2 Steps to Developing a Successful Marketing Technology Strategy
Its Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic started listing martech solutions in 2011. That year, it identified about 150 solutions and marketers struggled to understand what all the solutions did.
This year, that same infographic has over 7,000 martech solutions and marketer’s struggles have transformed into helpless resignation. This proposes a major problem, as marketers must decide where to expend their limited time and energy. Even after categorizing martech solutions by function, the job is impossible — because there are several hundred solutions per category.
Rest assured, there is a method to getting through the madness. However, the pressure to keep up with competitors and fear of missing out are strong impediments to developing a successful martech strategy.
The first step is to develop a technology-agnostic, but technology-aware customer strategy.
Knowing what technology to invest in really begins by thinking about what your customer strategy is and what it aspires to be. With over 7,000 solutions in the market, it is the land of shiny objects. Really cool innovations abound: such as augmented reality, geo beacons, IOT, IA etc.
It is natural to be attracted to these innovative solutions. However, investing in solutions based primarily on their cool factor generally results in a confusing customer strategy and poor ROI.
The world of retailer apps is a good example. There are countless innovative and helpful branded mobile apps available for download. According to Statista, however, only a handful of apps are used with any real frequency and most are deleted within 30 days. This is not to say that brands can’t have success with apps. However, solutions also need to be compelling and well-thought-out components of a larger winning customer strategy. Target’s app, for example, helps drive a better physical in-store experience by helping you find what you need and informing you of relevant sales. Target could have added VR games or other cool gimmicks, but it chose to stay focused on improving the shopping experience.
By thinking about the brand, customer strategy, and customer pain points first, the martech universe becomes significantly easier to navigate.
The next step is to decide what tech solutions you want to invest in and which ones you will outsource. There are three factors to consider:
Is the Solution Essential to My Customer Strategy?
This means that your brand would be fundamentally impacted by the solution. Customer experience solutions would be prime examples, because customer experience has a straight-line relationship to how your brand is perceived today.
Does the Solution Require Intense Domain Expertise?
Some capabilities are constantly in flux. SEO, for example, is always a moving target. Staying ahead of search engine algorithms and how digital assistants — such as Alexa and Google Assistant — find information for their users takes some focused dedication.
Do I Have or Can I Hire-in the Appropriate Talent?
This can sometimes be the ultimate arbiter when deciding to invest time and energy on a solution. For example, while analytics and measurement solutions would qualify as essential to customer strategy, the ability to hire, retain, and manage an analytics capability can be very difficult. As a result, brands frequently outsource at least some of their analytical solutions.
MarTech Categories Marketers Must Consider
While these tips can guide martech investments, there are four (plus one) solution categories that merit near-universal attention from marketers. These solutions not only dominate tech-driven marketing, but are also constantly integrating more specialized solutions under their umbrella to provide end-to-end capabilities. (That said, even these dominant categories do not play in distinct sandboxes, and often overlap.) Investing time and energy on these larger solutions is a great way to begin forming the foundation of a good marketing technology stack.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
This should be the central repository of important customer information and behavioral data. Most CRM solutions also integrate modules that help make customer decisions based on the data. Some CRM solutions, such as Salesforce, have so many modules that it is nearly impossible for one person to understand the full ecosystem. Nevertheless, understanding how to manage and utilize CRM systems will continue to be the foundation of managing brands well.
Customer Experience (CX)
These solutions help connect, measure, and improve the customer journey. Today, most brands are defined by their customer experience and less by what they advertise. Most CX solutions enable highly personalized interactions with customers and increase loyalty, making CX tech a critical investment for marketers. What’s more, each interaction increases knowledge of customer preferences and behaviors to be applied in future experiences.
These solutions are focused on helping marketers complete time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as sending communications or selecting the next offer based on customer behavior. Today, sales automation solutions make intelligent decisions on millions of marketing interactions at the individual customer level. This is also the technology segment most likely to make certain marketing jobs obsolete. For marketers worried about job security, developing skills in managing and executing automation software will be valuable insurance.
Analytics and Reporting
Data-driven marketing decisions are now the norm, along with measurement and ROI. Most martech solutions have a strong data foundation and generate appropriate reports automatically. That said, there is still a need to understand the larger analytical story and solutions such as web and social analytics, data visualization, and BI tools provide a critical view into marketing success. All marketers do not need a degree in data science. However, all marketers should understand the role of analytical solutions in driving marketing decisions from content to budget allocations.
Ad Tech (the Plus-One)
This category is purposefully separated from the other four. It contains ad buying solutions for programmatic display, search, social, mobile and digital video advertising. Some large internal marketing departments may choose to invest in building this capability and there are real costs benefits involved. However, the digital ad industry is complex, in constant flux and highly algorithmic. While in house marketers should be familiar with ad tech trends, they should consider ad tech investments carefully. In many cases, ad tech is probably best left to digital ad agencies.
By focusing on the dominant martech categories, there are many valuable solutions left on the table: such as content and asset management, SEO, geo and proximity-based marketing, social management and chatbots. They all have an important role to play, but are more likely to be integrated into larger solutions, over time. Unless these solutions are mission-critical to your customer strategy, it is better to outsource solution expertise.
Billions of venture capital dollars have been invested in martech this decade, and most industry insiders agree that there are too many solutions. The expectation is that the landscape will eventually shrink as winners separate from losers, but there is no sign of this happening soon.
Nevertheless, the overwhelming landscape can’t be a deterrent to jumping in and getting comfortable with marketing technology. It is being used by most marketers today and will only grow in influence.
What is important is to keep focused and not let the land of shiny objects distract you from executing your customer strategy.
Shiv Gupta is a principal at Quantum Sight LLC. He helps clients develop data, analytics and digital technology strategies to drive compelling relationships with customers. In this blog, he'll discuss ways in which marketing organizations can regain their strategic bearings and leverage their tech stack for both short-term and long-term gains. Reach him at email@example.com.