3 Ways to Better Manage Marketing Automation So the ‘Shiny Object’ Doesn’t Stab You

I presented at the All About Marketing Tech Virtual Conference & Expo on the topic of targeting and automation. One of the themes I hit upon was about how companies are hindering their marketing automation success with needless complexity.

On Thursday, I will be presenting at the All About Marketing Tech Virtual Conference & Expo on the topic of targeting and automation. One of the themes I plan to hit upon is about how companies are hindering their marketing automation success with needless complexity. This topic falls squarely in the “land of shiny objects,” which is a recurring theme in many of my posts.

This theme in my posts and the 1:10 p.m. ET session, “Using Automation + Targeting to Engage and Convert,” focuses on how tempting technology can be to the marketing practitioner and how it can lead to the desire to do too many things — to detrimental effect. However, there are three things you can do to manage automation better.

Step 1 in Marketing Automation

First, make sure you have a customer strategy. If you do not have a solid strategy, then you will be automating a bunch of tactics. Unless these tactics sit under a cohesive strategy, they may work against each other.

For example, a price-focused customer acquisition program may hurt long-term brand development or pricing power. When you add automation to this scenario, it will supercharge the tactic and potentially cause greater harm.

Step 2

Second, make sure you have a test-and-learn agenda. Automation is a very data and metrics-driven process and it is managed by humans, using those same data points and metrics.

Successful marketing automation involves iterative learning to drive growth. Therefore, knowing what you are trying to achieve through automation and running multiple tests to better understand the underlying dynamics is critical.

What tends to happen, however, is that too many objectives are pushed through the automation system and the ability to learn is muddled by an excess of data and a dearth of focus.

The advice I often give is:

“Because you can do something through automation, it does not mean you should.”

Creating a learning agenda you can manage and identifying the critical metrics needed for evaluation are critical first steps before automating a marketing function.

Step 3

Third, make sure you have a pivot plan. A pivot plan anticipates how you will modify your automation program and lists the levers at your disposal.

For example, if results are not coming in as expected, you may alternate content, alternate segments or redefine the automation goals.

Doing all three at once will most likely leave you as clueless as when you began. While this seems like marketing management 101, it is easy to lose sight of this with automation. Automation generally promises rapid decision-making over volumes of interactions and self-learning capabilities.

As a result, it is tempting to get out of the way and let it do its magic. In the near to mid-term, despite automation’s usefulness, this will not substitute for strategic and management thinking.

Conclusion

I am in no way discouraging the use of marketing automation. It is not only the future, but it is also the present and is driving positive results.

Successful marketers need to start experimenting with the technology now.

However, marketing automation is also not so wonderous and awe-inspiring that we forget that it needs management and strategy. That, in turn, means balancing lofty automation goals with what you can managerially digest.

How AI and Blockchain Will Transform Marketing, Just Like the Internet Before It

In 1995, the Internet was widely considered to be a fad, but businesses that failed to evolve and adapt to a new digital world quickly disappeared. Could the combination of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and cryptocurrencies be about to revolutionize marketing in the same way?

After recently watching a clip of a Bill Gates appearance on the David Letterman show in 1995, I was reminded of how our fear of technological change has altered very little in the last 28 years. As the Microsoft leader desperately tried to convey how the Internet would transform everything, both Letterman and the audience laughed and mocked the Microsoft founder.

It’s hard to imagine that in 1995, the Internet was widely considered to be a fad, but businesses that failed to evolve and adapt to a new digital world quickly disappeared. Substantial household names vanished from our lives almost overnight, but we all thought that they were too big to fail.

Here in 2018, we are witnessing the same attitudes towards artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain and cryptocurrencies. However, make no mistake: These technologies will continue to evolve at breakneck speed and will transform every industry including marketing.

Sure, we are in the very early stages at the moment and only just beginning to comprehend the art of the possible. But as these advances in technology continue, every aspect of our world will change forever, and those that fail to keep up with the pace will quickly experience a fate similar to Blockbuster video.

