Marketing AI Is Overhyped, and That’s Good

Today, marketing AI is a know-it-all with a short resume. Just like Big Data and personalization, it is also a catch-all phrase that is becoming harder to define. As a result, it is no surprise that most marketers are rolling their eyes at the topic. Nevertheless, this is also the time to take the topic seriously, unless you plan to retire into seclusion in the next few years.

AI
“artificial-intelligence-2228610_1920,” Creative Common license. | Credit: Flickr by Many Wonderful Artists

Today, marketing AI is a know-it-all with a short resume. Just like Big Data and personalization, it is also a catch-all phrase that is becoming harder to define. As a result, it is no surprise that most marketers are rolling their eyes at the topic. Nevertheless, this is also the time to take the topic seriously, unless you plan to retire into seclusion in the next few years.

New research by marketing automation provider Resulticks shows that 73 percent of marketers are either skeptical, neutral or simply exhausted by the hype around marketing AI. In addition, large numbers of marketers think that vendors using industry buzzwords are full of it. This is not surprising, considering how most vendors are probably over-selling their AI solution. In the same Resulticks study, only 18 percent of marketers claim that AI vendors are delivering the goods as promised and 43 percent felt they were over-promised.

However, for those of us who have lived through (and even reveled in) industry catchphrases, from “marketing analytics” to Big Data to “MarTech,” these statistics indicate that “Marketing AI” is on a strong growth trajectory. This is because the combination of huge industry-level investments and a few success stories is generally a recipe for a new frontier of innovation. Some time ago, I wrote an article on the VC investments being made in data-driven marketing technology and many of the technology solutions were still evolving innovations, like marketing automation. Today, the phrase “Marketing AI is also heading toward becoming broad and meaningless, with heavy investments in the sector. In a few years, underneath that generic umbrella will evolve smart, pragmatic solutions which will become part of the standard tool kit. For example, under the Big Data and MarTech labels, we now have well-adopted solutions, such as CRM, programmatic buying and marketing automation. While there are still bugs and varying degrees of success, there is also a large body of fruitful use-cases which demonstrate how these tools can be very effective.

So, what is a marketer to do in this environment where marketing AI has yet to evolve to a stage where it is a stable and valued marketing tool? The most important step is to set low expectations and begin to dip your feet in the water. Experimenting now is critical, as new skills sets and operating frameworks will be required to fully take advantage of the coming AI-driven innovations, and building those individual and institutional capabilities will take time.

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!

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 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.

Keeping Up With the Marketing aaS’s, Acronyms and ROI!

So what’s your MarTech IQ? How quickly can you describe what the following acronyms stand for and do to advance your marketing programs and sales?

quizSo what’s your MarTech IQ? How quickly can you describe what the following acronyms stand for and do to advance your marketing programs and sales?

MRM, DAM, CMS, IMM, CMP, SEO, SEM, PMP, DMP, SMM, DSP …

And these just scratch the surface. (For answers to the quiz, see the last paragraph of this post.)

CMOs in all industries are scrambling to invest, install and ignite sales with the latest tools and aaS systems — IaaS, PaaS, DaaS, SaaS — there’s a lot more aaS’s to keep up with, as well. And with this frenzied need to keep up and deliver results faster than the speed of light, it just adds to “crazy,” and often more so than adding to ROI. All MarTech investments take time, money and add to the overall costs against the ROI you have to deliver in short order.

So What’s a Marketer To Do?

Start with a MTP! The foundation on which you need to build all the other acronyms you include in your marketing toolbox.

An MTP is simply a “marketing technology plan,” or a blueprint for implementing and integrating all of the technology investments you need to reach your most important goals as a marketer:

Deliver relevant offers, communications and engagement to your most valuable consumers on the channels they use and respond to the most.

The good news is that this is not as daunting as it used to be, thanks to all of the MRM, DAM, SMM, IMM and other acronyms available.

Instead of buying all of the systems you can to keep up with your competitors, you need to circle back to what matters most to your business. For most businesses, it comes down to this one goal:

Deliver psychologically relevant and emotionally fulfilling engagement and communications to your top customers in a timely manner that ups your sales and competitiveness.

Okay, so maybe that combines two goals vs. just one.

