the next hot technology. That might mean you purchase an account-based marketing (ABM) solution to upgrade your B2B martech stack. Or, if you want to create more relevant customer experiences, it could be time for a customer data platform (CDP). These solutions have only grown in popularity. Layer on a digital asset management (DAM) and product information management (PIM) solution like Acquia DAM (Widen) and you can deliver the right content to the right customer at exactly the right time.
Sounds simple enough, right? It’s much easier to write about than implement. Even with the “perfect” technology stack, you still have to constantly learn and evolve your martech skills. That means you and your team need to prioritize learning the tech in martech.
Here are seven ways to do it.
1. Get up to speed on machine learning and AI
New AI and machine learning (ML) solutions pop up every day. These technologies do everything from generate alt text so your digital assets are accessible and search-optimized to produce audience clusters for improved targeting. Don’t worry — AI isn’t ready to take your job, but you do have to learn how it works. The customer experience is getting more complex than humans can follow. Machine learning can step in and find the missing links in the journey. It can piece together data and show you opportunities for personalized experiences no human could pull from your pile of data.
One good example of machine learning in action is a process called collaborative filtering. It’s a way to recommend relevant content and products to users with similar tastes based on their reviews and product purchases. When this approach is supported by an effective, ML-powered CDP, the technology can use “next best” ML models that suggest the next best channel, action, or content. For example, such a model can detect if a customer doesn’t respond to emails and suggest the next best channel for reaching them, such as personalized display ads.
2. Buy emergent consumer tech for your team
For almost a decade, we’ve heard AR and VR discussed as revolutionary technologies, yet the potential of both remains emergent. The market for smart glasses with AR capability is still technologically immature and expensive with anemic content offerings. Content is also thin for VR except in gaming, where it has stronger footing, though VR is beginning to make inroads into the tourism, education, and sports and fitness industries.
It’d be wise to invest in VR or AR devices and encourage your team to use them. See how they work. What’s the customer experience like? Is there an opportunity for you? Get creative — how might your organization use these maturing technologies? And fret not you don’t have to buy an Apple Vision Pro. You can get a headset from Amazon that works with smartphones and costs a fraction of the price.
3. Invite an expert for pancakes and to talk tech
This is one of my favorite ways to learn. Invite a technical colleague or futurist friend to breakfast and ask them about their technical philosophy and future vision. If they live or work some distance from you, schedule a Zoom session instead. You’ll just have to make your own pancakes and coffee. You might discover something new in their use of marketing automation that changes your whole strategy.
Or you might learn a lot of new words and feel a little out of your element, especially when your futurist pal starts talking about the inner workings of blockchain when all you really want to know is how it can deliver customer rewards. Take notes. It might not happen the first time, but you’re sure to gain new insights that you can apply later.
4. Play with free trials, demos, and apps
Make time to get into developer sandboxes, take a free trial, download a new app, and experiment. See what you can build and imagine how it could impact the customer experience. Maybe you try a demo installation of Drupal and find out if it’ll solve your team’s content management challenges. You don’t need a full training to learn the basics of martech software. You just need to get in there and see what it can do.
In fact, you can save the training for later. (It’s one of the next ways to learn.) For now, use this as a way to play and give yourself a break from the day-to-day. Not sure where to start? Download Honey Smart, a shopping assistant recently acquired by PayPal, and see what kind of new shopping experiences are possible. Or check out Chatscout and see if you think AI can help you drive more sales and create happier customers.
5. Pursue martech training and certifications
Some vendors provide advanced martech training and certification programs. It’s like a college degree in that specific technology, which is awesome if you have time to focus on it. For example, Acquia offers Drupal and Acquia training along with certification exams. These kinds of certificates will make you more valuable to your team and move you up the next rung of your career ladder.
You can even invest in certificate courses at the university level. MIT Sloan offers an online six-week certificate course on Artificial Intelligence: Implications for Business Strategy if you want to dive in. Right now, it might be more practical for you to learn your team’s project management tool inside and out. Asana offers free courses to help you learn the best ways to use it.
