The Changing Role of Marketing Technology in 2014

Foundational systems emerge encouraging a focus on people and data.

The past eighteen months have seen a considerable investment in the marketing technology space. From large software acquisitions to public offerings, many are attempting to grab a piece of this fast growing industry with considerable market space still up for grabs.

There are many ways to categorize the plethora of technologies that both assist buyers and sellers. Probably one of the first major divisions is simply that; those that enhance the buying journey and those who help with the marketing and sale of a product or service.

Many marketing technologies attempt to do a little of both. Beyond this broad categorization, there are many opinions, and literally thousands of companies to classify. This creates a very difficult environment for marketing departments and their agencies to organize and integrate.

Technology Alignment

Deduced from the recent financial investments, a certain group of technologies are emerging as foundational. Out of the myriad of offerings, the category of Marketing Automation software is evolving as the one ‘must-have’ system for all organizations. Similar to how Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems have become a mainstay in any sales department, Marketing Automation is now the backbone of any successful marketing department’s technology stack.

A marketing automation system is usually defined by its breadth of communication functionalities as well as its data collection and management capabilities. These are the fundamental reasons for its rise as the nucleus of a corporation’s marketing technologies. This development of a core category is critical. It allows for better strategic alignment of all other technologies. It also allows the marketing technology industry to focus on depth and value of offering, rather than pulling many technologies to provide ancillary and unnecessary breadth.

The foothold of a strategically implemented and well adopted marketing automation system allows organizations to grow towards larger goals, namely, best-in-class Customer Experience and holistically, Enterprise Data Management. These objectives take a large portfolio of ever-changing technologies to manage. But, now with a general consensus of a central system, it will become easier to gain the value from otherwise disparate and narrow focused technologies.

With this new focus, the procurement of a Marketing Automation technology is no longer a question of if, but ofwhen, how and who. External pressure will mount as initial industry leaders gain the most value from successful alignment of their technology landscape. Agencies working with marketing departments will need to learn to use these systems and work inside the marketing department rather than as an external instrument.

While the technology itself is an important piece, 2014 needs to be a year when strategic planning dominates the conversation. Two aspects need to be recognized as vital precursors to any technology procurement; enablement and data management.

Enablement

Underused technology may be the most significant wasted cost associated to an organization’s marketing technology spend. The total work hours to learn, manage and use a technology are almost always overlooked when making a purchase. The cost in people far outweighs the minor subscription costs of the associated SaaS technologies.

A significant enablement strategy is paramount to ensuring proper technology usage by many people, often globally, towards collective objectives. Technology is often blamed for this expensive lack of adoption. It is frequently shunned for being overly complicated and not applicable to certain tactics. This leaves a corporation’s people and processes fragmented while expenditure continues.

In today’s world of programmable interfaces (API’s) and cloud technologies, almost anything is possible. Technology is more flexible than ever before. Underused, or misaligned systems need not be tolerated, they can be adapted and customized easily and affordably. The only remaining excuse lies in a poor or lacking enablement strategy.

Data Management

Secondly, data management must be a focus and topic on the planning table. Marketing’s technology stack contains a large number of communication tools. These communications, both the message and medium for them, need to be continually leveraging data to make the most educated decisions. Too often marketing communications and campaigns are created based on past, often unrelated, successes instead of what is most effective for their audience.

The best decisions lie amidst the overabundance of data available to a company. Big Data to a marketing department consists of historically available demographic and transactional information of a customer – now coupled with newly available behavioural and social data. Unfortunately these large data sets are often unstructured and too overwhelming to understand and analyze.

As with any large problem, a more scientific methodology must be used to gain insights. This involves a completely different approach to marketing campaign and resource management. Advanced testing schemes with controlled learnings are now part of a new, agile marketing department that gains insight from its data, not just past trends.

Looking Forward

In this new phase for marketing technologies where a central platform now exists, there will be a continued shift towards empowering the buyer. No longer restricted to technology products and business transactions, marketing technology will start benefiting all industries with enhanced customer experience starting from the first marketing interaction. 2014 is set to be a year where enabled people and smart data drive technology, not the other way around.

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