How Much MarTech do you Really Need?

At times, marketing technology can seem like an untended garden.  The number of solutions, platforms, services, cloud installations, etc. just keeps growing.  In reality, organic growth doesn’t begin to capture the geometric pace we’ve been experiencing.  Year after year, the number keeps expanding at a dizzying rate, from approximately 150 in 2011 up to over 3,500 in 2016 (check out the infographic complete with logos here*).  Forget actually taking a test drive with each one, simply keeping track of all of the brand names is a full time job.

Imagine comparison shopping for your next set of wheels among more than ten times as many models from an ever expanding number of brands…

To put this number in perspective (and continue with the mixed metaphor), consider that there were approximately 260 new car models available in the United States in 2016.  Imagine comparison shopping for your next set of wheels among more than ten times as many models from an ever expanding number of brands, and you’ll have some sense of what its like to pick a marketing technology platform.  How can you possibly figure out which solution is best for your organization and your unique goals?

If you see the proverbial glass as half-empty, you might say that you simply can’t.  After controlling for a few factors like cloud or local, technology platform and support skills required, cost and contract type, it’s like throwing darts at a very big board.  As we’ve discussed, some of these platforms do the same thing in almost exactly the same way, or close enough that only an expert could tell the difference.  To the more casual observer, the biggest differences might be largely cosmetic or driven by personal opinion.

Do you need a platform that sends email and integrates with Facebook advertising?

At the same time, it’s reasonable to ask why there would be so many choices if they’re all the same anyway.  Therefore, an optimist might see platform selection as unique opportunity to pick the perfect one.   If only there were a GPS equivalent to help navigate a confusing landscape, and — while I’m not aware of any specific Google Maps for CMS selection — there are a number of things you can do to make sure you’re considering the right options:

  1. Start with the strategy.  Your goals and objectives should be your top priority before getting down to specifics, and it’s always helpful to consider a few use cases.  If you know you’re going to be hauling lumber, you’re going to check out pick up trucks instead of roadsters.   With that in mind, do you need a platform that sends email and integrates with Facebook advertising?  Do you need it to support your website and plug into your ecommerce, or do you need an ecommerce and CMS solution all-in-one?  Or, are you just looking at a specialized case like display advertising?  What about cool new tools like predictive intelligence and AI?
  2. Consider where the platform fits in your broader enterprise marketing technology stack.  With more combinations and more cross over between products than ever before, most enterprise solutions can cover more than one of your bases — for example, a web content management system that offers marketing automation tools, or a marketing automation platform that offers customer relationship management features.  The specific choices an organization makes are going to vary considerably based on cost — the more solutions you choose, the greater the complexity especially if you have more than one system of record — and context.  You might have a CMS that includes a full automation suite, but still go with Salesforce Marketing Cloud because you’re already using their Service Desk, thereby reducing the need to replicate user contact data.
  3. Consider the total cost of ownership, not just initial licensing and upgrades.  The importance of looking at the entire picture shouldn’t be underestimated; there are often hidden platform costs when you consider the expense of implementation, customization, support resources and ongoing maintenance.  These costs can be in straight dollars, salary expenses, or even time and materials, especially if your platforms are built on different technology architectures and require discreet teams for ongoing development.

Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist, I can’t stress the importance of the strategy and defining your broader platform needs enough.  The strategy is going to drive where you are going and help make sure each tool serves a discreet purpose wherever possible, and the broader platform needs will help you better manage your cost and complexity.

Can you use the same platform for more than one need?

Fortunately or unfortunately, the enterprise marketing technology stack — from data warehouse to CRM all the way up to BI — is here to stay despite the continued cross over and ongoing convergence.  While we are likely to see some ongoing consolidation, it’s unlikely that your CMS is going to sprout a fully fledged Service Desk next week.

In the meantime, a key question for marketing strategists and technologists is becoming how many separate solutions do you need to address all of your objectives?  Or, to put it another way can you use the same platform for more than one need?

As that’s a topic unto itself, we’ll tackle that in an upcoming post:  Now that you’ve got a strategy, what next?

* Special thanks to Scott Brinker for posting these numbers in handy infographic format over at chiefmartec.com.  You can read the source material for this post here.

