One unavoidable digital marketing trend over the past six years or so has been the explosive growth of marketing technology (commonly referred to as martech). Think of a marketing problem and there’s very likely a service or platform that claims to be able to solve it. The current martech landscape includes well over 5,000 solutions spread across advertising, social, content, sales, and data, just to name a few. As new marketing channels are developed, new martech will emerge to provide solutions in those channels. Influencer martech, for example, didn’t exist five years ago, but today there are dozens of companies operating in the space.

The explosion of martech solutions is linked to another inescapable trend: automation. Martech exists to help simplify and automate the business of marketing, and it’s tempting to want to automate just about everything we can. The problem is that many companies rely too heavily on martech solutions at the expense of the human touch that makes for truly exceptional marketing campaigns.

So how do we maintain a human connection between brands and customers in a landscape that is increasingly dominated by tech? Below are some strategies to help you do just that.

Return to the strategy

It sounds simple, but one of the best things you can do to realign a team that has become lost in the weeds with their martech stack is to return to strategy. Putting focus back on what your team’s overall objectives are can help cut through the distractions that are standing in the way of achieving them.

Look at how the team is spending most of their time. Are those hours in service of the bigger picture strategy? Or are they simply crossing off items on a to-do list without putting thought to the larger purpose? Once you start asking these questions you may find that the strategy is out of date or, alternatively, that the strategy holds but that day-to-day tactics have expanded in directions that no longer align to it.

Focus on the customer

Humans are naturally drawn to shiny objects, and many martech solutions are shiny objects disguised as essential tools. When evaluating whether to add a new solution to your martech stack you should ask the question: will this technology implementation benefit the customer (or the user, or whoever your target audience is)? Get specific about what the tech can and cannot do to improve the customer experience. Even if it’s a piece of tech not specifically linked to CX, consider whether it will enable the team to perform their jobs better in service of the customer.

Go back to basics

What are the most basic elements of effective marketing? Effective marketing makes you feel something. It speaks to you on a personal level, addressing needs, wants, and ideas you maybe didn’t even realize you had. Effective marketing builds relationships between your company and your customers. It requires a feeling of human connection.

Martech can’t accomplish any of that. What it can do (when deployed correctly) is help your team find ways to build those moments of connection. Put the emphasis on the human, and let the tech act in service of that.

Evaluate legacy implementations

It’s not uncommon for companies to keep a solution in the stack simply because it’s been there for as long as most people can remember. Even though breaking up with a piece of technology can be painful, you shouldn’t stay together if it’s not working anymore. Yes, it’s true that a lot of time and energy was probably dedicated to implementation, but think of what holding on to the tech may cost you in the future.

Evaluate your company’s martech stack on a regular basis, and be ruthless about eliminating tools and tech that no longer benefit the team or serve the bottom line.

Keeping human connection as the priority

Effective martech can be a boon for marketing productivity, but too much of it can bog the team down and cause them to lose sight of the bigger picture strategy. Encourage your team to focus their energy on tasks that support the customer and support the brand strategy. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate legacy implementations and cull the ones that are no longer serving your team.