The 3 Big Challenges Marketers Face When Building a Marketing Tech Arsenal

It’s household knowledge that digital technology is continuously disrupting the practice of marketing. New tools mean new capabilities to reach and engage with potential customers in new ways. An expanding number of platforms and devices makes the prospect of providing seamless customer experiences an ever more difficult task. Meanwhile more technologies dictate that marketing tech stack integrations are becoming more complex. Yet nimble and savvy marketing tech adoption is one of the key factors for staying competitive in any market, today and in the foreseeable future.

That’s not all to scare anyone. But it’s worth taking stock of the fact that marketers have a tall order in front of them when it comes to evaluating and implementing new digital marketing technologies.

There are a combination of factors that make marketing tech adoption difficult. The sheer volume of potential solutions means that sorting through the noise and finding those tools that are relevant to your business objectives is a time suck. That’s certainly a big one, but an undue amount of time has been spent in blog posts and at industry conferences shocking marketers with intricate vendor-scapes while other challenges may go overlooked.

In this post, we’ll evaluate some of the common hurdles marketers face when it comes to adopting and implementing new technologies and consider some ways they can overcome those hurdles. With a better understanding of exactly what the challenges are, in future posts we’ll dig further into developing a process for optimizing your tech stack and explore some of the key business objectives marketers are trying to address with technology in 2018.

Editor’s Note: This blog post marks the launch of FUSE Digital Marketing, a weekly newsletter (subscribe here) and annual VIP executive summit (learn more here) that explore the strategic adoption of marketing technologies. Both aim to dissect the modern martech stack and explore how the right technologies can enable marketers to achieve business objectives.

Challenge #1: Omnichannel Customer Experiences Are Complicated by Content, Data & Technology

The vast array of devices and platforms where customer touchpoints occur mean that the need for marketers to provide seamless, omnichannel customer experiences is both more important and more challenging than ever. Doing so requires a well-oiled technology stack optimized for cross-platform data integration, 360° customer views, and AI-based automation that drives engaging content and offers.

But let’s dig a little deeper and uncover what’s at play when it comes to omnichannel marketing. Just how important is omnichannel marketing to marketers and what’s holding them back?

In the research report Omnichannel Marketing: The Key to Unlocking a Powerful Customer Experience, Target Marketing asked marketers how important providing an omnichannel experience is in their industry. 74% of marketers said it was important, fairly important or very important. The research also revealed that most marketers are not confident in their ability to deliver omnichannel experiences: 48% feel their company provides customers and prospects an “average” omnichannel experience, while only 33% say it’s “good” or “very good.”

Beyond lack of budget, which is considered the number one challenge, marketers see omnichannel marketing as fundamentally a technology problem, with “accessing data across channels” and “recognizing a customer on different channels or devices” as high-ranking challenges they face in this effort. When asked what they are doing to improve omnichannel customer experience, marketers’ top two priorities are “improving integration of existing technology systems” and “investing in new tools and technology.”

 

To address omnichannel challenges, marketers are “improving integration of existing technology systems” and “investing in new tools and technology.”

 

To be fair, the quote-unquote “omnichannel customer experience” is not just a marketing objective — it’s the objective of anyone trying to provide consistent experiences across digital platforms and understand how audiences move and behave across those platforms. For years it’s been an objective (and thorn in the side) of publishing and media companies, which have large-scale audience and butter their bread by cultivating very granular information about these audiences.

The comparison to the media business can also be useful because it speaks to why omnichannel customer experiences have become simultaneously more difficult and more of an imperative. If omnichannel can be boiled down to two fundamental principles, those are experience and data.

First let’s look at experience: With content as a major form of currency in the brand-customer relationship, the customer experience extends much further up the funnel today than in days past. It’s the reason why content marketing expert Robert Rose argues that marketers should be focusing on audience, and not customer conversion, when developing a content marketing strategy and supporting technologies.

Sticking with publisher analogy, the introduction of content can be both a gift and a curse: A gift because “audience” interactions with content reveal valuable granular data about buying interests and intentions, which can drive coveted personalization efforts that yield higher conversions. A curse because connecting behavioral data to an individual across platforms is no easy task.

It’s no surprise then that we’re seeing a lot of interest in identity management, journey tracking, and anti-journey-hijacking solutions to keep track of users, as well as tools like CDPs that enable a 360-degree view of known users and the ability to develop user profiles enriched by behavioral data. Analytics tools that extract further insights, especially AI-driven predictive capabilities, will continue their growth in popularity.

