What role does marketing technology play in your organisation?
In theory, marketing technology platforms should be supporting our marketing processes, enabling us to work at a pace and required volume. They should be giving us reporting on which of our marketing activities is working and which isn’t. We need it to tell us what’s actually going on and which of our marketing activities is working. In theory, with the tools we have nowadays, it shouldn’t be like the old adage ‘Most of my marketing goes to waste but I don’t know which bit’. I haven’t yet walked into an organisation where the technology actually does that fully.
So what have you learned in trying to fix that problem?
Really, that it’s hard! Seldom have we had the internal bandwidth and skill set to fix it internally. It’s much easier just to get past the problems or ignore them and just push on to the next campaign. We can either be fiddling around fixing our technology, for which the business won’t thank us, or we focus on campaigns, which by definition will be suboptimal, but at least we’ll be actually feeding the sales teams. And that means it constantly gets deprioritised against more immediate requirements.
Throughout the rest of the business, nobody ever asks me “How is the technology enabling what I do?”. But I do get asked “How many leads were generated, how many of them closed?”. Marketing budget is easily justifiable when you can attach it to a quantifiable return. So, if we spend this much money, we can get this much back, especially with simple stuff like PPC. But if you say, “I need to fix my marketing automation tool or I need to change my CMS”, for example, there’s no immediate and obvious return to the business. So it’s challenging to get it fixed. And I would suspect that lots of marketing leaders with the same position, and we’re just deciding to limp with a problem, progressively getting worse. We need to get out of that cycle.
Why is fixing the marketing technology puzzle so hard?
The problem is the complexity of the interrelationships between all the tools. Most CMOs can’t keep up with the sheer amount of new tech coming in. Everybody says, “I want to use this tool”, so you end up with lots of unrelated pieces of technology that don’t work in harmony across the system.
The other thing that compounds it is that marketing tech tends to be non-core to the business, so it’s unclear if it sits with the CMO or the CTO. So either the CTOs will say “I don’t want anything to do with it, you guys do what you want”, which on one level gives us freedom. But on another level, it’s unhelpful because we don’t have deep tech skills in the team. We could set up a CRM or Marketing Automation system, but if you want them to be interfacing with the core systems, customer data, for example, you need IT involvement. So it’s quite difficult to know where the ownership should be and who should be accountable for doing all the integration. That’s a real challenge.
When you’re making decisions about your marketing technology investments, what factors do you consider?
Firstly, it’s about what problem you want to solve. It could be that your marketing automation system isn’t set up to give you the reporting that you need. And you can either go deep and fix that, which is a big thing because you’ve got to change fields, and the way people work and how the fields are filled in and how it integrates with other systems. Or you can buy another bolt on system that extracts the data from it. And then later on other people bolt on stuff and you end up with a Frankenstein’s Monster.
The second thing is that finding budget can be really challenging. As you go through a budgeting process, there’s a proportion allocated to demand generation, maybe another pot for brand awareness. And then you’ve got systems investment. And when you’re explaining it to the CFO, they can understand that we need to promote our brand and we need to generate demand but less willing to understand that we need to change our CMS or we need to invest in a new Marketing Automation system, because it seems non-productive.
The third consideration is where do we get the expertise? And who can we rely on to give us sound advice about which is the best system or how best to fix it. Is it better to do a bolt on, or do we need to go in and fix it fundamentally? And that’s compounded by the fact that most companies when you’re engaging with them will, of course, want to do a root and branch audit and they want to change it all because there’s more in it for them. So you need a trusted partner for it because very few marketing organisations that I’ve been in have got the internal knowledge and experience to be able to identify issues, document requirements, assess different alternatives and then arrange the implementation in a way that’s not disruptive.
Is there any other advice that you would give other CMOs who are in a similar situation trying to decide where to start with prioritising their investments and projects?
Firstly, if you are finding yourself in that situation, you’re not alone. If you’re finding your tech isn’t really working for you, it can be so frustrating to work out how to get it fixed, who, and what do you need? None of us are really technologists at heart; we’re marketing people. Increasingly, younger generations are more digitally oriented, which is great. But when you’re trying to make some macro decisions about where we invest, you really need to know your stuff.
The second thing is where to go for advice, that’s impartial and not tied to just one vendor. If you can find an external consultant or advisor, that is not just a Salesforce partner, but ideally has other accreditations as well. And finally, if you do use external companies, you can’t just offload the problem to them. You have to be invested in it yourself. It’s not like with a creative agency, where you can say “look after this one, I need five creative ideas by next Monday” and they’ll come back with them. It has to be co-worked because of the complexity of what you’re doing and because it’s so important to get to the bottom of what the requirements really are.
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