Artificial Intelligence

Nvidia CEO Jensen Huang recently advised that “software is eating the world, but AI Is going to eat software.” But what does this mean for the marketing industry?

We are now living in a digital age where companies are automating how we discover products and services. Anyone who has used Spotify, Amazon, or Netflix will testify how personalized recommendations based on our engagement automatically raises their expectation levels. As a result, marketers will increasingly face pressure to tailor their product recommendations based on their consumers’ purchase history and reviews.

When I open my eyes in the morning, my first action is reaching for my phone to see how many generic emails I can delete, and I know that I am not the only one. AI solutions are already making it possible to offer hyper-personalized ads based on the individual preferences of users and serve them in the right context without being creepy, and right now, they are most relevant.

When this becomes the standard, what happens to marketers who cling to the generic campaigns from the past? Contrary to popular opinion, technology is not dehumanizing us at all; it is actually forcing marketers to treat customers as unique individuals rather than page views and clicks. This can only be a great thing, right?

Blockchain and Cryptocurrencies

Make no mistake: Blockchain and cryptocurrencies will transform the world as we know it. But you might be thinking, how will it impact marketing? Although it will take time for businesses to adapt and use the technology, it has the potential to eradicate intermediaries.

In a post-Cambridge Analytica world, users will have an opportunity to determine how much personal information they reveal in a new era of social responsibility. As a result, advertisers and marketers will need to earn trust rather than take it for granted.

There are already multiple marketing and advertising startups appearing in the blockchain space.  A new approach to tokenize user behavior through a cryptocurrency and create a new credit system to unite advertisers and the consumer could completely remove the need for middlemen that provide little in terms of value.

When thinking about the art of the possible, blockchain could easily enable brands to build trust directly with their customers. Could this pave the way for businesses to be less reliant on tech behemoths such as Google and Facebook? Only time will tell.

Tech, The Problem Solver

The marketing industry has a long list of problems that emerging technology could quickly remove. Whether it is payment processing, fraud prevention, measurement, or reporting, we can expect everything to become simplified and in many cases automated.

Technology is bringing greater trust and transparency to the global marketplace across every industry. Marketing is just a small part of this huge digital transformation of everything.

Ask yourself: What are the most significant pain points in marketing? What aspects of the current ecosystem are no longer fit for a digital age? And what value are complex processes or third-parties providing your business? These are the areas that technology will eradicate over the next five years.

As consumers, we can access anything our heart desires with a few swipes of our smartphone. We are all taking these expectations into the world of B2B and demanding the same level of experience. Those that fail to make it easier to do business and remove friction points will quickly fall out of favor.  So, isn’t it time that you embraced technological change rather than fear it?

Confidence in Data Depends on Confidence in Analysis

It’s striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Push-me, pull-you. Chicken or egg?

Data or Analytics?

As I continue discussion on the “The Data-Centric Organization 2018” research report (Winterberry Group, in partnership with the Data and Marketing Association and IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] Data Center for Excellence, it is striking how marketing organizations — specifically, data-driven marketing organizations — seek to overcome challenges in people, platforms, partners and processes through analytics.

Data and Analytics in marketing
“The Data-Centric Organization 2018” | Credit: The Winterberry Group by The Winterberry Group

Analytics spending may be tiny (just 2 percent of data services budgets, according to another Winterberry Group report, “The State of Data 2017”) but the significance of data analytics cannot be understated. We all want it, need it and compete for it in a tight pool for talent, because smarter data activation — predictive models, marketing attribution, triggers (and more), what we might call data strategies — depends on it.

Ad tech and marketing tech are inviting, but they require professionals with analytics fluency in order to flourish.

The report states, “As reported in 2016, practitioners consider data analytics the most critical skill to support the future of their data-driven marketing efforts; however, emphasis on data management and processing has increased, and technology/IT has declined in priority.”