In short, delivering personally relevant communications as quickly as you can is mission-critical to success. Customers expect all promotions and engagement to be “about me,” not you, and if you can’t get your campaigns and offers to market much faster than in the past, you will lose sales to competitors who do. This is a big dilemma facing marketers in all industries, because personalized communications take time, and the more time you take, the more money you spend in production costs and opportunity costs, as many consumers change brands and loyalty based on whose promotions get there first and with the most value.

Some Things to Think About:

Get the ‘Inside’ Scoop on Your Customers

Invest in DMPs – data management platforms — or similar tools that help you collect small and big data on your customers. Who are they? What are their interests and passions? What websites do they browse? What channels do they frequent most? And where and what do they buy regularly or spontaneously? When you can collect data this precise on consumers in your space, you will get an inside picture of what captures their attention and what moves them to purchase and loyalty. With that picture, you can create relevant content for all segments to be deployed across all channels.

Get Relevant Content Out Quickly and Consistently

This is critical to current sales and future growth. This requires platforms that allow you to quickly adapt content for local markets, cultures, languages and needs. You need a platform that can automatically adapt content from one asset to multiple assets across all formats and channels in minutes, not days, so you can deploy the same communications in all markets with brand consistency and the kind of timing that keeps your message relevant before the next consumer whim or trend blows in the market. For tools that can help you do this, check out “Gartner’s Magic Quadrant” for MRM systems (marketing resource management).

Get the Real Facts

Invest in analytic tools that help you measure all of your results. Not just sales, but levels of engagement across your channels, so you can keep track of where customers go for information, research and purchases. And you can keep track of how this behavior changes, as it will. Quickly.

Just as quickly as the technology for marketing seems to be changing, so do the needs of consumers. You need to invest in technology that allows you to stay on top of their attitudes, needs, emotional drivers and brand demands, and you need to most assuredly invest in the technology that allows you to produce content that addresses all of these quickly. All other technologies are secondary to those that can truly deliver on these mandates, and cover your aaS (as a service or subscription-based technology applications) investments.

Answers to the Quiz:

  • MRM — Marketing resource management
  • DAM — Digital asset management
  • CMS — Content management system
  • IMM — Integrated marketing management platform
  • CMP — Content management platform
  • SEO — Search engine optimization platform
  • SEM — Search engine marketing platform
  • PMP — Predictive marketing platform
  • DMP — Data management platform
  • SMM — Social marketing management platform
  • DSP — Demand-side platform

Stay relevant, and market on!

Jeanette

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.

Nightmares, Ghosts and Terror in Data Land

When you come fresh from a large industry conference — such as DMA’s &Then16 — where you have lots of conversations and learn about lots of pain points, you’re highly motivated to put those winning ideas to work on solutions. Most of these solutions require access to data and handling it responsibly to make smarter marketing decisions — for the ultimate service to customers.

marketing Data graphicWhen you come fresh from a large industry conference — such as DMA’s &Then16 — where you have lots of conversations and learn about lots of pain points, you’re highly motivated to put those winning ideas to work on solutions. Most of these solutions require access to data and handling it responsibly to make smarter marketing decisions – for the ultimate service to customers.

Today, it’s Halloween, so here’s my own nightmare.

I wake up one morning and the entire world collectively lost its mind and governments have mandated a marketplace that’s totally (and only) opt-in for all types of marketing uses that are only helpful to consumers. There’s no more algorithms and no more “discovery.” All commerce must wait and wait and wait until a consumer asks for it. Particularly egregious online.

Marketing collectively goes dumb. Oh, I love pure branding, pure creative — but take data out of the equation, we’re truly back before the dawn of direct marketing. Not 20 years back. Not 50 years back. But 100 years back.

Entrepreneurship is destroyed. There’s no way to tap a niche market. Data is off limits. Everything is opt-in. Opt-in request here, opt-in request there. Think Europe and cookies — ask, ask, ask. Before long, we’re numb. And, except for big business, there’s no budget for blanketing the world with awareness advertising. (And why would even a big brand want to waste so much of its money?)

Websites get clunkier. You can’t even get past the home page without having to click on a permission (again, read Europe). All because some nanny-types who control policy decided consumers are stupid and have to be protected from being tempted to make purchases that generate sales, jobs, tax revenue — and, by the way, happy customers.

