Getting the best out of the marketing technology hypermarket

Getting the best out of the marketing technology hypermarket

Take a look at the marketing technology landscape at the end of 2012:

And (try to) take a look at what has just been released for 2017:

It's barely legible without a 4k display and a magnifying glass. I'm hearing the 2018 version may come with its own microscope. What you’re seeing is an increase in marketing tech vendors from 350 to 5000 in around four and a half years, and the rate is growing exponentially.

As a marketer, how does this make you feel? Is it scary because of the potential expense and business case preparation? Not to mention the complex challenges associated with managing the implementation of these systems? Or is it an exciting opportunity to use technology to compete and create more engaging experiences than any of your competitors?

In many cases, there will be an equal measure of trepidation and excitement for the future. The chances are, to some degree, you are already on the journey. It’s no secret the marketing landscape is changing rapidly and with it comes a requirement to think in a new way. According to research from executive search firm Russell Reynolds, the first half of 2016 saw the highest turnover of CMOs since 2012, thanks to the rapidly evolving skill-set necessary to be successful in this new data-led era.

So what’s the best way to approach this hypermarket of marketing technology, where new aisles and products are constantly being added and evolved? More importantly, once you have committed, how do you ensure you get the maximum value out of the technology decisions you’ve made?

The biggest pitfall we see time and again is that the technology hasn’t quite managed to unlock that beautiful strategic vision, and, as such, real-world ROI hasn’t quite lived up to the promise. According to a report conducted last year by Oracle Marketing Cloud, a whopping 92% of participants did not feel that their marketing technology investments had been well-implemented.

Buying the tech will only get you so far. Marketing technology vendors will promise out-of-the-box solutions that will transform your business overnight. But simply building a tool will not solve the problems: only people can solve problems. The better your people understand the tools, the better equipped you are for success. 

That's why an effective change management strategy is just as important as your choice of technology. Whilst partners can certainly help, the leadership needed to bring this change management strategy about can only come from within the organisation.  

Change is, at its core, a people process, and people are hardwired to resist adopting new mind-sets, practices, and behaviours. To achieve and sustain the transformational change that marketing technology brings about, companies must commit significant resources to ensuring they embed new processes and behaviours at every level.

Here are five practical tips to think about before, during and after a marketing technology implementation.

  1. Don’t underestimate the degree of organisational and operational change needed. Are your individuals and teams knowledgeable and empowered enough to be truly agile? Ensure everyone involved has KPIs that are oriented around serving customers and getting ROI from the investment.
  2. Ensure there is an emotional case for change. Many leaders are great at building the rational case for change, but they are less adept at appealing to people’s emotional core. Yet the employees’ emotions are where the momentum for real transformation ultimately lies. Communication is key here: try creating an on-going email campaign, videos and e-learning modules that help highlight the benefits to all levels.
  3. Budget properly. If you’ve got a million to invest in marketing technology, spend half of this on training your team properly and on partnerships that put experienced experts in both technology and process alongside your team after go-live. Set sensible targets around when ROI will kick in; it won’t happen instantly.
  4. Iterate. Aim to implement a significantly less sophisticated product at the start and build up. You learned to drive in the family run-around, not an F1 sports car. Phased releases of software that limit the complexity your team needs to manage will lead to a deeper adoption more quickly. Make sure you're working with a technology partner who is comfortable with an agile methodology that facilities this.
  5. Incentivise your people to “own” and accelerate the change. Give them a safe environment to push the new technology to its limits and fail fast. It takes innovation, curiosity and a lot of trial and error to maximise the value of any new marketing technology. 

As the marketing technology landscape continues to grow it’s tempting to think the new shiny product on the market will be the key that will unlock your competitive advantage. Whilst this can be the case, it’s worth remembering that the machinery will never live up to its potential without the right people operating it. As such, marketers need take advantage of this period of change as an opportunity to break down traditional structures within their business and attain the organisational agility needed to stay ahead of their competitors.