While it’s popular to think that brands are pulling more and more data skill sets in-house, there is actually good news for at least some third-party agencies, consultants and ad partners in this quest for analytics prowess: “Data users credit their supply chain partners with supporting their efforts to derive value from the use of data,” the report concludes, “ … and are helpful when it comes to optimizing the use of marketing technology, as well.” Thus, success in audience activation depends on these partners.

Nonetheless, deepening analytics bench strength is a near-universal concern, both in-house and among marketing service providers. Until such expertise is attained, marketers will remain only moderately confident in the marketing tech and ad tech in which they invest.

So how do we get to a better place? Analytics consultancies are playing a “foremost role in supporting data activation,” followed by third-party data managers and in-house database managers. Organizations say they are becoming less reliant on brand agencies, media agencies and marketing strategy consultancies in this regard — perhaps indicative of the high regard given to data intelligence and to firms that live and breathe data in their everyday practice.

Can we do it? It’s going to take time — and talent — to get our people and skill sets caught up to our tech. I’m a big believer in STEM and marketing education to help us achieve our data-driven storytelling dreams. But we’re talking thousands of such professionals in need. That may mean not only attracting legions of college students to our field, but also boning up in mass the skills of existing current marketing practitioners — supplemented, perhaps, by artificial intelligence and AI’s own skilled handlers.

For marketing to thrive — it has to be data-driven. We do not have the luxury of choice.

7 B2B Marketing Predictions for 2018

New-year predictions are a dangerous business. I will take the risk, and just hope that at the end of 2018 no one looks back to call me on it! B2B sales and marketing are evolving quickly — as buying behavior changes, and new technologies take hold. So, there’s a lot to talk about.

New-year predictions are a dangerous business. I will take the risk, and just hope that at the end of 2018 no one looks back to call me on it! B2B sales and marketing are evolving quickly — as buying behavior changes, and new technologies take hold. So, there’s a lot to talk about. But I shall limit my predictions to just seven, and hope they provide food for thought to my fellow followers of the B2B marketing scene.

1. More Growth in Marketing Technology — and More Consolidation

Ever since Scott Brinker began tracking the marketing tech space in 2011, when he identified 150 point solutions on the market, the category’s growth has been unstoppable. In 2017, he counted 5,381 solutions, up 40% from the year prior. This is nuts. And ripe for consolidation, as buyers sit paralyzed by the deluge, and vendors scramble to stand out. I predict major M&A next year. One corollary point is that marketing executives will need to be tech savvier than ever to manage their ever-growing stacks.

2. Predictive Analytics Becomes an Essential Tool in B2B

Data and modeling are nothing new in B2B, but the tools and strategies that have entered the toolset in the last few years are setting us up for a new kind of data-driven future. Particularly in prospecting, new resources like purchase signals (“intent data”) and lookalike modeling will continue to expand marketers’ access to new audiences and provide scale to their ABM programs. Look to Lattice, Mintigo, 6Sense, Leadspace and MRP Prelytix.

3. AI Gets Real

The marketing buzzword of the year, artificial intelligence will in 2018 prove its value in speeding up data processing and applying machine learning to digital advertising, predictive analytics, responsive websites, chatbots, and all manner of customer management. Look, when Salesforce.com introduced an AI plug-in called Einstein, my point was proved.

4. Self-service Analytics

As marketing tech gets more complex, and CMOs are close to controlling tech budgets as large as CIOs, next up is the need for simplicity, and new ways for marketers to take advantage of technology without becoming total geeks. Enter self-service, which essentially means more sophisticated business intelligence tools that feature ease of use along with speed and power. IBM’s Watson may be the most famous of the bunch. But cheaper, more accessible competitors will be coming along, I reckon.

5. GDPR Will Give B2B Marketers a Break

This is certainly wishful thinking, but my gut says the EU regulators will clarify whether some exceptions — or workarounds — may be available to B2B marketers as the May 25, 2018, deadline approaches. net in the UK has prepared a useful guide for B2B marketers on how to begin their compliance efforts. Meantime, Forrester predicts that 40 percent of marketers are going to take their chances and not even try to comply.