Everything becomes more expensive and, without the commercial availability of data, there’s a lot less of “everything.” Why? Because advertising and smart advertising (read, data), finances content, services and conveniences — gone, gone and gone. Nobody in regulatory land bothered to ask who was paying for the Internet. No one ever bothered to understand the economics of the Information Economy. No one ever understood that AdTech, MarTech and data-driven marketing had become one of the greatest of U.S. assets and exports, and Silicon Valley’s (Silicon Beach, Silicon Prairie, Silicon Alley, etc.) highest rewards.

The range and diversity of consumer marketplace choices disappear. Constantly asking for permission becomes deafening. Thus, data eventually wanes and is off limits. There’s no way to derive insights to build better products, no way to devise better services and no way to compete in a healthy, competitive marketplace with a better idea.

The Information Economy is maimed — only a concentrated few, behind huge walled gardens, get to “own” and use the data. We just inflicted upon ourselves the greatest harm. We gave up the golden chalice, handled with care, for a tin cup. Beggars all of us.

Less choice. Less informed. More expensive. And, the consumer is left poorest of all.

It’s Halloween morning. Somebody woke me up.

Now Underway: The Reinvention of Direct Marketing

Last month, I had the opportunity to participate as a “Round 3” judge in the 2016 International ECHO Awards competition — and while we’ll find out the results of this effort on October 16 in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but be impressed with what’s going on across the world of data-driven marketing.

Direct MarketingI had the opportunity last month to participate as a Round 3 judge in the 2016 International ECHO Awards competition — and while we’ll find out the results of this effort on Oct. 16 in Los Angeles, I couldn’t help but be impressed with what’s going on across the world of data-driven marketing.

Direct marketing currently is being reinvented:

1. Customer relationship management is morphing toward customer-managed relationships
2. Branded direct is enriched by storytelling across the customer journey with rich experiential content — some of it provided by consumers
3. Analytics are moving beyond targeting and segmentation — toward attribution and media optimization
4. Online marketing is getting smarter (kind of) by offline marketing: there’s an R bias in some digital RFM [recency-frequency-monetary] models that marketers are trying to correct

Most transactions are still offline, so as much as marketers can map the entire customer journey, we’re still handicapped when we don’t get the full prospect and customer picture — both offline and online. This is a commonly reported problem shared by marketers.

With privacy regimens, there may never be a day when personally identifiable information is rented and exchanged with online data as it is offline — and I, for one, lament this built-in block of useful intelligence that would otherwise be applied in service to the consumer. There certainly are work arounds by getting opt-ins inside digital “walled gardens,” by using anonymized data for probabilistic prospect and customer identification, and by applying more powerful computing and analyses — all within responsible data collection frameworks. Still, how quickly can we modify existing data flows — or freshly build new ones — that bring all the data points together in ways that replicate the robust models and data appends that exist in the offline world? Let’s say this nirvana is still under construction with AdTech and MarTech improving all the time — in privacy respectful ways.

Come Oct. 16, I’m sure we’ll see a fantastic array of data-driven marketing being celebrated as the reinvention continues.

Today’s Marketer Is Batman … And That’s a Problem

There’s a tension in marketing today: The customer journey is emotional. Working the tools of marketing is technical. How many marketers are suited to balance those correctly? Not Batman.

Always be Batman.
I respectfully disagree.

Last week I talked about the marketer of the future, and how Phil Fernandez (CEO of Marketo) and Vincent Ircandia (SVP business operations of the Portland Trailblazers) see that as the person who unites the company, its technology, and its customer strategy.

It’s hard to argue with their assessment of the opportunity. But their talks also exposed the tension in marketing today: The customer journey is emotional. Working the tools of marketing is technical. How many marketers are suited to balance those correctly?

What Are Marketers Now? Batman?

It almost sounds like you are Batman! Tracking customers from six computer screens in the Bat Cave and calculating how to hit them with a batarang from two miles away at exactly the right time.

Awesome, right? Batman is awesome. Everyone wants to be Batman.

But Batman is not a good role model for marketers.

Batman does not connect emotionally with the criminals he’s tracking. Batman’s version of the customer journey does not end in them choosing to make a purchase. It ends with them getting ambushed, beaten to within an inch of their lives and left tied up, humiliated, for the police.

That’s no way to treat your customers.

More and more I wonder if the technology we’re looking at is turning us into Batman, hiding in the cave staring at the data, and not necessarily understanding the emotional connection customers want to make on the buyer’s journey.