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All I Want for Christmas is a Fully Functioning CRM

Every marketer knows the dream: Let’s imagine we work in the hospitality industry for a moment, and we excite a potential customer with a Facebook ad for a weekend getaway.  The ad was displayed to an entirely new lead based on similarities to an existing customer’s profile; metrics you predicted using sophisticated analytics software. She clicks on the ad, and books her stay at your hotel. You send her the initial thank you and the follow up the next day with a promise of special offers if she downloads your app.

By this point I’m sure many marketers and marketing technologists think I’ve veered too far off into fantasy land…

As we’re dreaming, let’s assume she downloads the app the first time and there’s no reason to send the automated follow ups (text message option included) you’ve planned for the customer journey. Instead, she opens the app and completes a brief survey about her interests – she likes the gym, but isn’t a fan of spas, she’s a foodie, especially if the dishes are internationally inspired and the ingredients are locally sourced. You also ask a couple of questions about what kind of trip they prefer – spontaneous fun or every detail planned? She answers spontaneous fun.

You might even be right, but how’s that going to help achieve your marketing dreams?

After the survey, you prompt her to take a virtual tour of the facility, specifically how easy it is to check in. You also asked her planned arrival time and anyone else traveling with her. She’s going to be staying with her husband, and you prompt her to share the app with him to help plan their itinerary. Of course, he accepts as well and both are now set up for a successful stay…

…by this point I’m sure many marketers and marketing technologists think I’ve veered too far off into fantasy land. You’re busy thinking of your own infrastructure where reservations are in a different system than app users, and neither system knows anything about what’s being served at the restaurant. And you might think it’s like that for everyone else because the last time you called customer service at the cable company even they had to look up your record in multiple systems, resulting in time wasted and aggravation endured.

The best news for marketers heading into 2017 is the sheer number of platforms and services that can get you started down the path to marketing technology perfection…

You might even be right, but how’s that going to help achieve your marketing dreams this holiday season? To borrow the old phrase, the simple truth is that we can’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good, and everyone needs to get started somewhere, making the really important question: How can you take the first step without having all of the pieces in place?

The best news heading into 2017 is the sheer number of platforms and services that can get you started down the path to marketing technology perfection.  The specific solution for your organization is going to vary based on what platforms you have available and where your data resides, but, as I mentioned in a previous post, a lot of these systems are converging on several key features.  The chances are very good that you have access to options to advance your marketing starting immediately.  The important thing is adhering to the right principles and having the right long term plan to align yourself with the ideal solution for your organization’s needs.

As you plan for the new year and beyond, here are a few tips to help jumpstart your success:

  • Measure and repeat — even if the numbers aren’t entirely complete. This should go without saying, but there often remains any number of reasons why we can’t precisely, perfectly measure the ROI of a specific campaign, and we end up running place instead of moving ahead. In my opinion, the answer is to measure everything you possibly can this time around and make improvements next time. Once you start presenting more detailed metrics, you will likely start to see your colleagues providing the information you need to improve the accuracy of the calculations.
  • Embrace the journey philosophy — even if your initial attempts are short and sweet. In today’s competitive marketplace, we can’t rely on consumers making a decision after a single brand experience, and we need to make sure we have the tools in place to re-engage. Therefore, all campaigns should include both a re-targeting component and multiple request more information forms tied to an automated email series however brief. This will help ensure you maximize your initial demand generation spend by encourage repeated engagement and also provide additional measurements to improve future campaigns.
  • Implement A/B testing — even if you’re already convinced of the ideal approach. This is another area where we can get into the habit of testing our assumptions, increasing our usage of the powerful new tools available, and generate more measurements. It’s also helpful to demonstrate to leadership the full capabilities of your marketing infrastructure and how data-driven you are making your initiatives.
  • Plan for continuous improvement – even if its incremental and the light hasn’t appeared at the end of the tunnel, the sugar plums not yet dancing in your head. In my opinion, this is the area where a lot of us get sidetracked. It’s easy to wait on technology perfection, but the truth is that we are missing out on opportunities to advance our techniques, infrastructure, and results. Instead, I feel we should push ourselves ahead a little further each time. It’s certainly going to taste sweeter than falling behind.

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