6. Customer Experience Will Become a Key Discipline in B2B

It’s been a long time coming, but B2B marketers are finally waking up to the fact that purchase decisions are based far less on price and more on direct and indirect experience with the product, the brand and the company.   Even in B2B, where things are supposed to be so rational. Sirius Decisions has been following this topic for some years. As interest grows, so will marketing departments focus on how to deliver consistent, informative and enjoyable experiences — online and off — to customers and prospects.

7. Understanding Millennial Buying Behavior Will Be Key to Success

I’ve offered tips about marketing to Millennials before. But new data suggests that this cohort is more influential than ever. They are now responsible for researching and influencing 65 percent of purchase decisions, and in 13 percent they are the decision makers themselves. Moreover, it turns out that the first place they look for solutions is not Google search and your website, but on social media. As these people age, their influence will grow. We need to be on their wavelength.

So, those are my predictions for B2B marketing in 2018. Anyone have others to offer?

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Early Results of Our Omnichannel Marketing Survey

While our “2018 Omnichannel Marketing Survey” is still ongoing, the early results are surprising. Far from being a retail-only issue, over 75 percent of respondents say the omnichannel customer experience is important in their industries.

While our “2018 Omnichannel Marketing Survey” is still ongoing — we’ve only sent out the first of at least three emails for it, with another coming out today — the early results are surprising. Far from being a retail-only issue, over 75 percent of respondents say the omnichannel customer experience is important in their industries.

The early returns on our Omnichannel Marketing survey find that 75 percent of marketers, across all industries, think omnichannel is important.
The early returns on our Omnichannel Marketing survey find that 75 percent of marketers, across all industries, think omnichannel is important.

What’s more, only 6 percent of respondents so far are in the retail/e-tail sector; more responses are coming from a host of other industries, from non-profits to CPG to financial services in both B2B and B2C.

So far, omnichannel is proving to be an essential concern in 2018 for marketers of all stripes, enough that budgets are shifting to handle it. The early results show that 53 percent plan to spend more on omnichannel marketing in 2018 than they did in 2017, and 7 percent are more than doubling that investment.

What are they investing in? According to the early results, a lot of that investment is going toward customer data, customer service and customer identification.

In the early results, new omnichannel investment is overwhelmingly going to data, customer service and customer identification.
In the early results, new omnichannel investment is overwhelmingly going to data, customer service and customer identification.

Based on tha, it appears that customers are continuing to face challenges in the core capabilities of omnichannel marketing: Knowing who’s engaging where, and putting that together with what they did on the other channels to create a worthwhile experience.

Now, these are only the early results. The survey is far from done, and I’d love to hear from you. There’s still time to be entered to win the $100 AmEx gift card!

So, if you haven’t yet, click here to participate in the Omnichannel Marketing Survey yourself. And keep an eye out in March for the final report and a lot more coverage!

10 Resources for Multitasking Marketers

The end of the year can be therapeutic. Open enrollment is over. Budget requests are nearly done. Recurring meetings are canceled. I use this brief window of time to clean out files, consider resources I’ve been curious about, and think about how to simplify things. This year I’m also sharing 10 time-saving resources for multitasking marketers.

The end of the year can be therapeutic. Open enrollment is over. Budget requests are nearly done. Recurring meetings are canceled. I use this brief window of time to clean out files, consider resources I’ve been curious about, and think about how to simplify things. This year I’m also sharing 10 time-saving resources for multitasking marketers.

Marketing technologies and channels have changed a lot over the years. Some services and processes that used to require long-term contracts or high monthly costs are now available through low-cost, Web-based interfaces. Although they may not offer the same level of detail and control as their predecessors, they offer a good combination of functionality and ease of use. And if you want to focus more of your time on strategy, you probably need to streamline recurring processes that consume a lot of time.