Of course, limitations on data-driven marketing like GDPR will alter the data exchange between brands and consumers, namely by raising the threshold for that exchange. GDPR will simply accelerate the need for “owned” audiences that marketers have permission to communicate with (often earned by providing content), some of which will become your customers. And though painful at first, GDPR will actually play in favor of some marketers’ high-level concerns about brand safety and ad fraud when the brand-consumer relationship is much more transparent and explicit for all parties.

Challenge #2: Organizational Bureaucracy & Shadow MarTech

Unfortunately, developing a 360-degree view of customers from the topmost part of the funnel down to the purchase and onward isn’t just a technological challenge. It’s a deeply organizational challenge.

Marketers face a couple internal headwinds when it comes to technology adoption — such as the lack of understanding by senior management or lack of talent to apply martech — but perhaps the strongest is bureaucracy.

At many large companies, web technologies are part of gigantic enterprise systems that tend to be rigid and/or slowed by bureaucracy. Getting a WordPress site approved through corporate IT can be a nightmare. Especially when it comes to providing cutting edge customer experiences, marketers need to be super agile — able to stand up a blog, digital magazine, or microsite in short order — to respond the market or experiment with ideas without huge investments and long lead times.

Many marketers are forced to rely on their organization’s IT system and watch the nimble upstarts pass them by. Or they’re going rogue and creating what is often called a “shadow IT stack” or “shadow martech stack.”

Whether by design or by necessity, we know that martech purchasing happens across organizations. Target Marketing’s 2017 report The Marketing Tech Buying Process revealed that although brands are buying more marketing technology than ever, it’s often with minimal input from other departments. 64% of marketing technology purchases are made by individuals or single teams. Fewer than 50% of purchasers conduct formal requirements assessments. And the IT department is only involved in the marketing technology purchasing process 53% of the time.

One of the downsides of this fragmented martech buying approach is that the organization doesn’t reap the full benefit it would if the marketing stack and all its rich data was fully integrated with enterprise systems. Think of all the data points revealed through social media interactions, behavioral website data, email preferences – all of which can be used to track and cultivate consumers through the sales funnel and then continue engagement. And the existence of shadow martech stacks means companies aren’t seeing the optimal ROI, and as a result more likely to stifle future martech investments.

The Layered Approach to Marketing Tech Adoption

The layered approach to your content marketing tecnology stack.
Robert Rose advises a “layered approach” to the technology that powers content marketing in order to prioritize flexibility in the piece that must be more responsive to the customers, and formal input in the pieces that must integrate with other IT systems.

 

First off, marketers need to make the case and executives outside the marketing function need to recognize that marketing tech should be better integrated into enterprise systems without stifling the agility and flexibility that martech requires. Cross departmental communication and collaboration that might not have previously occurred are a necessity, but even more important, is a joined mission and strategy between marketing and IT.

To this end, Robert Rose suggests a “layered approach” to martech adoption. First, consider which parts of the tech stack need to be most flexible and require less dependability. These are the technologies that shouldn’t require as rigorous vetting nor be considered long-term, foundational technologies. “Content-driven experiences are today’s media buys: Flexible, lightweight and even disposable,” said Rose in his keynote at the FUSE Digital Marketing summit (then called FUSE Enterprise).

On the other hand, consider which parts of the tech stack need to be more thoroughly thought-out and approved, such as core data management technology that needs to be scalable, dependable and standardized, and fit into your company’s IT infrastructure. These need to be done methodically, involve all the stakeholders, and will likely be picked by the IT department, not marketers (though hopefully with apt input).

Challenge #3: Developing Tech Expertise

Another core challenge to martech adoption, and the closest to home, is that marketers themselves need a great understanding of the many technologies they could use and how they work together. However, being a technology expert is a relatively new competency for marketers and one that many may not have or are working to develop.  At the very least, marketers haven’t been preparing to be technologists their entire careers. “Being current on technology and able to put it into place with the right business processes to use effectively is now as important to the marketer as it is to someone in the IT department,” says Target Marketing editor-in-chief Thorin McGee. Or if not being a technology expert themselves, knowing enough to understand the underlying business objectives of a given tech tool and having a collaborative relationship with the technology department is a must for marketing executives today.