6. Events, conferences, Meetups, speakers, and user groups
Make regular martech events a part of your schedule. Learning directly from people in martech helps you and your team stay sharp. Tech breakfasts, speakers, monthly meetups, or vendor-sponsored conferences (like our Acquia Engage) are a good place to start. If there aren’t any interesting ones nearby, virtual offerings abound. When you’re ready to be surrounded by martech experts, check out The MarTech Conference.
Regional user groups also make it easy to meet regularly with other martech professionals, cultivate a sense of community, and gather immediate takeaways to make your work easier. Look for user groups hosted by independent users or your software providers. For example, if you use Acquia DAM, you’ll love our DAM User Groups where we connect Acquia DAM users all around the world.
7. Set up Google Alerts and follow influencers
Set up Google Alerts for terms like “new DAM integration,” “machine learning for marketing,” and “VR retail experiences.” You might be surprised at how useful one of these alerts becomes down the road. It’s a simple and effective way to track news that’s important to you and your team. And if you’re not already following Scott Brinker, chair of the MarTech conference, find him on LinkedIn.
You can learn a lot on your own, but you can learn even more about martech when you do it as a team. Share what you find with others and celebrate what they discover along the way. If you make learning a part of your culture, changes in technology become opportunities to grow instead of problems to solve.
Make learning part of your team culture
All that knowledge won’t go to much use without a solid cultural foundation. If you’ve adopted the M.A.R.T.E.C.H. competency framework, you know that “culture” is crucial. Culture doesn’t come from sending out a list of things for people to do and making them check boxes. It comes from getting people genuinely excited as well as from modeling and encouraging behaviors that turn takeaways into useful action.
There are many values you can lean into to do this; for example, accountability. If you take a course on machine learning, you’re accountable or responsible for applying that new knowledge to your work. It’s also important that you remember to share with your team. Sign up to speak at the next fireside chat and show them what you learned.
Here are some of the other values that can help make what you learn valuable to everyone else:
- Integrity: When you implement a new idea, follow up and own the changes whether they work or not, especially if they cascade into other departments.
- Decentralization: Martech teams can’t survive as immovable bureaucracies. New decisions need to be made closest to the problem, and sometimes they need to be made quickly. Empower your team to make choices without restrictive processes.
- Reflection and evaluation: Communicate clearly and consistently with everyone on your team. These continuous feedback cycles generate new ideas and create trust.
- Transparency: Keep the right people informed in the right ways. Don’t send everyone in the company an email once and assume they’ll read it. This way, when you have a challenge to overcome or make a mistake, people will back you up.
When all your technology hums and your marketing team has a healthy culture of learning, you might find days where you wonder what your role is. That’s where the “H” in M.A.R.T.E.C.H. comes in.
Turn someone else into a martech hero
You have many responsibilities in your role, but an important one is ensuring the technology is in place to turn other people into a “hero.” This is one of the main actions that makes you stand out as a marketing technologist.
Let’s say that your email marketing manager learned something at the MarTech Conference, and they want your help in implementing it. You make the changes to enable the idea, and six months later, email revenue is up by $3 million. Who gets the spotlight? Make sure the email manager does. You can be a part of it, too, but don’t stand in front of them.
Make other people the hero, and you’ll cultivate a healthy culture of learning. When your team knows they can learn something new, bring it back to you, and turn it into a successful reality, you build trust. That trust leads to the momentum as a group that keeps you ahead of the tech curve. You’re never going to solve every problem or build the perfect technology stack. You can, however, work together to learn and constantly evolve in the face of an ever-changing digital landscape.
Make sure your teams are equipped to stay on top of the next martech advances with a consolidated digital experience platform (DXP) that allows teams to efficiently manage content, applications, and campaigns. Learn how Acquia DXP facilitates the agility and flexibility required in a swiftly evolving martech landscape.