  1. Canva.com — Need to quickly create a graphic? Canva simplifies the design process with an easy-to-use interface and 1-click resizing for various applications, including social media channels. This saves a ton of time previously spent manually resizing visuals. Also, Canva recently added a print shop function so you can order collateral materials for delivery with the same sort of ease.
  2. Maptitude, ArcGIS, Alteryx, Google Earth Pro and PolicyMap — Depending on your mapping needs, one or more of these resources can help you generate a basic map for handouts, to embed in your website, or to produce a strategic planning map with layers of data points and demographics. Free trial periods allow you to experiment to see which best fits your needs.
  3. Venngage.com — Everyone wants an infographic, but visual storytelling can be complicated to pull off. Venngage provides a variety of templates with enough customization capabilities to suit common purposes. This allows you to consider using infographics for all kinds of needs, including training and process navigation. This can free up your limited design resources for key projects.
  4. Adobe — The Adobe Color Wheel tool makes it easier to find good color combinations with color formulas for RGB and HEX uses.
  5. Shakr.com — Videos are easier to make with Shakr. You can choose standard horizontal or mobile phone-friendly vertical formats, upload still images or video files, add text and music and get a video product that works for many day-to-day needs. Social media clip? Done.
  6. Symplur.com — The company’s free Healthcare Hashtags service shows you the social media hashtags used most often for health fields, conditions or topics. This is especially helpful for ensuring posts on narrow-interest topics gets to the right audience and have some staying power.
  7. Pixabay.com and Unsplash.com — These image libraries provide high-quality photographs that can be used in commercial work.  Use these to add variety to the usual stock image photos we all recognize. Incorporate them into your Canva design, Venngage infographic or Shakr video for a more interesting final product.
  8. Fiverr.com — Need to get out of the rut with your usual go-to, quick-turn freelancers? Fiverr connects you with specialized talent for all sorts of animation, graphic design, writing, music and other needs. Select budget and turn-around-time filters so you and the freelancer are clear on expectations.
  9. Tagcrowd.com — An easy way to generate a word cloud based on a document, website or text you enter. This is a visually interesting way to call out recurring themes from planning meeting notes, research verbatims or longer format documents that are usually skimmed.
  10. HelpaReporter.com — A service of Cision, HelpaReporter connects your experts to reporters who are on a deadline and looking for authoritative sources or interviews. This is a good way to introduce your in-house experts beyond local media outlets.

These are a few of the time-saving resources I’ve found helpful or interesting in 2017. I hope your holiday season offers a chance to think, explore and feel excited about what you can do in the coming year.

How Marketing Operations Chooses Wisely Between Bright, Shiny Objects

This month we make a right turn on the journey and finally discuss marketing operations and technology. This is the 15th blog in the Revenue Marketing journey series, and we finally get to a discussion on technology. Hopefully that tells you something about how important people, process, data and content are, in that they all preceded this post.

Last month on our Revenue Marketing journey, we discussed how to formulate your 2018 content marketing strategy. This month we make a right turn on the journey and finally discuss marketing operations and technology. This is the 15th blog in the Revenue Marketing journey series, and we finally get to a discussion on technology. Hopefully that tells you something about how important people, process, data and content are, in that they all preceded this post.

Gartner recently released their CMO Spend Survey 2017 to 2018. In 2018 the survey suggests that marketing spending on technology will drop to 22 percent of the total budget. In addition, the technology landscape as plotted by Scott Brinker and team at Chiefmartec.com exceeded 5000 logos in 2017. So great, marketing operations has all this budget to spend on technology and more choices than we can possibly evaluate. What are we to do? Let’s start with the end in mind.

What Outcomes Do You Expect From the Technology?

