Why You Need A Marketing Technology Strategy

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Investing in marketing technology is essential, but how do you know if it’s paying off? Columnist Erik Bratt offers some advice.

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During a recent onsite visit in San Francisco, I asked the CMO for a major tech company how many separate marketing technologies her company was using to generate results.

The executive’s response: “I’m not sure.” She checked with some of her staffers, who began ticking off one random solution after another. The end result: no one knew for sure.

The CMO and her team are likely not alone, given the tidal wave of new marketing technology over the last decade. Depending on whom you ask, there are anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 digital solutions currently on the market – everything from marketing automation and retargeting to analytics and testing and personalization.

The executive’s honest answer — and the reaction of her team — raises an interesting question: have we become so inundated with technology, and applied it in such haphazard fashion, that we can no longer keep track of it?

Overextended & Underinformed

In one of the most surprising statistics from a new CMO Council study, commissioned by Tealium (my employer), an astonishing 54 percent of senior marketers said they are not sure whether their marketing technology investments are producing tangible business value.

Given the billions spent on marketing technology each year, that’s an awful lot of marketing budget that is potentially being wasted.

The reason for this murkiness may have less to do with the capabilities of the solutions and more to do with the lack of a formal technology strategy that is tied to the overall business.

Less than half of the 150 senior marketers surveyed in the 37-page report – titled “Quantify How Well You Unify” – said they had a formal marketing technology strategy and program to support their goals, while just 16 percent said their marketing technology strategy is tightly aligned to the business strategy.

By comparison, 42 percent of CMOs that own and define their marketing technology strategy see greater business impact than those that don’t, while 50 percent are able to achieve more targeted, relevant and efficient customer engagements, according the survey.

When it comes to aligning strategies, 51 percent of those that say they do it “extremely well” or “pretty well” achieve greater revenue contributions.

Given this new insight, it’s clear that marketers need to think more holistically about their technology investments, and work across departments to develop a clear strategy on how to better manage and leverage these mission-critical tools. Easier said than done, but here are some guidelines to think about:

1. Start With Your Business Goals

Before developing a business strategy, you need to understand your business goals, and then align your marketing objectives to those. This may seem obvious, but many marketing organizations fall into “fire fighting” mode, where tactical execution is the center of attention.

Which technologies are best suited – and within your budget – to help you achieve your objectives across search marketing, advertising, social media, content marketing and other key categories?

2. Assess Your Existing Technology

Conduct an internal audit to understand which applications you have licensed and how you are using them. Are they contributing to the bottom line in a significant way? What’s missing, and what can be cut or improved upon? Is it time, for example, to upgrade to a more scalable marketing automation solution?

One key consideration that some marketers overlook: Do you have the resources and expertise to properly manage and maximize each initiative?

3. Plan Out Your Technology Strategy

Once you have a better idea of what you have and where you need to go, you can begin to craft a formal strategy.

What are the foundational technology pieces you need – such as content management, e-commerce platforms, and tag management – and which are best of breed for your specific niche?

What are the operational solutions you need in order to help acquire, convert and turn customers into advocates in the most efficient way possible?

Should you use a proprietary marketing cloud, point solutions, or both?

How can you best integrate your solutions for optimal impact?

These are all critical questions to answer.

4. Implement Your Plan & Define Metrics

Once you have clear roadmap, you can begin to implement your plan. Agility and efficiency are key.

Tag management can reduce friction and eliminate the vendor deployment bottlenecks that often exist between marketing and IT groups, while also providing a connecting “data layer” between disparate applications. If you don’t have tag management, get your operational technology teams on board and committed to your deployment schedule.

Finally, it’s important to try and find a way measure the ROI of your marketing technology investments, whether it’s a reduction in costs or incremental revenue gains.

5. Remain Agile

As Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec.com noted at the recent Marketing Operations & Technology Summit in San Diego, technology is moving so fast, and opening up such new and innovative opportunities, that sometimes you need to adjust parts of your marketing strategy to accommodate new technology.

The point is, remain agile and on the lookout for new technologies and trends that can help drive the business.

Final Thoughts

As stated in the CMO Council report, marketing technology has become the classic double-edged sword in recent years – so critical in generating results, yet, increasingly, so problematic.

By creating a strategy that clearly aligns marketing technologies with larger corporate objectives, you can be more assured of maximizing your technology investments and driving superior business results.

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