In this op-ed, Matt Popkes of WPP’s The Brand Agency explains that how you operationalise marketing technology is what really delivers a return on investment
Marketing technology has revolutionised communications with customers. From automation of communications that were previously manual, to better and more informed customer segmentation, to content personalisation, to better media asset management, to improved frequencies (whether that’s up or down), to adding or removing channels and improving the management of all that data – none of this would be possible without the marketing technology options now available.
The road to marketing technology implementation is paved with good intentions. However, ambitious enterprise-level marketing technology initiatives do not end with implementation; it is the optimum operationalisation of that investment that ensures returns will be delivered.
Part of the problem is that large organisations often underestimate the ongoing internal resource and expertise needed to operationalise and reap the rewards of introducing – or migrating to new – marketing technology platforms. Internal expertise and resource to operate these technologies will ensure that they sing – and sing loudly so that they provide a measurable return.
Harnessing extreme functionality
A highly sophisticated martech stack – that should deliver the best business results – will fail to do so if the technology is not stretched and a ‘light’ version is implemented instead. Time and again we have seen this result from a dearth of in-house expertise at the time of implementation. Avoiding this mismatch between system capability and the expertise of those implementing it is what marketing agencies bring to the table.
Further, the assets created as part of campaign-based work should be built with the new platform in mind. It is so easy to default to traditional executions of campaign assets without considering how to change things up given the opportunities afforded by new technology. It is for everyone to think about how a campaign could land (given enhancements in technology) going forward and to change things in synch with new capabilities.
But what we have also observed is that any decoupling of the growth/marketing function from the technology function will stunt the potential of the platform deployed. If a company siloes martech knowledge in the IT department, so many marketing possibilities will be stunted. New technology calls for cross-function collaboration.
And we have identified an internal communications problem too. Technology capability should not be communicated as a huge chart that identifies all the different systems available. There are now 9,900 different martech solutions on the market that are mapped into 49 different categories – this ecosystem of tools is already too big to chart. We are at the stage where it is easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available; and being overwhelmed is not good for business.
We, in the martech discipline, do not want to overwhelm our creative colleagues who populate the systems we implement. We want to work in step with them so that the best creative work reaches the furthest audiences and deliver that return on investment for the client.
Neither do we want eyes to glaze over as we talk through our alphabet soup of acronyms. We must find a better way to communicate the possibilities and take other disciplines with us. And we must demonstrate the goal of new system implementation. There must be a point to all this; and it must be communicated well.
The five stages of martech implementation
At the heart of all of this are humans. Anyone who has worked on a marketing technology initiative will have been through five stages of emotion. From denial to anger to bargaining to depression and then to acceptance – all these emotions tend to be surfaced during platform implementation.
The road to achieving a 360-degree view of the customer is complicated and lengthy. But the reality is that there is no real finish line. What is more, platform implementation requires buy-in from a long list of stakeholders with different skill sets and varying perspectives from across an organisation.
And business objectives must be balanced and commercial. So, if you’re collecting and storing more customer data, what’s in that for the customer? And how has the customer experience improved because of the new system?
Standing up a new platform or solution architecture is always step one in a lengthy and complicated process. Anyone going into an implementation phase needs to accept that they might ordinarily be used to working in a team of, say, 100 people. Going forward, they must think about working in a team of 2,000.
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