Mastering the complexity of marketing technology

So, you have committed to data as the route to better marketing. You understand your data landscape and its potential. You recognise the gaps that you need to fill and how to do that. And you are committed to making data a high quality asset.

The next thing to tackle in optimising your data driven marketing is technology. But what do you need and how do you deal with the wealth of options that now exist?

Core technical capabilities

Three core capabilities should guide your data driven marketing technology strategy:

  1. To bring together and optimise data;
  2. To transform data into insights; and
  3. To use these insights to make decisions while also automating and orchestrating technologies that improve customer experience.

Underpinning these capabilities is the concept of integration

  • Data must be made accessible for it to reveal insights.
  • Insights must be made accessible to facilitate decisions.
  • And decisions must be made accessible to result in meaningful customer interactions.

Making the complex a little bit simpler

Selecting technology to provide these capabilities can feel like a daunting task. With latest counts suggesting close to 6,000 vendors of marketing technology, the choice can seem bewildering. Yet a little common sense (and a methodical approach) can simplify this complexity.

Step 1: Assign ownership for the technology strategy

Depending on the size of your organisation, this could be a single individual or a cross-functional working group headed by a dedicated Marketing Technologist. Either way, involving your internal IT teams is key, as is having someone with the ability to understand the worlds of marketing and technology. If you struggle to identify a suitable internal candidate to head this up then consider bringing in specialist external support to kick-start your strategy.

Step 2: Agree your guiding principles

Your guiding principles form the bedrock of your technology purchasing strategy. Some key principles to address include:

  • Do you choose a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS)/Cloud system, or do you host it yourself?
  • ‘Best of breed’ or is just enough good enough (i.e. will you take 70% of what you need for a quicker implementation or reduced cost, or will you only settle for the full 100%)?
  • Architectural constraints – Legacy systems? Windows based infrastructure? What does your new technology need to integrate with?
  • The power of Open Systems and Loose Coupling – something Edit always advises our clients to aspire to.

By way of definition, Open System means the vast majority of functionality and data can be used and accessed via other technologies. These Application Programming Interfaces (API) might, for example, include outbound campaign management technology. Such technology could instruct an email platform to send emails, a mobile messaging platform to send SMS and a print production system to create and send direct mail packs. It could then tell those systems to pass back any interaction or response data. Open system technology is essential for automation and the integration of different capabilities.

Loose Coupling refers to the integration between applications being achievable in a way that allows for one application to be swapped out for another with minimal effort. This is essential for flexibly matching technology choices with evolving and changing consumer needs and behaviours. Loose coupling can be extremely hard to achieve and is often dependent on middleware that may be in the hands of IT.

Step 3: Recognise what you already have

You are probably already using a wealth of technology, either directly within the marketing department or within other areas of the business. In our experience, a technology audit often highlights where businesses are licensing multiple technologies that provide the same core features. If you have undertaken a Data Landscape Definition then you already have a great starting point to map out your technology. However, be sure to look outside the boundaries of Marketing across the entire business landscape as you might just find a nugget of gold.

Step 4: Categorise the good, the bad and the ugly

Every company needs a consistent way of evaluating technology against business needs (including the guiding principles above). A framework such as the TIME model from Gartner can be a useful way to tackle this activity. It compares the technical capability and business value of software, then categorises it under one of four treatments:

  • TOLERATE: Continue to maintain. Technically sound but business workarounds may be needed to operate.
  • INVEST: Continue to maintain and enhance. Meets technical and business needs .
  • MIGRATE: Consider replacement/upgrade. Meets business needs but requires technical improvement (if feasible).
  • ELIMINATE: Consider decommissioning. Fails to meet technical and business needs.

Step 5: Focus on your investments

Integration is the key principle underpinning data marketing technology and its three core capabilities. Yet integration can also be a problem, cited by 56% of marketers as the biggest obstacle they encounter when pursuing data driven marketing activities.

There are ways to address this. Investing in integration Platform-as-a-Service (iPaaS)-type propositions is one option (especially if pursuing the “Loose Coupling” approach). But if time, resource or budget constraints mean that’s unlikely then, once you have identified your cornerstone investment technologies, you could look to identify all the other technologies that offer pre-integration with them.

More and more vendors are building out ecosystems of connected third party applications. For example, many Business Intelligence platform vendors provide pre-built integration with marketing applications such as CRM systems, digital analytics platforms and social media monitoring technologies. This makes data from those systems accessible for use in analysis and reporting. Start by looking at your investment technologies and identifying the integrated options that exist among the other technologies you are looking to acquire.

More steps to follow, but you’re on the right path
By following the five steps above you’ll have begun to master the complexity of marketing technology in your data driven marketing strategy. Subsequent stages include:

  • Documenting your requirements;
  • Evaluating and selecting suppliers;
  • Implementing the technology; and
  • Mastering the organisational change needed to unlock their potential.

All are daunting tasks in their own right. But with these foundations in place you will be well set up to succeed and have a much clearer view of your ultimate destination.

Get in touch if you’d like to know more.

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