We can talk about “omnichannel marketing campaigns” and “360-degree customer experiences,” but if we’re being honest, these are still very much aspirational concepts for many brands. That’s because unifying the plethora of potential customer touchpoints into a singular customer experience — and having the infrastructure to support such an endeavor — requires an extraordinary alignment of brand strategy, customer experiences, data, technology, management and culture.
Not to mention that achieving this alignment is all the more difficult because it is as much about challenging organizational inertia as it is about the creative and tactical components of marketing.
So how do marketers get to where they need to be on this front?
The underlying force that marketers need to confront and harness is connectivity — bringing together various functions within the marketing team itself and acting as the glue between other parts of the organization.
Just like social media makes the world “smaller” by virtually connecting nearly everyone on the planet, enterprises need to get smaller, too. Not smaller in terms of revenue or headcount, but in the sense of being more connected, collaborative and aware of what the other components of the organization are doing in order to move in a common direction.
The need for greater connectivity doesn’t just apply to the marketing world. As the digital revolution has swept through every segment of industry, the modern workplace has become more cross-disciplinary and more collaborative, less linear and less siloed. It should, therefore, come as no surprise that marketers need to change how they work, too.
That said, marketers are in a unique position when it comes to digital transformation, because they are uniquely positioned in their organizations to lead this type of change, stand to benefit a great deal by aligning resources to drive business performance, and — here’s the tough part — are under urgent threat if they don’t transform.
Here are four areas where marketing leaders should be driving greater connectivity.
Data Is the Ultimate Silo Wrecking Ball
The notion of the 360-degree customer experience is fundamentally a matter of data manipulation. Content marketing and digital experiences, branding, customer offers and sales will follow if we can “know” and learn about individual customers throughout the multi-platform, multi-device world.
When it comes to increasing connectivity, data is simultaneously the problem and the solution. Reassembling the fragmented customer is a data challenge, requiring new strategic alignment and system integrations across sales, marketing, IT and more. By its very fluid nature, data challenges legacy workflows and structures. Modern data management requires real-time processing, dynamic reporting, and centralized and collaborative presentation. But many legacy systems were set up to be sequential, linear and siloed.
On the customer-facing side, brands will need to focus on customer identity and behavioral data capabilities, especially on mobile platforms and as data-driven marketing expands into new mediums. The emergence of OTT ad buying and the growth of smart TVs are perfect examples of the trendline: The number of platforms will increase, so a plug-and-play approach to data flow is paramount. Data-driven print, such as the programmatic direct mail platform PebblePost, is another example of a mostly “offline” medium fully entering the data flow and becoming more integrated in the attribution-and-allocation loop. As measurement and attribution improves, campaign and media spending will certainly rebalance.
But why is data the ultimate silo wrecking ball? Its clear and present value is forcing company stakeholders to work together to align data governance policies, organize the flow of data from various enterprise systems and establish how this data will guide strategy.
A good example of this is the emergence of the customer data platform (CDP). The CDP promises to serve as the single source of record for customer data and the orchestration point for a litany of efforts. But marketers who have recently bought a CDP or are currently shopping for one often find that acquiring this new tool is the easy part. Aligning the stakeholders in IT, getting leadership buy-in and adjusting to the requisite new ways of working is the real challenge.
The upside is that the CDP is a tool intended to be used by marketers. Or put another way, it’s a data insights tool intended for non-data wonks. This presents an exciting opportunity for marketers to play a greater role in business intelligence. Marketers will be in the position to synthesize various data points: what the market is saying on social, customer behaviors and content affinities, and CRM data. Given this new vantage point of central intelligence, the CMO earns a more legitimate hand in driving a company’s overall strategic direction.
To be clear, many brands have already made substantial progress in recent years to boost their data management and intelligence. Marketers are expected to continue to invest heavily in this area. Among the tools they’ll be on the lookout for are those that can help with identify management, journey tracking, behavioral analytics, attribution, campaign measurement, AI-powered predictive analytics and customer data
Aligning Tech-Buying Objectives
Whether by design or by necessity, we know that martech purchasing happens across organizations in a balkanized fashion. Target Marketing’s research report, “The Marketing Tech Buying Process,” revealed that although brands are purchasing more marketing technology than ever, it’s often with minimal input from other departments. Sixty-four percent of marketing technology purchases are made by individuals or single teams. Fewer than 50 percent of purchasers conduct formal requirements assessments. And the IT department is only involved in the marketing technology purchasing process 53 percent of the time.