We deploy technology largely because it fulfills one or more of the following criteria:

  1. To gather, analyze and disseminate information to make better business decisions
  2. To automate some previously labor-intensive processes to gain efficiencies and increase profits
  3. To enable innovation in the products and services we provide to win market share

So, the question becomes, where in 2018 will you get the highest ROI from technology investments? If you are early in your Revenue Marketing journey, you may opt to invest in a customer relationship management (CRM), a content management system (CMS) and a marketing automation platform (MAP) as these tend to be technology hubs at the center of a typical martech stack as shown below:

Revenue Marketing Architecture for Marketing Operations
Revenue Marketing Architecture

As an example, a MAP enables you to gather and analyze behavior data about your prospects and customers so you can make better decisions about how to engage with them to optimize the customer experience. A MAP can also automate responses to prospects when they perform certain actions, thereby reducing the need for human intervention. And a MAP can be configured to move individuals from one campaign to another depending on where they are in their customer journey, adapting the nature of the outreach to match the circumstances of the prospect. An example might be opting new customers into welcome campaigns automatically. So the MAP could meet all three of the criteria listed above for justifying a new technology acquisition.

How Will Content Marketing Change You?

The IAB has said 70 percent viewability is what advertisers should accept as the best possible ad viewability. Robert Rose wants to know why “we’re willing to accept a 30 percent tax on our media buy just because that’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

The IAB has said 70 percent viewability is what advertisers should accept as the best possible ad viewability. Robert Rose wants to know why “we’re willing to accept a 30 percent tax on our media buy just because that’s as good as it’s gonna get.”

Rose was keynoting the FUSE Enterprise summit in Philadelphia, speaking to marketing executives who were there to learn about branded content technologies. And it quickly became clear that viewability and blocking are major digital blockades that just don’t apply to content marketing.

Content Outside the Marketing Box

It used to be, half of my advertising works, I just don’t know which half, explained Rose. Now, he said, it’s “half of my advertising is blocked, I just don’t know which half.”

And the answer to that, according to Rose, is content. Because a well-developed content marketing program is truly opt-in — they’re choosing to invest that time with you — and not reliant on advertising units that could be shut down by everything from GDPR to the Web browsers themselves.

However, the kid of content that it takes to get that kind of buy-in, is not the kind of content most marketers are creating.

“We’re still thinking of content as an extension of our other activities,” said Rose. “We should be thinking about it as a product in itself, as a thing that provides value in order to attract customers.”

In the world of controlled-circulation B2B publishing that “free” publications like Target Marketing operate in, I often think of what we do as trading our content for our audience’s time and attention. Even though the content (like this blog) does not directly generate revenue, it generates the audience (yes, that’s you) our sponsors want to reach, and hopefully a few readers who want to pay for things like our Content Marketing Master Classes.

The content is a product, even though it’s available for free.

Rose is saying that’s he attitude all content marketers need to adopt as well.

But it’s hard to do, because unlike publishers who’ve been operating like this for decades, content marketers still think of content marketing the same way they think of paid advertising.

Why Marketing Tech Becomes a Spam Gun

Conway’s law: “Organizations which design systems … are constrained to produce designs which are copies of the communication structures.”

That’s an axiom from the world of software development, but Rose sees it applying to marketers, too. “We design strategy not by where we want to go, but rather where the capabilities of technology tell us we can go.”

The gag is, if you can break out of that box, the technology is available today to enable just about anything you dream up.

“If you can dream it, I promise you the technology is there to help you develop it,” said Rose. “The technology today is that good; our capabilities have been expanded.”

But like the new leads from Glengarry Glennross, we just don’t always know what to do with it.

“These are the new tech. These are the Glengarry tech …” | Credit: “Glenngary Glen Ross,” New Line Cinema, 1992

“Most people who buy marketing automation systems simply use it as a spam gun,” said Rose, noting that Only 26 percent of marketers with marketing automation systems fully use them.

How to Build a Tech Stack That Works

One of the main obstacles here is that implementing good systems, and good tech, and good systems for setting up the good tech, is all time consuming and requires cross-departmental communication. Cooperation, even!

Are You Buying Marketing Tech Too Casually?

For the past couple months, I’ve been working on our research report, “The Marketing Tech Buying Process.” And one thing really surprised me: A lot less formal prep and discussion is going into those purchases than I expected. Are marketers buying their technology too casually?

For the past couple months, I’ve been working a lot on our most recent research report, “The Marketing Tech Buying Process.” And one thing really surprised me: There is less formal prep and cross-departmental discussion going into those purchases than I expected.

