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10 Experts Provide Advice On Building Your Marketing Stack

Rick Liebling

89%

That, according to Gartner, is the percentage of large companies that will have a Chief Marketing Technologist in place by 2016. If you head up the marketing department of your organization that means you’ve got three quarters to get smart, or get marginalized or maybe even replaced.

CMTS' Expanding Reach

The question isn’t whether or not you need to adopt a “technology first” approach to marketing, it’s how will you go about doing it. How will you adapt, learn and ultimately lead your organization or department into this new era?

It won’t be easy, that’s for sure. The Marketing Technology ecosystem is most accurately characterized by the following traits:

  • Rapid growth - More companies are entering the space all the time

  • Constant evolution - These companies are pivoting constantly to meet the demands of marketers

  • An overlap of features and benefits - It’s early in the game, and the major players haven't pushed out the smaller alternatives yet, so there are still inefficiencies

  • A divide between all-in-one and best-of-breed solutions - There is still no consensus on the best approach

Despite the challenges, it’s clear that marketing technology is an important issue when one follows the money. As a Harvard Business Review article from Summer 2014 notes:

A recent Gartner study found that 67% of marketing departments plan to increase their spending on technology-related activities over the next two years. In addition, 61% are increasing capital expenditures on technology, and 65% are increasing budgets for service providers that have technology-related offerings.

Tough Decisions, But Help Is On The Way

As a result, marketers are in the unenviable role of knowing they have to make decisions, but are doing so under difficult circumstances.  In order to help the modern marketer successfully address this issue, we’ve enlisted the help of several experts in the field to give guidance on the best way to navigate the Marketing Technology landscape and future-proof your job.

Before we get to the tips, let’s explore the situation a little more closely and put it into perspective. This is the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, from Scott Brinker, co-founder of Ion Interactive:


Mar Tech

The 2015 edition of the marketing technology landscape supergraphic features 1,876 vendors represented across 43 categories. Simply put, trying to master this is the definition of a sisyphean task.  Scott notes in his blog post, “One early reviewer of this graphic said it gave her agita. Another called it terrifying. If it causes you distress, I apologize — that’s not my intention.”

Perhaps not, but we can all empathize with the feelings expressed. Scott further notes in one of his four main take-aways:

To thrive in this environment, marketing should steadily develop its technical talent.

And…

... You should probably be daunted by the larger transformation of your organization that this landscape heralds — if you’re not, at least a little, you probably don’t yet appreciate just how massive of a management challenge that really is.

 

The points Scott brings up are echoed by our other experts. Developing (and retaining) talent is critical. Further, the successful organizations will be those that best recognize the size, scope and impact of the changes rather than trying to ignore them.

Our collection of experts are veteran marketers and technologists who have all spent time in some part of the Marketing Technology ecosystem. They’ve seen firsthand what works, and know how to avoid critical mistakes that can cost time and money.  The following opinions and advice cover a variety of areas and are applicable to a wide range of platforms and tools. While Unmetric is focused on Social Media analytics, we realize that as a marketer there are many other aspects of your job that need to be addressed as well.  So, with that as a sort of preamble, let’s dive in and hear what the other experts have to say...

Know What Success Looks Like

So, where does one begin when exploring this issue? What’s the first thing you should do? Eric Swayne, VP, Product & Marketing at MutualMind offers the following:

Absolutely the most important consideration in your selection of tools is to be objective-focused, not object-focused. All of us who develop marketing tools naturally gravitate to the Shiny Object; the thing that looks great in a presentation or video. And, while having a level of design is critical for conveying your insights to the rest of your organization, the design is not the end goal.

Instead, think first carefully about your objectives: assessing brand health, identifying sales leads, managing crises or others. Ask yourself how you win, and exactly what it will take to get there. If your digital marketing is directly responsible for an ROI, shouldn't your marketing tools be as well?

Long before you bring a new Shiny Object into your organization, you should have a clear mapping to the Objectives it will help you accomplish, and how much those are worth to your organization. After all, the best thing you can put in your presentation isn't just a beautiful visualization, but powerful results.

Tools are Just Tools

Equally critical is understanding that technology is only useful when the people using it have the right skill sets. Adena Demonte, Sr. Director of Marketing at Keas, notes:

Many people think of the "marketing stack" as specific tools, but I think of it more in terms of skill set. Marketing tools are designed to achieve specific goals -- i.e. "marketing automation" is the result of marketers needing to automate batch emails for segmented audiences based on behavior. It's important to remember that marketing tools are just that - tools. They do not build strategy or content on their own, they are available to scale operational marketing processes.

The full-stack marketer must be able to create strategy looking at marketing programs across the board as well as execute across areas such as demand generation/user acquisition, advertising, content marketing, product marketing, social, internal communications, web marketing, art direction and design, and more.