Once a technology is purchased, the common lament is that the tool is grossly underused. The Target Marketing Omnichannel report found that not enough marketers are investing in personnel or training to support their tech acquisitions. According to McGee, “This is evident both in the quantifiable questions, as well as the open response queries.  Marketers repeatedly cite lack of skilled personnel as an issue. Without proper training and know-how, the tools are not going to help. Invest in your people.”

Marketers should build more training into their martech strategies as well as implement more formalized processes (like Rose’s layered approach above), to ensure greater collaboration among key stakeholders and greater ROI for their tech investments.

In subsequent posts we’ll further explore processes for focusing your martech adoption strategy and look at specific business objectives marketers are keen to address with technology. Sign up for the weekly FUSE Digital Marketing newsletter to keep up on the latest martech insights.

Marketing Technology vs. Marketing Strategy

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

We are in an age when marketing technology can let us do amazing things, as you’ve seen me and all the editors and writers here on Target Marketing discuss many times. But they’re all tools, and even the best tool is only useful when you have a plan to use it.

Kids at Santa’s Workshop

It’s like when you were a little kid, and “Santa’s Workshop” came to school. Did you have these? The school would bring in a vendor to sell Christmas presents for the kids to buy for their families? (Come to think of it, it does seem a bit exploitative now that I type it out …)

Anyway, I remember one time seeing a tool that I thought looked so cool, so I bought it for my dad. It was this handheld thingy with slim little nails and a plastic tube with a magnet. The nails would go in the tube, and you’d push the top down to drive them. It looked so cool! But I had no idea what it did.

So I bought it for my dad anyway.

He smiled and accepted it, and I don’t think he used it once. In retrospect, it was probably for hanging wall paneling, which we never had.

How to Empower a Marketing Strategy

One of the things I’ve heard from multiple speakers heading into this show is that marketers sometimes buy technology a lot like I bought that nail thingamajig for my dad. They wind up with a cool looking tool, even when they don’t have a plan for how to use it.

And beyond the plan for how you’re going to use it, you need to have plans for how to integrate it into your marketing processes, train personnel to use it and plug it into your existing tech stack.

Tomorrow, All About Marketing Tech will introduce you to new marketing technologies — six of them, in fact — but also help you put together the marketing strategies that really determine what technology you should be investing in to begin with.

Andy Markowitz will talk about why marketers win or lose in the age of AdTech and MarTech convergence.

Jerry Bernhart will show you how to find the best marketing tech talent.

Peter Gillett will lead an international panel of experts on how the EU’s GDPR regulations will impact your tech stack.

Beerud Sheth will show you how to build an AI chatbot that doesn’t suck.

PLUS: Mitch Joel of Mirum, Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar, Samuel Monnie of Campbell’s Soup Company, Jonathan Levey of Flexjet and more!

So, if you want to know more about cutting edge marketing technologies, how companies are building strategies to be empowered by technology, how to find the people who have the skill and vision to use those tools, how to avoid one of the biggest fines your company would ever see and more, be sure to register for All About Marketing Tech, happening live from 10 AM to 3 PM EST tomorrow.

If marketing technology or strategy is a part of your job, or part of the job you want to have, you can’t afford to miss it.

3 Pressing Marketing Tech Questions — And How to Get Answers

What worries you about marketing technology? With All About Marketing Tech right around the corner on March 15, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on the program, and that question has been top of my mind. This year, three issues are at the forefront.

What worries you about marketing technology? With All About Marketing Tech right around the corner on March 15, we’ve been putting the finishing touches on the program, and that question has been top of my mind. This year, three issues are at the forefront.

1. How Do You Make Marketing Technology Part of Your Strategy?

This is the big one. We’ve gone through years of picking up whatever shiny new technology seemed to be working. But now that customers have made so many channels a part of their lives, it’s really less about the tech and more about your overall marketing capability. How does the technology enable your strategy? That’s the real question.

To answer that, Andy Markowitz, former general manager of GE, will sit down to talk about “Why Marketing Organizations Win or Lose in the Age of MarTech-AdTech Convergence.” If you want to know the difference between organizations that use technology to enable their strategies and organizations that waste their time and budget chasing shiny objects, this is the keynote for you.

2. How Do You Find the Talent to Use It?

Perhaps the most overlooked challenge of the marketing technology era is the people problem: How do you find the personnel who know how to get the most out of all the technologies and execute your strategy?

It’s one thing to find people who excel in single channels, but another to find the people who can create omnichannel experiences.

