Marketing automation and intelligence aims to make marketing and, potentially, sales more efficient. They can become the high performance engine that marketing never had. Investments in marketing technology continue to rise in many large companies making the CMO a primary technology buyer. Foundation Capital pegs the level of spend, “We expect technology spend by CMOs to increase 10x in 10 Years from $12 billion to $120 billion.”
Just what you are trying to automate or instrument depends on the nature of your business. Are you a B2C or a B2B company? Do you own your sales channel? Do you sell direct to end customers and do you do so online (ecommerce)? And so forth.
Depending on your answers, you may need a marketing stack of technologies that help you find and qualify leads, retarget the right prospects with advertising, cultivate customers to repurchase and more.
Operations vs. Innovation
But for many of us, marketing technology is not just about operational efficiency, it is about innovating in how you market, or how you connect marketing with sales, or in some way how you sell your product. It is possible that new technologies will allow a business without a practice of lead generation and nurturing to actually start to do that for the first time. That’s innovation. Yet marketing technologies require significant green dollar costs (actual purchase and licensing costs) and often greater grey dollar costs (time and opportunity). It is much easier for companies to invest in operational infrastructure meant to make a known process more efficient with a calculable return on that investment. Investing in innovation requires a different mindset. This presents a dilemma to marketers creating a tech strategy and selling it in.
Just read Roger Martin’s The Design of Business. He makes the most cogent case for the tension between innovation and operations within business. Making the case for how a well-planned marketing technology strategy can change how you market and sell is very different than the one you might make to improve what you are already doing.
Strategy vs. Technology
The “marketing technology stack” is a catchy topic for the CMOrg (chief marketing organization – i.e. those that work at the marketing center of an enterprise). We all look at the insane landscapes from Chief Martec (Scott Brinker) and try to sort through the providers for various functions and services from email marketing systems to customer databases to retargeting partners and so much more. “I need one of these and one of these…”And so on.
But do you need a better email marketing platform or do you need a way to nurture sales channel relationships (or customer relationships)? If you are innovating (vs. simply operationalizing something that sort of already works), starting with confirming your strategy seems like the stronger suit. But we are talking tech investment here. Every choice is a commitment. I mean, even if the annual service fee for a SaS component isn’t that large, you will pay through the nose with the internal IT compliance and integration. The strategy ought to be a pretty solid one for the foreseeable future.
Strategy sounds more like:
- I need a way to engage my sales channel relationships and drive sales action with increasing effectiveness and efficiency
- I want to use data and content to generate ever more qualified prospects and refine those into actual leads with an ever-improving quality and conversion rate
- I need a way to nurture my customer relationships. This should include an increasing level of personalization such that this greater relevance drives retention and accelerates the growth of customer value
Any one of these ambitions or the ones that any marketer might have for their organization is loaded with implications for the right technology stack. They speak more clearly about the problem to be solved vs. I need a better email marketing platform.
- This article from Brian Hansford in Business2Community called, “Building A B2B Marketing Technology Stack”
Future vs. Now
Investments in innovation beg to be piloted or otherwise proven-out before a complete investment is made. That is hard when you are talking about technology infrastructure. But it can be done.
Use a new CRM approach and technology for one business unit and prove out the efficacy before rolling out to the others.
Only automate what must be automated to prove out efficacy. Don’t yet worry about efficiency. So, in a lead gen program, you may need tech to capture leads from Web activity and then to match against third party data but you can always ‘hand-deliver’ these leads to the salesforce to input into a sale tracking system. Later on you can integrate these two systems.
Get a partner to manage the ad retargeting program before investing in the necessary ad stack to manage in-house (if that is ever the most efficient way to go)
Choosing the right marketing technology stack is hard but essential. Making the business case internally requires a different approach if this is truly an operations enhancement vs. an innovation to how you market and sell today.
As any forum of CMOs and business leaders will tell you today, the imperative to apply technology is there. The promise of automating processes, combining data (big data and medium-sized data), and measuring effectiveness is terrific in marketing. Now we all have to choose wisely.