Most likely over the last 5 years you have invested tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in the latest emerging marketing technologies (martech) – email marketing, social media, A/B testing, account based marketing, CRM, digital asset management, etc. – starting to sound familiar?
Here we are five years later and you now have an ecosystem of disparate systems that are all managing content of various types through separate interfaces. While your intentions were noble, trying to enable your marketers to have the latest and greatest tools to do their job, you have inadvertently created a system that is expensive, difficult to manage and difficult to report against in a cohesive manner.
The Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council did their annual report on marketing technology called Context, Commerce + Customer, in which they asked senior marketing executives about marketing technology trends. One of the questions I considered to be the most valuable has do with gaps in technology in the current MarTech stack.
Thinking of the marketing and commerce technologies you have already implemented, are there any gaps you will look to fill in the coming year? The top 5 answers were:
These are some pretty large gaps to fill and can easily add more money and complexity to an existing marketing technology stack that is already overly complicated and expensive. Assuming that you fall into one of these categories, this may be the point where you want to start taking a more holistic view of your marketing ecosystem. Really start evaluating the total cost of ownership of these separate systems compared against the features and functionality that are necessary to be a fantastic digital marketer. As I wrote about in my previous post, “Outdated technology can mean winning at digital marketing,” the maturity of some of the core systems like Sitecore, may provide an opportunity to rationalize redundant applications and provide a more streamlined approach to developing and deploying digital content and campaigns. So how do you get started? Let’s take a 5 step approach to hacking your martech stack and find the areas where you can find greater efficiencies and cost savings.
- Start by defining the ideal processes. You are a seasoned digital leader, you know what it takes to be exceptional in the digital marketing game, so start by identifying your ideal state. Think through things like content management and workflow, campaign development, personalization strategies, account based marketing, translation workflows, social media, analytics – don’t forget to include marketing activities that are already working in addition to the ones you want to add. Attempt to sketch a diagram of how all these processes might work together, what types of data could get shared between these processes. Ignore, for the time being, your existing technology stack and internal processes to currently do these activities. Again, focus on the ideal state and not the current state.
- Map your current environment to the ideal state. This is a great place to see where there are gaps in your technology stack as well as within your own processes for managing the workload that additional activities will bring. An easy way to visualize this is to create a high level feature matrix, the columns being a list of activities that you mapped out in your ideal state, and the rows would be the systems that currently exist in your stack. This will serve to inform the areas that need to be focused on and or added. Another consideration in this phase is to evaluate how much of a particular tool is currently being used. For example, in marketing automation, systems like Marketo and Oracle Eloqua are fantastic enterprise marketing tools; but if you only really use 40% of the feature set that they provide, are you better off utilizing a system that provides reduced functionality but at a better price point?
- Evaluate other technologies vs current stack This is where the real potential exists in the rationalization game. Prior to the maturity of technologies like Sitecore Experience Platform, much of the functionality that marketers desired, existed in separate systems. Solutions such as Optimizely for A/B or multivariate testing, and Constant Contact for email marketing, and Google or Omniture for analytics. The maturation of Sitecore Experience Platform includes all of this functionality in a single platform and experience. Not only do you get the benefits of efficiency in managing all of your content in one place, but you get the added value of all of that data from testing, personalization and email activities wrapped into a single view of your company’s customers and prospects.
- Design the “perfect” stack At this point in the process you should now know where your gaps in your stack exist, what options exist to fill those gaps, and where you may have redundancies. This is the point where the rubber meets the road and you begin to make the difficult decisions about what technologies to keep, what to get rid of and what to bring on new. The truth is that making decisions like these only seem difficult. I’ll talk more in a future post about the road bumps to technology upgrades, but the single biggest hurdle to upgrades is that too much consideration is given to the time and money spent on the existing marketing stack. That sunk cost got you to where you are today, and that’s great, but marketing innovation requires a constant investment in technology. As you review your stack matrix, remember to think about areas where you can have a single technology or application that covers multiple pieces of functionality. Again, I point back to the Sitecore example above, having personalization, multivariate testing, email marketing and integrated analytics all in a single system could be a huge cost savings if you can rationalize out several other applications in the process.
- Create your roadmap Now that you have your ideal stack defined, it’s time to get to planning on how to implement. First, document your stack and prioritize the roadmap based on budget, resources and business need / value. I won’t go into detail here since every stack is different and implementation of technologies varies from system to system. What I will mention is that you are better off using an agile methodology for getting your roadmap implemented. Scott Brinker, of chiefmartec.com, wrote a fantastic book, Hacking Marketing, all about utilizing the principles of agile software development for the purposes of marketing. In short, work on small, bite-size chunks of functionality instead of trying to boil the entire ocean at once. For instance, if you know you’re going to do a new implementation, you can start with your infrastructure setup, then move to base system installation, then integrations, UX, content mapping, etc. Each of these can be an iterative phase of the project instead of trying to do the entire thing in one fell swoop.