In “How to Find Great Marketing Tech Talent,”  Marketing recruiter Jerry Bernhart will talk about the key considerations in making a great, tech-savvy marketing hire.

3. How Does GDPR Impact Your Tech Stack?

The biggest new worry for 2018 has got to be the EU’s upcoming General Data Protection Rules (GDPR). Requiring marketers who have EU citizens in their files to account for a host of new rights — including the right to erasure, which requires you to erase all data about a customer on request — GDPR raises many questions about your tech stack. Are any of your tools going to be a problem for GDPR compliance?

In “GDPR and Your Tech Stack,” we’ll talk about those concerns, and what you should do about them.

Plus, hear from six new marketing technology startups, Campbell’s Soup, Flexjet and more! Registration is open, just head over to aamt.targetmarketingmag.com to sign up today!

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.

Top 10 Technologies Marketers Are Buying

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Click through to see the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

We’ve talked a lot about how companies are buying marketing technology. Now let’s take a look at the top technologies marketers are buying. Email, CRM, automation, ABM? Here are the top 10 marketing tools companies are investing in.

This data comes from our Marketing Technology Buying Process research report. Click here to download the full report, including the complete list of technologies being bought.

In a survey about how marketers are buying technology, it’s helpful to know what they’re buying. Here are the technologies our respondents have used these techniques to purchase.

  1. Email 53%
  2. CRM 47%
  3. Social Media Marketing 39%
  4. Marketing Automation 38%
  5. Web Analytics/Web Design/Web Optimization 33%
  6. Content Marketing 32%
  7. Database Marketing/Personalization 30%
  8. Direct Mail 29%
  9. SEM/SEO 29%
  10. E-commerce Platforms 25%

As I mentioned, this question was part of the Marketing Technology Buying Process survey, and we did ask specifically what technologies marketers bought using those techniques. So this is not “tech we’re buying this year.” It’s “tech we have bought using the processes discussed in this survey.”

The most-bought technologies, perhaps not surprisingly, are email and CRM. But I did not expect to see social media marketing tech at No. 3. We know that marketers have been dramatically increasing spending on the social ad channels, and it appears that investment is going to tech as well.

At 4 we have marketing automation, which lines up with 1 and 2. Then the various web site accessories at 5 with content marketing at 6 (although, e-commerce platforms, wound up all the way down at 10).

One technology not on the list surprised me as well: Account-based marketing, despite being a top buzz word this year, has not seen heavy investment. It came in at 12 (off the bottom of this list).

How does that match up to the technologies in your tech stack? Let me know in the comments below.

The 5 Steps Marketers Find Most Valuable When Choosing Technology

I’ve already talked about “The Marketing Tech Buying Process” research we released a few weeks ago, but I wanted to take this week to call out something I thought was really interesting: The steps marketers found worthwhile when they were choosing what to buy.

I’ve already talked about “The Marketing Technology Buying Process” research we released a few weeks ago, but I wanted to take this week to call out something I thought was really interesting: The steps marketers found worthwhile when they were choosing technology to buy.

This is not our clearest chart, I’ll admit, so you might want to click on it to make it more legible:How valuable marketers found different steps in the technology buying process when choosing tecnology.What we did here was ask marketers to rate on a scale from 1 to 5 (along with a “do not typically use” option) how valuable these steps are in their technology buying process. One was the highest, “extremely valuable,” those are the red bars above. Five was the lowest, “Little to no value.”

I was really surprised by how this chart turned out. Obviously, there aren’t many steps that our marketers found “not valuable” when choosing technology. But content and recommendations from vendors, third party advisors, professional associations and analysts were all seen pretty much the same: Long light-blue bars.

That’s the middle answer, “valuable,” which might as well have been “meh.”

In other words, outside guidance from various kinds of “experts” was not seen as that valuable. Peer/community recommendations, product testing/reviews and Independent technology articles all fared better.

What really stood out were processes that empowered the marketers to make their own decisions — steps that help them build either their own knowledge base or experience with the products available.

