So you have issues in your current marketing ecosystem and all of your experts are recommending a new technology platform as the solution to your challenges. Problem is, you either are not convinced that the platform is the problem, you cannot afford to invest in a new platform or your Brands cannot tolerate the months to years it will take to procure and activate a new platform.
There May be an Alternative Solution
If you have an existing component of your marketing tech stack that is under performing, there is a chance that the solution to your challenges exists within your marketing ecosystem. The vendor landscape for marketing platforms such as Customer Data Management, Content Management and Channel Orchestration is very competitive and new functions and features continue to blur the lines between competitors. Our experience has found that the odds are low that simply switching to a different brand of the same system type will solve these performance issues.
Additionally, as you are likely aware, marketing budgets are constricting due to economic uncertainties. More and more CMOs report they are being expected to deliver more results with less resources.
So before assuming that new technology is the only answer, we recommend some lower cost and potentially high yield steps you may want to take before moving forward with the process of investing in a new platform. These steps will not only help with removing any uncertainty around the need for an investment, these steps will also help you prepare for the new technology while potentially identifying actions that can be taken right away to help optimize new or existing technology.
New Tech – Not a Silver Bullet
Contrary to popular belief, technology alone does not solve most problems. In fact, our experience has found that technology in absence of other key enablers will lead to further disappointment and frustration. At Transparent Partners, we encourage our clients to think about the holistic capabilities required to achieve marketing and business outcomes.
What do we mean by capabilities? Capabilities are an organization’s capacity to complete tasks or achieve desired outcomes (channel activations, creative content, etc). Capabilities are realized through a combination of enablers that include clearly defined business processes, executed by competent people, that understand their roles and responsibilities all enabled by reliable technology and data infrastructure.
Identifying Opportunities Within The Existing Ecosystem
Whether you are confident that an investment is required or just trying to understand your options, a sound understanding of the capabilities you require and the degree to which your people, processes, organization and infrastructure enable these capabilities is paramount to achieving technology performance. This sound understanding of your business and functional requirements is foundational to any project, no matter the size or scope. Performing a quick inventory and assessment of your marketing capabilities in the following areas will help you gain this understanding:
Review Your Enabling Processes
Business processes are the sheet music that guides any team when planning, designing and executing marketing activations. Just as the orchestra’s conductor uses the sheet music to synchronize timing and participation of the orchestra, business processes are the basis by which technology is configured and used by an organization. Restated: Technology must enable efficient execution of processes. Technology absent of adopted business processes is akin to an orchestra with no sheet music.
This step does not require a lengthy process engineering endeavor at this point. The goal here is to understand the role processes play in the current operation and the degree to which marketing business processes are defined, understood and utilized to support your marketing outcomes.
Ensure You Have Expertise
Review your talent pool; both internal staff and contracted support to understand the degree to which these people are equipped to effectively support the planning, execution, and measurement of marketing activations.
As the orchestra is only as good as the quality of its musicians, a marketing team must have a well rounded team of trained and skilled marketing professionals. These professionals must understand the desired business outcomes to be achieved by their marketing communications, be able to select the appropriate communication tactics and build channel communications that best align to these desired outcomes. Technology without skilled operators is the same as an orchestra missing key musicians.
Check Your Organization’s Maturity
Clearly documented roles and responsibilities for each business function will ensure that each member of the team is aware of their contribution to the success of the process. Roles and responsibilities also define the parties possessing the authority to approve campaign planning documents and content. Staying with the orchestra analogy, each member of the orchestra uses the sheet music to know when they contribute to the performance while looking to the conductor to maintain the speed and flow of the performance. Technology operated in the absence of a mature organization is the same as an orchestra where each section is following a different conductor.
Review your organization, its structure and culture to determine if the members of the marketing organization and organizations supporting marketing understand their individual and collective contribution to delivering and customer communications. Look for the presence of enabling organizational discipline that provides the necessary leadership, and structure required for effective customer engagements.
Solid Tech and Data Infrastructure
More than the specific technology or platform of interest, solid tech and data infrastructure includes connectivity between systems, orchestration of data sharing between data sources, reliable user access to the systems and sufficient compute capacity to handle the intended workloads. Technology with insufficient infrastructure is akin to a muscle car with no fuel to run the engines and no track on which to race.
Working with your technology and systems operations teams develop an understanding of the degree to which the infrastructure and services within the ecosystem are configured to support efficient and effective campaign activations. This exercise can be the most challenging as many organizations tend to invest in the flashy and existing functionality while failing to heed the call for more foundational infrastructure. IT experts can be sensitive to questions that could be perceived as criticism. It is best to have an open dialogue with the IT experts to gain their advice on how well the current infrastructure is positioned to support your business needs. Ask your IT experts to help you understand how well you are positioned today and what key changes will better enable your infrastructure.
Customer Data Management
Customer data is the raw material that fuels any customer engagement and B2C communications absent accurate and timely data can be detrimental to customer relations and loyalty. With a thorough understanding of the ability of your organization and its people to deliver effective marketing communications, review the data within your existing ecosystem to look for potential changes. Today, marketers require data and data services that are configured to create, manage and expose customer data for use in real time, omni-channel, personalized, 1:1 communications.
Existing Martech Systems
With a thorough understanding of the ability of your organization, its people, infrastructure and data to enable marketing operations, now we can zero in on the functionality provided by existing systems. It is important to look with an eye to how the systems should be used rather than just how well the system is performing as configured.
The Sales and Marketing technology landscape is rapidly changing with a multitude of new functionalities and integrations being added by vendors. However, very few organizations fully utilize all the functionality provided by their current vendor and are likely not to do so with a new vendor. Additionally, any technology that is implemented without a tightly coupled combination of clearly defined business processes, executed by competent people, that understand their roles and responsibilities all enabled by reliable technology and data infrastructure is likely to achieve less than desired results. Transparent Partners can assist your team in providing a rapid inventory of your existing capabilities to help identify solutions to performance challenges that may not require new technology.
Read John’s next article, “How to Assess Your Current Marketing Ecosystem” where he provides more detail on the specific characteristics to look for when identifying improvement opportunities.