Finally, get started today. Your technology stack is only getting older and you are only falling more behind the longer you wait to start. If you think you don’t have time, then step back and ask yourself, “How much time and money would be saved if my marketing stack were up-to-date and efficient?”
Once you’ve decided that you need a marketing automation solution you have two choices: you can jump right in and starting setting it up and try to figure it out, or you can take a little time and plan the implementation. Most people will agree that taking some time is the right choice even though it is not always the way it happens in reality. So when you’re ready to buy a marketing automation solution, consider these five things before you purchase and deploy.
Start by understanding your current process for marketing to your customers as well as the pieces you would like to add once you have a solution in place. Marketing Automation will help automate a lot of steps, but if there are problems in your marketing process, then the solution will only amplify them by automating bad processes. Have an understanding of the customer journey, which includes the steps a customer goes through while interacting with your company on a purchase path. Understanding the potential touch points allows you to define what the customer expects at each step and stage. Does the customer need an article that helps them understand the size of the problem, or do they need help justifying the costs, or maybe they need to talk to a salesperson to get a demo of your offering? Understanding the steps allows you to determine the content or actions needed at each point. Then you’ll be able to build a full process that will help a prospect move down the purchase path with the right information at the right time so that they can make a decision.
Deploying Marketing Automation cannot happen in a silo, as the results will not be ideal and the projects will often fail. Deploying a solution like this will require the cooperation of a variety of departments, most often including Marketing, Sales, and IT, but it can include other departments like BI or Decision Support, Operations, and others. To be an effective solution, marketing automation solutions often need to integrate with other solutions that are owned by IT or other departments. Make sure that data sources such as lead scoring models are based on data and insights from sales results. This will allow your automation process to be as close to reality as possible.
Marketing Automation can be complicated. There are a lot of moving parts to organize and manage when developing campaigns, but then you must apply all of those pieces to the technical solution that you purchased so that you can execute the campaign as you imagined. Hiring a partner with experience in marketing automation, or hiring a dedicated employee to own the marketing automation solution can greatly improve the results of any marketing automation program. Marketing departments are continually asked to do more with less, but this is an important step that you don’t want to skip. Having someone who understands the technical capabilities of your solution and also understands the art/science of marketing will prove invaluable as you begin to implement campaigns and get the most out of your system. An effective partner can help you short cut the process from starting to effectively running campaigns because they have experience and an understanding of the tools, theory, and execution.
Start with a simple campaign and build from it. You don’t have to build every campaign that your company currently does into the solution to get started. Pick something that easily lends itself to marketing automation and start there. A great starting point is automating a campaign around a trade show or event. There are two benefits to starting with a campaign like this. One, the campaign is usually short in duration so that you can set it up and run it and see results in a short amount of time. Secondly, the content needed is usually pretty well defined. You will likely have a message before the event inviting registrants to visit your booth or attend your session. Then you might have a message during the event encouraging people to stop by and enter to win your giveaway or inviting them to take some other action. Then, you can have a message that recaps the event and have it scheduled to send three days after the event ends. Additionally, you can load the list of attendees who visited your booth so that they get a personalized email thanking them for stopping by and encouraging them to take the next steps with your company.
These are straightforward content pieces that can be easily created, and set up easily into an automated campaign. This will give you results quickly and allow you to get your feet wet without much risk.
The final step, and perhaps the most important, is designed to focus and motivate your team throughout the process of implementing marketing automation. I’ll be blunt, it’s not always the easiest process. Implementing the technology might be straightforward, but changing the behaviors of users who are learning the system, developing campaigns, creating content, and most importantly, understanding how to get the most value out of your system will take time and energy. When starting the process as a team, create a vision statement and a why definition. The vision is what you want to accomplish with the project and includes the metrics that you want to affect. You don’t have to define the actual numbers, but ideally you should know how you plan to measure success. The why is the reason you are doing this project, the motivation, and the outcome that you hope to see as a result. This can be aspirational, but make sure to be realistic. Having agreement from your team will help you focus and make progress as you move through the entire process.
By taking some time to plan your marketing automation implementation you can help ensure that your project will be successful by being better prepared to leverage the power that a marketing automation solution provides to you and your team.