Dear MarTech Marketer: More Real Stories, Fewer Buzzwords Please

Mar 16, 2017 Samantha McGarry

Back in November, I wrote about martech’s biggest PR challenge: differentiation, and just recently, I had the opportunity during a webinar to ask two martech influencers - Scott Brinker of Chief Martec and Real Story Group founder Tony Byrne - about their most despised martech buzzwords. Because I have a few that bother me (more on that further down).

Scott chuckled (evidently I struck a chord). He reminded the webinar audience that when he researches his annual martech supergraphic, he has to visit each vendor’s website to figure where to slot them. Last year, that meant he had to review 3,874 (!) of them, so I think his gripes are well founded. In short, his chief complaint was that the majority of sites are “keyword rich, narrative poor.”

Scott’s exasperation mirrors mine. The “mar” in martech seems to have forgotten its roots; i.e. marketing, i.e. telling stories that make emotional connections. Martech has fallen into buzzword land and that’s all fine and good, if you are communicating with martech people who speak the same language as you. But if you are trying to uplevel your media reach to build broader awareness and thought leadership with a business media audience, then it pays to revisit the PR messaging whiteboard.

So back to the martech buzzwords that bother me:

User: When I hear this word, I think of the opioid crisis -- certainly not a shopper thrilled to receive a personalized offer on their mobile app as they enter a store. Not a retailer trying to figure how to offer mobile payments. Not a millennial consuming a story on Snapchat. Not a content producer trying to stream video. By talking about your customers (or their customers) simply as “users,” you tend to obscure the richness of their personalities, motivations and needs, and obviate the emotional undercurrents that are key to successful marketing. Bottom line: users are people, too.

Only drug dealers and software companies refer to their customers as users” -- Edward Tufte, Yale University

Experience: So many martech vendors talk about the experiences they help deliver - customer experience, user experience, digital experience, retail experience, mobile experience - but really, what is an experience? The word - much like user - is too generic to be meaningful or relevant. But if buttressed with interesting, colorful qualifiers, then I’m all in. Don’t these sound more interesting? Memorable experiences, entertaining experiences, convenient experiences, surprising experiences….. My advice? More adjectives.

Journey: Weren’t they an 80s/90s band? When I go on a journey, I pack my bags. I travel and explore and hopefully have some downtime on a beach with a chilled pina colada and a good book. The term customer “journey” just feels like a stretch. I mean I get the intent of the phrase: needing to understand the moments that influence your target audience and inch them closer to taking the desired action. But ask any shopper who visits a few websites or mobile apps, checks out a Facebook ad, opens a coupon email and then hunts the shelves at the mall if they are on a “journey” and I imagine they’ll look at you like you have two heads. Better, IMO, to describe real situations and “use cases” that actually reflect how real people behave and are influenced.

And so, dear martech marketer: my plea to you is this. Can we please set aside the buzzwords, especially when it comes to developing PR and social content? Instead let’s create rich, timely and meaningful narratives to which real people - and especially business reporters and their readers - can relate.

Topics: Marketing Tech, Public Relations
Samantha McGarry

Samantha is the executive vice president of Story Crafting at Inkhouse. Her curiosity for business and technology - combined with her love of semantics and communication - has translated into a 20+ year career in PR.

Read more from Samantha McGarry

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