5 Most Valuable Steps for Choosing Technology

Here are the five processes that our respondents said were the most valuable when making a technology decision (those receiving the highest combined percent of “extremely” and “very” valuable responses):

  1. Product “Test Drive” or Extended Demo Implementation: This is an opportunity to use the product that goes beyond just a usual demo, perhaps even installed on your own network. A combined 72 percent found this step either “extremely” or “very” valuable. This is by far the most desirable level of vetting vendors can offer.
  2. Product Demo: Perhaps it’s no surprise that the straight product demo fared well, too, as 69 percent found this step “extremely” or “very” valuable.
  3. Self-Driven Online Research: It’s such a simple step, something you would expect literally every technology buyer to do. Yet our respondents hailed it as one of the most valuable, with a combined 68 percent — and 35 percent gave it the highest rating, “extremely valuable.”
  4. Peer or Community Recommendations: This actually had the same combined score as self-driven online research. But only 28 percent called it “extremely valuable,” while40 percent said it was “very valuable.”
  5. Product Testing Reports, Reviews and Buyer’s Guides: It should come as no surprise, with self-driven research ranking so highly, that the most rigorous forms of technology coverage were most valued by marketers. They don’t want opinions, they want facts, comparisons and experience, and these types of content deliver that most clearly. The combined “extremely” and “very” valuable score was 59 percent.

So when you’re considering your next marketing tech purchase, take a minute to think about what steps will be most valuable to you in making that decision. You might be able to keep the time investment to a minimum.

And if you want to see more about how marketers are buying technology, click here to download the complete report on “The Marketing Tech Buying Process.”

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.

 

How Do You Buy Marketing Tech?

We talk all the time about marketing technology and how marketers are becoming more and more responsible for buying technology and building the marketing tech stack. But what’s the best way to do that? I have a way for you to find out.

We talk all the time about marketing technology and how marketers are becoming more and more the people who buy marketing tech and build the technology stack. But what’s the best way to do that? I have a way for you to find out.

"Shut up and take my money!" Is this how you buy marketing tech?
Is this how you buy marketing tech?

Tech buying is not a skill they teach in marketing school, but it’s become essential for almost all marketing executives today. This is the year, after all, that Gartner predicted marketers would control more IT budget than IT departments.. You need to be able to build the tech stack to do all these amazing things — personalization, retargeting, predictive analytics and more — that make marketing what it is today.

Building the Best Practices

I have looked for a good set of guidelines to point reader to, but haven’t found any that I feel give good, actionable answers. What we need are best practices, and what I’ve seen are more vague steps, like “Know what you need.” I don’t think they’re helpful.

So we’ve launched a new research project — the “Target Marketing 2017 Technology Buying Process Survey” — and I’m hoping you’ll help me make it a success.

Just click here to take the survey.

Our goal with the survey is to build a set of best practices based on the steps that marketers — our readers and beyond — use to make sure the technology they buy actually meets their needs, their budgets, their culture (how often do you buy a tool just to watch it go unused?) and delivers the ROI they need to justify the expense.

The survey isn’t long, but it approaches this by asking respondents to check off the processes they use, to rate how useful they are, and talk about the advice they’d give to other marketers making a similar purchase. It takes less than 10 minutes, but I believe it will help us get to the answers you need.

The Report

I’ll be writing up the report on it myself, and we’ll release that as a free pdf to download, just like our Media Usage Surveys. And of course, a summary will run in the magazine. I sincerely hope that publication will help you better understand how to make sure your next tech purchase is a success.

Also, you can be entered to win a $100 gift card just for taking part.

I hope you’re as interested in seeing this research as I am. Just click on the link to get started.

And if you have any other comments on how you buy tech, or the survey itself, I’d love to talk about them in the comments below.

To Build or to Partner, That Is the Question

Marketers need a complex and diverse set of skills to meet business goals. When should you partner for marketing and technology support and when should you bring those skills and talents in-house?

Hammer, screwdriver, wrench, tape measure, paint brush construction tools on wooden backgroundMarketers need a complex and diverse set of skills to meet business goals. When should you partner for marketing and technology support and when should you bring those skills and talents in-house?

This critical question touches many issues including the organization’s historical leaning, how that function will benefit (or not) from brand access and proximity, how able are you to recruit the right talent, how effectively can you manage those resources to their optimal capabilities, how integrated are they with other key functions in partners, how sensitive these skills are to constant update and access to other subject matter inputs, how committed are you to this effort long term. Whew.

It’s not just more headcount for all the kingdom builders out there. It’s additional functional responsibility for everything from hiring, training and development, to vetting and maintaining the best tools and resources, all the way to organizational integration and reporting and analytics. Most importantly, it is an extension of the core mission of your team. Is it the right one?

