Strategy and Technology: Which Is Chicken and Which Is Egg?
The average marketing stack includes up to 17 distinct technologies, according to Signal. Yowsa. No wonder integration is a big pain point for most marketing teams. No wonder martech is a hot investment area. No wonder our heads hurt.
Technology is taking over marketing. Let me hear you say, AUTO! Let me hear you say, "AUTO-MATE." I'm a devoted fan of technology that improves marketers' productivity while enabling a more fabulous and satisfying user experience. But let's not let all this technology go to our heads.
Technology is still a tool. And so strategy and content and creativity still need to be in the driver's seat. You can't buy the right technology if you don't have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish. I had this conversation with a client this week — where we kept getting distracted by bright shiny objects (AKA: sales pitches from technology vendors), instead of focusing on what experiences we wanted to create for the customer. Once we hunkered down and really focused on the customer experience, the technology needs became obvious and much more attainable.
And yes, we did agree that we'd set aside some budget to test some wild and crazy ideas. Because that is often where the best new experiences come from — ideas that customers didn't know to ask about.
Once you have that customer-focused objective in mind, the fun begins. Learning about all of the technologies available to modern marketing leaders is a feat in itself, but understanding how each technology maps to the goals of the marketing organization is even more challenging. It's a little bit like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with a pure white (blank) picture. There are very few visual cues as to what fits together when and how ... you need a deep understanding of technology — or an internal or external advisor you really trust to be looking out for you.
Your business strategy will set the expectation about what is being built, and a marketing technology strategy will provide clear outlines of the necessary steps to accomplish the work.
I find the chicken and egg problem appears at two levels.
- Which Comes First? First, is the strategy borne of what technology is already in house? That could be a good starting point, and usually the best place to start for a proof of concept. Of course, buying technology is also a poor way to figure out your strategy. Yet, too often, we hear about a new feature or tool, and we want to test the channel without doing the work of considering content development and design, brand alignment, staffing resources and, most importantly, the customer need.
- Best vs. Possible? Second, is the solution we select the best for the customer, or only the best that can be accomplished by the tools we have today? This is always the question when we get suggestions from a technology vendor. I know most will honestly aim to solve the problem in the best way for your business. It's just that they only have their own tools to work with. It's a caution for all marketers to watch.
As marketing technologist Scott Brinker aptly says in his ChiefMarTec blog, “No technology is a strategy-in-a box, and no strategy comes with a defined technology bundle." He visualizes this concept in a Venn diagram, detailing the relationship between marketing, technology and strategy. He claims that where the three meet is the “Most interesting intersection in the world.”
I tend to agree. What are your most pressing challenges in getting your marketing technology to work for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Stephanie Miller leads marketing for The New Food Economy, the business resource for the good food movement. She is a relentless customer advocate and a champion for marketers creating memorable customer experiences. A digital marketing and CRM expert, she helps sophisticated marketers balance the right mix of people, process and technology to optimize a data-driven content marketing strategy. She speaks and writes regularly and leads several industry-wide initiatives. Feedback and column ideas are most welcome. Please send them to email@example.com or @stephanieSAM.