One of the downsides of this fragmented martech buying approach is that the organization doesn’t reap the full benefit it would if the marketing stack and all of its rich data were fully integrated with enterprise systems. Think of all of the data points revealed through social media interactions, behavioral website data and email preferences — all of which can be used to track and cultivate consumers through the sales funnel and then continue engagement. And the existence of “shadow” martech stacks means companies aren’t seeing the optimal ROI, which can stifle future martech investments.
Marketers need to make the case and executives outside the marketing function need to recognize that marketing tech should be better integrated into enterprise systems, without stifling the agility and flexibility that martech requires. Cross-departmental communication and collaboration that might not have previously occurred must happen, but even more important is a joined mission and strategy between marketing and IT.
Brand Marketing & Performance Marketing Convergence
One of the most important places where convergence will occur within the marketing organization is between brand marketing and performance (or direct) marketing. On the one side, you have the creative and customer experience-oriented aspects of brand-building; and on the other, the martech- and metrics-driven marketing campaigns.
In a post for AdExchanger — Rivi Bloch, CEO of mobile ad tech firm Taptica — summed up this convergence: “In the next two to three years, brand marketing and performance marketing will move closer together, as brand marketers adopt more sophisticated measurement tactics and performance marketers invest in more brand awareness campaigns to create and retain loyal users.”
Looking at this from a technology perspective means those tools driving the campaigns (emails, social, marketing automation) will have to come together with those driving digital and customer experiences (web and app UX, media, content). Jarrod Gingras of the technology analyst firm Real Story Group thinks there’s a significant gap companies will need to overcome. In a webinar hosted by Real Story Group looking at digital marketing tech and workplace predictions for 2019, Gingras said that this gap has always existed; but that now, resolving it presents greater benefits than ever
before. “As the potential of finally being able to execute on omnichannel promises that we’ve all been striving for — providing consistent experiences at every single touchpoint of a customer’s lifecycle — this gap becomes more important. And the people who are thinking of it from a DX/CX perspective need to start thinking in the same ways as the martech folks and vice versa. It needs to be much more cohesive in order to build these omnichannel experiences that everyone wants to execute on.”
Gingras says that in 2019, some “hard decisions” need to be made as enterprises look at this more holistically, instead of as separate areas of responsibility.
As brands develop more universal measurement capabilities and customer lifetime value becomes more discernible, the performance of individual campaigns will less often be judged in a vacuum. As this happens, we can expect engagement and retention to take greater emphasis in these unified marketing programs. GDPR has already nudged marketers toward first-party data, which ultimately puts a greater priority on long-term customer relationship-building. And the curtain has been pulled back on scale-based campaigns (think ad fraud, Facebook’s fudged metrics and brand safety). The time couldn’t be more perfect for brand and performance convergence.
Driving the connectivity is no easy task and won’t happen overnight. A good deal of it, as is often the case, will come down to the right people, tools and culture.
Hiring will need to focus on furthering in-house fluency around technology, data and retargeting. However, marketers should also keep an eye on adding “glue roles” that marry technical and soft skills, such as communicating data insights, so that data is actionable and useful. The pace and type of work at-hand means that marketing will become increasingly collaborative. Marketing leadership should look to hire people who have a collaborative mentality, while still being strong independent workers.
If we agree that digital transformation is solidly underway, we should recognize that new tools are required. Collaboration platforms (like Slack) and workflow and project management tools will be imperative for running complex omnichannel campaigns.
Any tool is only as good as the training to use it and the long-term development of people’s capabilities around the growing set of digital technologies. Quite a few digital technologies have languished because capability remained stunted.
Of course, all of this comes to a point with senior leadership’s duty to tie data and technology investments, and changes to workflow and culture, to actual business performance. File under: “to be continued.”