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What to consider before jumping on the martech bandwagon

Martech isn’t a silver bullet for marketers looking to deliver superior customer experiences, argues Jed Mole, VP of marketing at Acxiom. Using technology to meet customer needs still requires a deep understanding of your audience.

Martech is one of the more compelling success stories in the marketing industry. It’s easy to see why.

For the busy marketer, the concept of a single dashboard that can process all the various interactions, interpret their value and tell them precisely what’s working best is a seductive one.

Without the right technology, managing every customer touchpoint across always‐on channels for regular customers and casual prospects can quickly become unwieldy. Identifying which next steps are the most appropriate also swiftly becomes near‐impossible.

Today, there’s no option other than to let technology and automation take up the strain.

This need has led to the development of multiple marketing technologies. Perhaps most famous among them are the campaign management tools that ultimately gathered together as the martech stack.

Combining several marketing technologies is meant to bring data together, allow insights to be unearthed, segments to be created and managed and multi‐channel marketing campaigns and actions to be orchestrated.

At least, that’s the concept…

Unfortunately, assembling the largest possible arsenal of martech tools does not guarantee success. You also need to make sure you’re investing in the right tools to meet the needs of your customers.

In a survey of international brands and agency marketers, investment in these tools has grown by 44 per cent over the past year to £40 billion worldwide. In the UK, martech spend is expected to rise by another quarter in 2019.

But this massive investment won’t benefit everyone equally. To reap the rewards of the booming martech industry, you need to make sure the insights your stack uncovers empower you to make strategic decisions that improve the everyday performance of your campaigns.

That means unifying a suite of tools that work together to build up a complete picture of how your campaigns are running, which channels are performing best and which messages resonate best with your audiences.

The problem with having too much data

Customer expectations are forever rising. Trying to maintain control over many different feeds and platforms at once is the only way to unify a customer experience and guide customers efficiently through the marketing funnel.

Let’s look at the average marketer. We’ll call him Geoff. Geoff is responsible within his organisation, Brand X, for reporting to senior management about how well their marketing is working and where they should be putting their marketing money next.

He runs email and paid social campaigns. He coordinates traditional advertising and digital banners. He has several martech tools, some which connect together and others which don’t. These tools report back to him on how separate campaigns are running and how many people are seeing and responding to his business’ work.

Geoff is a busy man. He spends every day switching between these tools to check in on campaign performance, so what needs to be tweaked can be changed in good order.

But at what point does he think about Jane, his target loyal customer? He’s lucky if he can find the time between checking his emails, his CRM systems, his traditional advertising reports on exposure and reach, his analytics feedback, his content strategies and his keyword performance. The average marketer spends 80 per cent of their working week stressed!

Of course, there’s a good chance that even with all these reports on performance and channel use, he would still have difficulty telling his board precisely which parts of his strategy are delivering the sales.

One recent report stated that three out of four CMOs can’t prove the impact that social media delivers for their brands and suggest that their analytics does “not offer sufficient insight” to do so.

Even with all this automation and assistance from different martech platforms, even with the stack all interlinked and connected up, marketers still struggle to pin down precisely which parts of their strategies are delivering returns.

A recent Kantar survey found that 78 percent of marketers agree that it is difficult to assess how well brands perform across channels. Meanwhile, a Xaxis survey revealed that 71 percent of marketers say evaluating the money they spend has become more difficult in the past five years.

‘Overwhelm’ is a very real challenge in the constantly evolving channel landscape. The problem with all this data is that there’s now too much of it to get your head around!

It’s not just the data – it’s what you do with it

Technologies like the automated martech stack and the CRM system help marketers to manage content and channel overwhelm to some extent.

They’re helping marketers build more rounded pictures of Jane, where she goes once she leaves Brand X’s site or what she did go on to purchase after clicking on that banner ad for Brand X’s new solution.

But at present these technologies cannot be the silver bullet all on their own – not least because their ability to integrate is less dependent on the technology and more on the ability to connect the data. They also can’t tell Geoff when a campaign may have been over‐planned, be ‘too’ personalised or predictive.

Over‐automation runs the risk of removing the human touch from marketing

There’s an oft‐cited example of a retailer in the US recognising from their data analysis that a customer was likely to be pregnant and sending out a tailored campaign accordingly. The campaign reached the customer’s father before he was aware of the happy event. He was less than happy.

Over‐automation runs the risk of removing the human touch from marketing and stopping people from asking common‐sense questions like: “Is this campaign good marketing?” Effective content strategy, whether deployed through traditional advertising or smarter digital channels, requires that human element to engage with other humans.

The quest to deliver a perfect, fully rounded, unified customer experience is a noble one for businesses. It demonstrates the customer is at the core of their thinking, that they want to grow and nurture them in the right way.

Marketing is central to that strategy. Managing content as it’s deployed in the right manner across the right recipe of channels can transform a company’s performance and its long‐term relationships with customers. But relying too heavily on automation to do this can have the opposite effect.

Choosing the right tools for your audience

As the customer journey becomes ever more complex, the growing range of martech tools will play an even greater role in connecting marketers to their performance.

The right mix of platforms, or the next generation of tech which connects the various datapoints together and interprets them with weight and meaning, will undoubtedly provide Geoff with better tools to do his job. But, martech tools are not the whole story.

Marketers need a solid understanding of their customers. Connecting the relevant data is the only way to form a solid foundation that can underpin your customer insight, campaign and content strategy and marketing execution.

It will vary for every firm, but the right balance will always be found somewhere in a combination of both art and science

Marketers must combine creativity, data and automation to manage the different channels in play at any given time and correctly interpret the results.

If you already know, perhaps because you only work across a small number of channels, that your best growth comes from the work of your sales team or a specifically targeted set of digital ads, you probably don’t have much to gain from investing in a vast suite of solutions.

Large organisations orchestrating complex multichannel campaigns in a range of different regions and markets are a different story. They will need every tool at their disposal to ensure that when someone sees their product on the other side of the world, the experience is what they expect. It’s not a case of ‘one size fits all’.

When it comes to effectively evaluating a martech stack, the process has to start with the customer. What experience are you trying to deliver, and what’s the strategy? Go back to basics on marketing objectives and check in with your customer’s needs again. Chances are they will have evolved and the strategy can be updated. The data will point you in the right direction.

PWC research found that 63 per cent of business leaders say understanding what their customers value most is a major challenge – and 61 per cent agree it’s difficult for their organisations to change course when markets, customer needs or enterprise strategies change.

When looking to optimise analytics tools, recognise that the stack as a whole will only be as good as the data feeding it. There may be ways to do more with what you already have if you can optimise or combine those insights more effectively.

Look at the function of each tool at your disposal and its purpose. Are they working together or in silos still? Do they have the data they need to deliver on their promise in isolation? Far more importantly, is the martech truly joined up and connected at a data level? This is the only way tools can be combined to give that desired customer experience.

Key takeaways

  • Begin and end with the customer. What experience are you trying to deliver, across what touchpoints? How will all your martech work together? And, what data do you need to make this vision a reality?
  • Marketing strategy increasingly relies on having a data strategy that scopes the data you have, considers where it’s created, looks at the data you need, plans how to collect or source it and underpins it all with data privacy and ethics.
  • Now you’re ready to connect the martech at the data layer. To be customer first, you need to ensure that your martech can make the most of accurate and on‐time data. Avoid the trap of siloed technology or tech that’s running slow because of data.

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