How to pick the right marketing platform
Navigating the complex landscape of marketing technologies
Brian McIntosh | May 15, 2015
It’s no secret that the Internet of Things has blurred the lines between consumer and marketer. In today’s digitally connected world, companies can listen to their customers’ wants and needs and use what they learn to create new, innovative products and promotions. Likewise, consumers are offering companies real-time product feedback with ideas for new features or enhancements, essentially co-producing through digital convergence.
In response, top marketers are adapting and becoming more technically savvy, using data and analytics to capture their customers’ preferences and create more personalized communications. According to Gartner, “Marketing is increasingly digital, data-driven and real-time. By 2017, CMOs will spend more on IT than CIOs.” With the range of marketing technologies continuing to expand and evolve at a rapid pace, navigating this complex, crowded landscape can be a daunting task for marketing leaders.
Don’t be seduced by the shiny object
Under intense pressure to keep up with the Joneses, marketers are easily lured by the hot new technology that promises to deliver the ultimate customer experience. Trying to keep pace with technology proliferation has left many companies with silos of discrete technologies that failed to deliver on their promise.
I have seen many companies waste valuable resources, time, and money implementing a new marketing solution only to have it sit idle because it did not address the real business need; did not integrate with existing platforms; and did not align with the customer experience it was supposed to enhance. These failures are often the result of marketers skipping over the necessary visioning steps to choose the best-fit technology, and neglecting to put their most important constituents—their customers—at the center of every marketing decision.
Start with the customer
With Gartner tracking over 500 different marketing technologies across multiple categories, features, and functions, it’s best to first determine your goals and take a technology-agnostic approach.
While many companies claim to be customer-centric, they often don’t get much further than a fuzzy mission statement. Real, authentic customer experiences put the customer first and are embedded in the fabric of a company’s brand; they’re a million moments of truth across every decision a company makes. Companies should always put the customer first when defining their marketing vision.
Define your vision: explore, establish, enable
The visioning and planning phase centers around three essential activities: explore, establish, and enable.
- Explore. Reflect on your current state. Connect with key marketing and IT stakeholders to get the full picture of your current state, vision, priorities, capabilities, and requirements.
- Establish. Define your future state direction and vision. Develop and document key business scenarios that illustrate how the new technology can be used to provide new customer experiences and enhance your marketing efforts. Define and map priorities and capabilities for the to-be state with high-level business and functional requirements. Determine what sequencing is required.
- Enable. Develop a business case to validate approximate costs (both implementation and operation) and benefits (tangible and intangible). Create your roadmap with prioritized initiatives for technology deployment based on your capabilities and the business value. Then determine a short list of technology solution vendors for the RFP and demo process.
Invite your short list of vendors to the dance
Once you’ve completed your due diligence, evaluate best-fit technology solutions and begin to establish a short list of vendors. Collaborating with IT, your marketing team should draft a RFI/RFP to solicit specific answers from prospective vendors to better understand how well their solution meets your requirements. Based on their responses, invite three of your top choices to prepare an onsite demonstration.
Use a weighted scorecard that includes all stakeholder criteria to evaluate vendors objectively and consistently. Does the solution’s functionality align with your business requirements? Does it meet those requirements out of the box, or does the functionality require customization?
Consider the trade-offs
Marketing and IT teams need to remember that technology decisions and marketing strategy are intertwined. They must constantly weigh and prioritize the competing trade-offs of timing, integration, customer objectives, and breadth of functionality to determine the best technology solution to pursue. Define your marketing vision and get buy in from your organization’s stakeholders to make the best investment for your business and customers.
Brian McIntosh is a seasoned marketing professional with over 18 years of experience in marketing strategy and execution. Brian is part of Slalom’s Customer Engagement team.