In my last post, Rise of the (Marketing) Machines: How to Tame Them, I discussed the challenge marketing leaders face in bridging the gap between the journey experience their audience expects and the technology requirements to deliver on those expectations. While the first step in bridging that gap is to find the right members of the team that can straddle both marketing strategy and technology discussions, it’s also important that we look at how we evaluate the technology ecosystem we are building to support our customer experiences.
In recent years, there has been an explosion of software providers seeking to capture the growing CMO budget. Scott Brinker of www.chiefmartech.com notes that, in 2016, we saw an approximate growth of 87% over 2015 to an already crowded marketing technology landscape. Making the situation more confusing is that this market is still maturing and is rife with mergers, acquisitions, bankruptcies, and new entrants —making it tough for even the most seasoned professional to keep track of market leaders. Adding to the difficulty is that the marketing departments for these vendors are constantly coming up with new terms under which to market their wares.
In my mind, it appears as most of these software vendors are effectively in a race to the middle, meaning that they are all adding the same capabilities to their offerings until it becomes difficult for us to differentiate one platform’s capabilities from the next. It’s often not until we are well into the evaluation process that we realize that we already have the capability (or capabilities) within our existing tools and platforms. So how do we take control of the conversation back from vendors that are trying to dazzle us with the latest industry buzzwords and get to the heart of what matters?
At Harte Hanks, when we talk about bringing the human back to marketing, we talk a lot about what a humanistic marketing ecosystem looks like. Rather than try to sort through the alphabet soup that has dominated the IT industry for years, and is now starting to be foisted upon marketers, we prefer to think of the ecosystem as requiring 5 capability groups.
Building Towards a Humanistic Marketing Ecosystem
The 5 layers of our ideal ecosystem break down as follows:
- Content Production & Management — The ability to create compelling, resonant content by leveraging experts from within and outside the brand, while managing that content so that it remains relevant to the audience. This is the foundation of today’s modern marketing.
- Channel Orchestration — Consumers jump from one channel to another along their journey without giving it a second thought and expect brands to deliver a consistent and seamless experience as the relationship progresses.
- Contextual Intelligence — Today’s audience is well-aware that their every move is able to be tracked. In return, they expect brands to leverage this data intelligently to assist them in their individual buyer journey.
- Message Delivery & Personalization — The ability to deliver messages and content on the channels of choice is no longer good enough. Sophisticated consumers expect brands to be able to leverage the shared data to personalize the channel experience to their place in the journey.
- Business Insights — Today’s marketer is faced with an overwhelming amount of data in an age of real-time engagement. The ability to turn that data into the knowledge necessary to understand the small data that distinguishes an anomaly from a trend is a critical component in a rapidly changing marketplace.
Putting It All Together
We have an overwhelming number of tools and technologies available to help us efficiently interact with customers on every channel. However, technology can take us only so far. By considering the stack in these 5 key areas, we can evaluate the tools in a customer-centric manner — thereby creating a truly holistic ecosystem of technology and data that serves the customer while, at the same time, serving the marketer.
Look for my next article where we will explore in greater detail the first layer in the ecosystem: Content Production & Management.