Eric and Adena both bring up critical points, ones that I’ve witnessed first-hand during my time working at agencies. It’s hard to resist the allure of the new, but you’ve got to have the discipline to focus on your objectives. If you don’t start there, you can easily find yourself adrift, unsure of the direction you are headed in. Equally important is the understanding that you are only as good as the people you have. Tools can be a great asset, but they aren’t the solution by themselves, you still need skilled people with vision and experience to execute.

Don’t Forget, It’s About People

Another interesting perspective was voiced by Jake Moskowitz, SVP Business Development at Kinetic. He also focused on people, but rather than the marketing team he directed our attention to the importance of remembering that all this technology still connects marketing departments to people, not “personas” or ‘target audiences”...

The most important thing for marketers to remember is that their customers are people, not cookies or email addresses or device ID's, and they expect to treated as such. Digital has created so many different touch points, so the challenge for marketers has become how to seamlessly respect an individual customer relationship across all of them, and make communication "always-on" rather than campaign-driven.

Make Sure The Puzzle Pieces Fit

With so many choices, it’s inevitable that integration issues are going to crop up. Shik Sundar, Head of Platform for Percolate, warns that a solution that doesn’t align with existing tech can be problematic:

The average enterprise has 508 software applications in use, 65 of which are just for marketing.  The most important thing that marketers should consider when evaluating technologies is how a solution fits into the overall workflow and how it integrates with the existing tech architecture.  Streamlined workflow and avoiding data silos are critical to improving marketing operations and increasing return on investment from technology.

This sentiment is echoed by Lisa Black, Project Management Leader at Oracle:

"The most important thing is integration and innovation with multiple customer experience touch points, in which social is just one element of Customer Experience."

Good Enough v. Best of Breed

But when thinking about integration, marketers are left with a difficult decision. Do they choose an all-in-one, which may be strong in certain areas but not in others, or do they create their own bespoke solution? Will McInnes, CMO at Brandwatch lays out the choices:

Given the wealth of options available today, marketers are constantly asking themselves this question: Where is 'good enough' going to be good enough and where do we need the very best? It’s pretty obvious that no one solution can truly do it all, no matter the claims made. But integrations and ecosystems are a fact of life for a marketer. We want a simple life but we also want the best quality outcomes and experiences. So today the most important decisions are the trade-offs - between suites and best of breed, between technologies that integrate nicely and those that just don’t.

The Content Marketing Stack

Rebecca Lieb, analyst for the Altimeter Group published a piece last year, Say Hello to the Content Marketing Stack, that laid out a niche within the niche of Marketing Tech Stacks, looking specifically at tools supporting the creation, distribution and analysis of content. In the piece, Lieb reminds us that:

No use case is an island. As organizations mature and become more strategic in their content marketing initiatives, it becomes imperative to seamlessly link execution to analytics, or optimization, or targeting, for example.

Here’s how Altimeter views the Content Marketing Stack...

Content Marketing Stack


Look For A Start-To-Finish Solution

Ultimately, however you build your Marketing Technology Stack, it’s important that it covers every aspect along the marketing journey. Greg Lieber, VP Business Development at Shift makes the case for such a solution:

Marketers should consider how any technology stack stands to improve their initiatives at every stage of the marketing process, starting with planning, then through execution, and ending in performance analysis. Many out-of-the-box solutions solve for specific problems within the marketing process, ranging from content creation to data onboarding. While alone these are critical steps to solve for, marketers will benefit from technologies that can connect dots across all steps of the process and thus drive overall business goals.

But Does it Scale?

As the number of channels through which marketers can speak to people increases, so too does the challenge of marketing at scale. Andrea Hong, Head of NewsRoom & Platform Development at NewsCred addresses the need to have tools that help you do just that:

Think of what helps you scale. Brands today have to be editorial strategists, content creators, social media managers, distribution experts, and ROI analysts on a daily basis, while seamlessly collaborating across the company and markets. Choose tools & platforms that help you manage and scale these already complicated-pieces to ultimately create content your audience truly loves.

Next week I’ll be at MarTech, the Marketing Technology conference in San Francisco. The events bills itself as a "vendor-agnostic forum for understanding the breadth of marketing technologies and how organizations can effectively integrate them into their marketing strategy and operations." After the event I’ll look to provide a recap with additional insights into the latest thinking around building marketing stacks.

My team recently put together a report on the changing paradigm of social content marketing and how the need for a more intelligent workflow is growing in the industry.

 

The report, titled "Listen, Publish, Analayze," speaks about the new social media platform landscape - and how to leverage it, as well as how social teams need to use the right strategy and tools to evolve. You can download the repot here:

  Have questions? Request a demo.