You know who’s a good emotional marketing role model? Professor X. He’s got this big machine (Cerebro) that lets him read the minds of mutants all over the world and target them directly with messaging. He sends famous superheroes to go ask them to join the team. He has their buy in, emotional loyalty, and they’re more than happy to go risk their lives for him. (Yes, Robin will risk his life for Batman, but clearly that’s Stockholm syndrome.)

The catch: Professor X doesn’t help close hundreds of cases/sales a year. Professor X recruits a couple kids to attend his private boarding school for free. Revenue isn’t his thing. (Neither is accountability, but I digress.)

How the CEO sees Professor X CMO.
How the CFO sees Professor X CMO.

Professor X makes the emotional connection, but he doesn’t have the numbers. Batman has the numbers, but he’s a sociopath abusing his prospects and customers.

Which one are you? Is there another metaphor? Are you Wolverine, Bub? (Don’t be Wolverine to your customers! That would be bad.)

Wolverine slaps Robin, with his claws.
Yeah, that’s much worse.

The idea behind marketing automation and all the rest of this martech is to provide tools to listen and react to customers at various levels of granularity. But I think there’s cognitive dissonance there. Are marketers supposed to succeed by playing the marketing tool better, or by knowing the customer better?

Because to really do both effectively, you might need to be some kind of superhero.

Strategy and Technology: Which Is Chicken and Which Is Egg?

The average marketing stack includes up to 17 distinct technologies, according to Signal. Yowsa. No wonder integration is a big pain point for most marketing teams. No wonder martech is a hot investment area. No wonder our heads hurt.

The average marketing stack includes up to 17 distinct technologies, according to Signal. Yowsa. No wonder integration is a big pain point for most marketing teams. No wonder martech is a hot investment area. No wonder our heads hurt.

Technology is taking over marketing. Let me hear you say, AUTO! Let me hear you say, “AUTO-MATE.” I’m a devoted fan of technology that improves marketers’ productivity while enabling a more fabulous and satisfying user experience. But let’s not let all this technology go to our heads.

Technology is still a tool. And so strategy and content and creativity still need to be in the driver’s seat. You can’t buy the right technology if you don’t have a clear idea of what you need to accomplish. I had this conversation with a client this week — where we kept getting distracted by bright shiny objects (AKA: sales pitches from technology vendors), instead of focusing on what experiences we wanted to create for the customer. Once we hunkered down and really focused on the customer experience, the technology needs became obvious and much more attainable.

And yes, we did agree that we’d set aside some budget to test some wild and crazy ideas. Because that is often where the best new experiences come from — ideas that customers didn’t know to ask about.

Once you have that customer-focused objective in mind, the fun begins. Learning about all of the technologies available to modern marketing leaders is a feat in itself, but understanding how each technology maps to the goals of the marketing organization is even more challenging. It’s a little bit like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle with a pure white (blank) picture. There are very few visual cues as to what fits together when and how … you need a deep understanding of technology — or an internal or external advisor you really trust to be looking out for you.

Your business strategy will set the expectation about what is being built, and a marketing technology strategy will provide clear outlines of the necessary steps to accomplish the work.

I find the chicken and egg problem appears at two levels.

  • Which Comes First? First, is the strategy borne of what technology is already in house? That could be a good starting point, and usually the best place to start for a proof of concept. Of course, buying technology is also a poor way to figure out your strategy. Yet, too often, we hear about a new feature or tool, and we want to test the channel without doing the work of considering content development and design, brand alignment, staffing resources and, most importantly, the customer need.
  • Best vs. Possible? Second, is the solution we select the best for the customer, or only the best that can be accomplished by the tools we have today? This is always the question when we get suggestions from a technology vendor. I know most will honestly aim to solve the problem in the best way for your business. It’s just that they only have their own tools to work with. It’s a caution for all marketers to watch.
Scott Brinker graphic
Scott Brinker graphic

As marketing technologist Scott Brinker aptly says in his ChiefMarTec blog, “No technology is a strategy-in-a box, and no strategy comes with a defined technology bundle.” He visualizes this concept in a Venn diagram, detailing the relationship between marketing, technology and strategy. He claims that where the three meet is the “Most interesting intersection in the world.”

I tend to agree. What are your most pressing challenges in getting your marketing technology to work for you? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.