Which raises the question: Are marketers buying their technology too casually?

For starters, most technology requirements are set by a single person or team. Only about a third of our respondents have multiple teams or cross-functional teams working on it.

Marketing Technology Buying Process: "Who typically defines the requirements and technology selection criteria?" Then, when we looked at the processes marketers use to prepare for the purchase and to evaluate success after implementation, we found most marketers rely on informal processes.

For example, in preparing for the purchase, only three processes were used by a majority of our respondents, and two of them were budget-focused. When it came to setting functional requirements, the most-used process is informal requirements assessment.

Prior to beginning the research and procurement process for a significant marketing technology investment, what steps do you take?And it was the same in follow-up: The most used process was informal.

Are informal processes really the best way to decide what tech you need and whether or not a purchase was successful?

As marketing technology is becoming more important, and the overall customer experience is becoming a more important marketing KPI, shouldn’t more departments have input on what you need?

After all, these are important purchases. As one respondent said, “I cannot afford to buy a lemon. My job depends on it. I cannot afford to buy it twice or lose time that I need.”

So what do you think? Is your marketing department buying technology too casually? Or is this the best way to do things? Do you worry about having too many cooks in the kitchen when you’re trying to get that marketing tech stack souffle to rise?

Let me know in the comments.

And if you want to see more,  click here to download the complete report.

 

Your Ultimate Marketing Stack

In a little less than two weeks, we’re kicking off our first ever All About Marketing Tech virtual event, and Travis Wright will open with an address called “Building Your Ultimate Tech Stack.” Which forces us to consider the question: Exactly what do you need in your marketing stack? Are you even sure what a marketing tech “stack” is?

In a little less than two weeks, we’re teaming with CabinetM and kicking off our first ever All About Marketing Tech virtual event (#AAMT17), and Travis Wright, the infamous @teedubya on Twitter and author of Digital Sense, will open with an address called “Building Your Ultimate Tech Stack.”

Which forces us to consider the question: Exactly what do you need in your marketing stack?

Are you even sure what a marketing tech “stack” is?

Stack of coins
In a way, that’s not wrong.

If you’re not familiar with the term, your marketing tech stack is all of the tools you use to do marketing and how they fit together and interact. Often it starts with the CRM and marketing automation system/cloud, how they connect to your main database (or sometimes one of them plays the role of your main database) and all of the tools that connect with them to allow you to understand what your customers want and reach them across all channels.

That can be a lot of stuff. Here’s what happened when I tried explaining it to Taylor last year when she joined the team with no marketing background.

Thorin's Marketing Stack Doodle
Fortunately, she suffered no serious long-term psychological effects … aside from that recurring twitch.

So, what belongs in the perfect marketing stack?

I’m going to let Travis answer that in detail on March 1. But here are seven levels I think you have to consider:

  1. Where do you keep the customer and prospect data? How is it secured and accessed, and exactly what part of that is your job?
  2. How do you manipulate that data, both to deploy campaigns and power pesonalization?
  3. What lets you analyze and draw actionable insights from that data and other data you access? (RFM, likely buyers, behavioral triggers, look-alike analysis, etc.)
  4. What tech do you use to build your creative? To what extent do you need that to be flexible and data-driven (either so it can be personalized, or segments can be adapted to the analytics in 3)?
  5. What channels do you deploy that creative to, and how do you get it there? (I feel like the stack can develop a lot of columns here.)
  6. How do you monitor and converse with customers and prospects on those channels? (Even more columns.)
  7. For customers specifically, how do you handle their relationship and issues? (This part may well be in another department, but it certainly impacts how they respond to your marketing in the future.)

So that is seven layers deep of hard, meaningful decisions. And I bet I missed a few. What layers and tools do you feel you need to have in your marketing stack?

And if you want to hear from someone who really knows what their talking about on this — someone who’s helped companies across many verticals build their own stacks — don’t miss Travis Wright on March 1, kicking off All About Marketing Tech!