To answer this complex question, work through these three steps:

Review Your Core Mission First

Even if it is a high profile project or sounds like a blast, you might be better served by outsourcing to a consultant, agency or other expert partners if this fills a need far different from your group’s current role. There may also be a competency gap if this is requires a set of a complex, specialized or rapidly evolving skill sets that aren’t currently in residence in your team. Using outside help allows you to keep your focus in your areas of key contribution instead of getting ramped up in unfamiliar territory and distracting your team from their critical initiatives. It also takes advantage of the specialists who have put in their 10,000 hours and who by virtue of their specialty stay current on trends, tools and best practices that will ultimately support your success.

However, if this function or effort is an extension of your core activities and is skills compatible with your current team, then adding new competencies with training is great for morale and for team development. Make sure you are not overloading your teammates and allow them realistic training time and access to materials and education to help you collectively to succeed. If you do bring in new talent to expand your overall capabilities take the time to onboard them with the existing team so they can function as a cohesive unit working against that core mission together.

Examine Your Motivation

Do you believe this would be a boon to business goals if this were an in-house function? If it is boredom or competition or resume building that is the motivating factor behind your recommendation to bring something in-house then don’t do it. Build your team only if you are convinced that the critical brand insights that come from working inside are key to success or that the efficiencies, time or budget savings more than offset the risk, overhead and labor costs that building new teams and capabilities entails.

Look at Your Time Horizon

If you’re just testing a channel or approach, now is not the time to make a long term investment. It makes good sense to rely on and learn from your expert partners at least until you have a good enough understanding to be able to assess your ability to manage this successfully in-house. Is this a regular and critical part of your company and departmental mission or is it an intermittent activity? Will you have a long term commitment from your organization to keep this team in place? It may be disruptive and ultimately unfair to both the existing and new teams if the decision is reversed. Don’t underestimate the time to ramp up to reach your goals.

Sometimes a mixed approach is in order. You may need a high powered thought leader to help guide your direction but can execute internally. Or, you may need help in some highly specialized areas or infrequently to help your group complete their tasks.

In some cases results suffer when you split the locus of certain functions. Be hyper aware of creating gaps or obstructions for information sharing and collaboration. For instance, don’t create a barrier between functions that share a budget and need to optimize together or, when feedback loops inform decisions in other teams like social listening or management and social content planning and development. They may be different skill sets and teams but they need to work closely together for the best impact. If you disconnect the feedback loop you lose something precious. It is still possible to create that feedback between an internal team and an external partner but it’s hard to keep it as close or as seamless.

When external partners begin to seem expensive or divorced from the brand goals make sure you have the right partner and that you are sharing the resources, insights, info, access and time that allows them to truly deliver before you consider building internally. If you still determine that a new hire or new team are the way to go, make sure you factor in all the things you take on when you bring a new function or team in house and that you have a solid and defensible rationale behind the decision.

How to Find a Marketing Tech Edge

One of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

All About Marketing Tech LogoOne of the challenges of all the marketing tech being developed is simply discovery. The majority of it might not be a fit for your business, but the right few can change the game. How do you learn about enough new technologies to find those needles in the haystack?

So we’ve been working on a new kind of virtual conference, one that deals directly with marketing technology and will give you a chance to hear 24 new marketing tech firms pitch their bleeding edge products and services to you.

All About Marketing Tech

This is happening at All About Marketing Tech, a brand new virtual conference we’re hosting March 1 with the help of CabinetM.

All About Marketing Tech will have two tracks. The one will have traditional webinar-style presentations on the technologies marketers are using for specific tasks, like lead generation, content marketing and online retail. That track will kick off with a keynote from Travis Wright, the author of Digital Sense, and include sessions from David Raab, Robert Rose, Brian Hansford and more.

The second track is your chance to see new technologies in a way we’ve never done before. It will have three 90-minute TECH Talk sessions where new marketing tech creators will tell you about what they’ve built in 10-minute TED Talk-style presentations.

The three TECH Talk sessions will each focus on a specific area of technology:

  • 11:30 – Through the Funnel: Customer Acquisition and Engagement
  • 1:15 – Emerging Categories: Mobile, ABM, Video
  • 3:00 – Know Your Customer: Analytics/Measurement

You most likely have not yet heard of the companies who’ll be presenting, but that’s the whole point. This is your chance to get an early look at marketing tech that’s still coming to the market — before your competitors even know it exists.

It’s going to be a great chance to expand your knowledge of marketing technology, and identify tools that could make a huge difference for your business.

I hope to see you there! Click here to register.