Martech mayhem: Five ways to get to grips with the marketing technology landscape

21st Feb 2017

Marketers now spend more on technology than IT departments, but the choice and array of martech solutions can be bewildering.

Fortunately a robust marketing planning process will help you navigate this complex landscape. Starting with the customer it will help you to build a clear set of requirements with which to define what you really need and the viable options.

Marketers should use their marketing plan as the guiding light for making tough martech choices and ensuring that these choices pay back.

The martech landscape

Each year Scott Brinker publishes a supergraphic of the marketing technology landscape. This is an annual update and the rate of change since 2011 is dramatic.

An already complicated landscape has grown and become even more complicated. The challenge for marketers is to navigate this landscape and to do so with any confidence - in terms of ROI, integration and demonstrable marketing results.

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Marketing landscape

The challenge for marketers

Scott's analysis of the landscape reveals some staggering statistics:

  • 3,784 marketing technology solutions and by his own admission Scott's supergraphic doesn't represent all of the solutions available to marketers (enterprise tools and infrastructure capabilities are excluded but are critical marketing enablers);
  • 87% growth in the number of solutions vs 2015 and it will be fascinating to see what 2017 brings; 
  • 220 solutions exist in the 'sales automation, enablement and intelligence category alone.

While the growth of the sector is enormous, the underlying challenges that it poses for marketers hasn't changed significantly compared to 2015 or even since the landscape was first mapped back in 2011.

Typically CMOs and senior marketers have to grapple with the following challenges in making sense of this landscape:

  • Where to start. No one starts with a completely blank sheet of paper. Even if there is no marketing platform or tools in place there is will still be a requirement for data to be integrated with enterprise infrastructure.
  • Skills. Most marketers became marketers to understand customers and deliver creative solutions to meet their needs. However, talking the language of IT, understanding the implications or decisions and being able to specify non-functional requirements is becoming a pre-requisite.
  • Who to trust. Further to the point above, many marketers need help but who should they turn to provide this advice? IT departments aren't specialists in marketing technology and often don't have the resources to partners with Marketing departments. Agencies may be experts in their particular specialism but don't understand the whole landscape. Software vendors, particularly the largest, do understand the whole landscape but won't be able to provide an agnostic recommendation.
  • How to keep pace. One certainty is that the growth will continue and 2017 will present a more complicated landscape with new and emerging categories and solutions. Already AI and chatbots are supporting customer experience and will play a greater role in the marketing mix.

For all marketers it's a necessity, not an option, to get to grips with the opportunities that these technologies present.

So what's the answer?

There's no silver bullet.

But we would wholeheartedly recommend:

1. Be clear on your marketing objectives

Your marketing objectives should be the map that guides you through this landscape.

Absolute clarity on what you want to achieve, by when and how will equip you with the plan to prioritise your requirements and business case. 

In short, make your objectives SMART.

2. Focus on customer experience

To paraphrase Peter Drucker, the role of marketing is to understand customers so well that the product or service sells itself.

Start with the customer and the experiences that you wish to deliver across the customer journey. This will help you to focus on the technology categories that are most important to you and your requirements for them.

Consider the following as you go through your marketing planning process:

  • Think loyalty not retention. It obviously pays to be customer-centric and think in terms of customer needs and behaviours rather than business processes.
  • Measure customer effort. Many businesses are measuring Net Promoter Score but this should be supplemented with (or even subsituted by) a Customer Effort Score.
  • Get the basics right. Without exception, obsess on the basic delivery of your product or service. This is what customers will credit you with rather than bells and whistles.
  • Eliminate pain points. Understanding customer effort will help you to define the pain points in the customer journey and what you can do to eliminate or at least reduce them.
  • Invest is self-service touchpoints. Customers want to self-serve (over 50% of those under 51) so ensure that you are using the right channels (remember you don't need too much choice) and that the right content and functionality is readily available.

3. People and process first

Building on the previous points, our view is that marketers should start with people (the users and their needs) and process (how solutions will be delivered) before considering technology.

This avoids the risk of arbitrarily selecting a technology and then having to retro-fit the data, roles and processes to fit it.

Having thought about your customers' needs and pains, how you are going to solve them and the contact strategy that results, now think about the processes that are going to be required and who is going to execute and optimise these processes.

Processes could include everything fro,m business rules and triggers for campaigns to how you will measure and report on marketing performance. By thinking about these now you will start to capture requirements for the martech you need.

4. A data dependency

Data is the connective tissue between the 3,784 martech solutions above.

This means that any marketing plan and the technology that supports it is only going to be as good as the completeness of data, data quality and permission to use it that you have.

A data strategy is therefore a pre-requisite. 

5. Test and learn

Just as a contact strategy should use a test and learn approach, so should your marketing technology.

Many of the software featured are SaaS (software-as-a-service) or will come with trial periods.

Focus on your objectives, 'hack' a solution together (perhaps using the martech that you already have), measure the results (both in terms of customer experience and the impact on your data, people and process) and use this to understand the features that are essential for your marketing, the benefits that could be delivered and ultiumately the requirements that you need.

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