Marketing technology is amazing, and it gets better every day. What marketing tech has done to transform modern marketing and improve customer experience can't be overstated.
What has become alarming is how often marketers are using their marketing technology plans as a substitute for building a sound marketing strategy. It’s important to recognize that software is a critical enabler that can provide real competitive advantages, but that it’s not a surrogate for all of your marketing efforts.
Have you ever found yourself in discussions where questions about marketing strategies (or tactics) resulted in generic answers about someone’s tech stack? Here are some common examples I often hear.
- How is your marketing strategy evolving in 2018? Answer: “We are investing more in martech.”
- Are you having success with your marketing automation strategy? Answer: “Of course — it’s been so great we recently switched vendors.”
- How are you thinking about leveraging personalization in an increasingly omnichannel world? Answer: “We are using state-of-the-art optimization tools.”
- How are you thinking of programmatic as part of your ABM strategy? Answer: “We’re thinking about getting a data management platform (DMP).”
Obviously, these broad responses are not reflective of all marketers, but I’ve personally been in enough conversations that I’m convinced this myopic way of thinking is becoming too common. These aren’t strategies or even tactics — they are tools. To enable your teams to take full advantage of marketing technology requires a clear overall marketing strategy, proper utilization of capabilities and a sound data strategy.
Don’t Forget the Who, What, When, Why and Where of Marketing Strategy
Way too many marketers are focusing on the how before focusing on the who, what, when, why and where. It’s important to get these right before building your marketing technology stack.
- Who are you trying to target? Are you fully confident with the way you determined this? Do you fully understand your target audience’s needs and how your company can help?
- What are you trying to accomplish? Think about your business goals and how your marketing objectives ladder up to those.
- When is the appropriate time to engage your audience and deliver the right message?
- Why are you focusing on certain messages and tactics over others? How do you know they will resonate with your audience?
- Where will it be most effective to target your audience? Understand where your prospects and customers are most likely to engage with your brand.
I’m not suggesting that the how shouldn’t inform the what. Understanding all of the possibilities helps inform what can be accomplished and encourages continuous experimentation. Scott Brinker does a nice job articulating this evolution of bi-directional strategy in his "Martech Manifesto". But the bottom line is your organization needs to understand every facet of the strategy before executing it across your stack.
There are countless resources and frameworks that can be used to help develop robust marketing strategies. But if the answers to these basic questions can’t be clearly answered, it isn’t time to invest in more technology. It’s time to go back to the basics.
Utilizing Your Existing Stack
It’s critical to ensure that teams are getting the full value from existing stacks before adding additional complexity. Mar,keting technology is expensive and as we increase complexity, we increase the costs to support that complexity. Mark Twain didn’t have time to write a short letter, so he wrote a long one instead. The same phenomenon exists with marketing tech.
A single use case may be faster and easier with a new tool, but what happens when there are 10 or 100 more use cases? There can be beauty in simplicity and stretching the limits of what is already in place. For instance, our stack is anchored on Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle. Every time we have a new use case or opportunity, we fully vet our existing stack to ensure that there isn’t a solution already within it. Often that’s more work initially, but it yields long-term benefits with efficiency and in maintaining the interconnectedness of our stack.
Internal training and auditing is another great way to ensure you are getting the most out of your stack. We have regular training and best-practice sharing sessions that we either host internally or with one of our partners. In addition, we look at behaviors on who is leveraging the tools and for what campaigns. We then tie that back to marketing performance to see where we are getting the most value. Again, we are always asking who, what, when, why and where before deciding on the how.
Clean, Structured, Consistent Data Is Paramount
So many marketing technology stacks and the strategies that they are enabling break down because of the lack of a clear data strategy. It’s vital to be able to answer these questions before expecting to see results from your own stack.
- Is the data about your contacts and accounts accurate and consistent across your stack?
- If so, are you able to tie behavior from their online engagements to offline engagements?
- If so, are you then able to automatically trigger the next engagement you should have with that contact or account in a scalable way?
Your marketing tech stack likely already makes all of this possible. However, if you don’t have a clear master data strategy that ensures the key pieces of your stack have full visibility, you are only scratching the surface of what is possible.
Once your strategy is in place and you have a good handle on how to leverage the data you’re collecting — and you’re ensuring it is driving smarter decisions — you are ready to embrace the full potential of what your marketing technology solution can do. After all, it’s only as good as your own marketing strategy.
Related story: How to Build a Tech Stack