5 Marketing Technology Challenges Every Business Must Solve
While some marketers struggle to keep up with a rapidly changing industry, contributor Paul Roetzer tells us that others are re-imagining what’s possible for their careers and companies.
The End of Marketing as We Know It by Sergio Zyman, former Coca-Cola chief marketing officer, was one of the most influential books I read early in my marketing career; but, the title may have come 16 years too soon. While many of the principles and strategies penned by Zyman are still relevant today, the book was published in 1999.
Zyman could not possibly have known the changes to come. Consider that in 1999, Google raised its $25 million Series A round from Sequoia Capital and Kleiner Perkins; Evan Williams and Meg Hourihan launched blogger.com; and Mark Zuckerberg was 15 — five years away from introducing Facebook. We wouldn’t experience the iPhone debut for another eight years.
Needless to say, the industry’s transformation had only just begun.
The Marketing Technology Matrix
Technology is disrupting everything we know and believe; consumers are more connected and distracted than ever before; and marketers are largely underprepared for the velocity of change driving the industry forward. But with obstacles come opportunities.
While some marketers struggle to keep up, others are re-imagining what’s possible for their careers and companies. Prototype marketers are becoming marketing-technology hybrids. They have insatiable appetites for tech industry knowledge, and they are constantly testing and integrating new solutions to gain an edge in efficiency and performance.
Meanwhile, venture funding, acquisitions and IPOs are fueling a rapid expansion of the marketing technology landscape. As the market is flooded with thousands of products and platforms, marketers are increasingly called upon to lead in the evaluation, selection, activation and management of core solutions, including:
- Marketing Automation: Marketing automation should often be considered the starting point when building a marketing technology strategy, as many companies in the space bundle core technologies into all-in-one suites. Some of the leading marketing automation players to consider include Act-On, Eloqua, HubSpot, Infusionsoft, Marketo, Pardot and Silverpop.
- Content Management System (CMS): The CMS is the foundation of a brand’s online presence. Essential elements of a modern CMS include a site editor (no more waiting for IT to make changes), a blogging tool, a landing page and form builder, simple call-to-action integration, and mobile-responsive design.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Marketers need a CRM system to manage one-to-one relationships with leads, prospects, customers, employees, partners, media and other priority audiences.
- Email: Optimal email marketing solutions are tightly integrated with the CMS, CRM and marketing automation systems. This enables deep personalization of communications based on your contacts’ interactions with the brand, such as content downloads, website page views and event registrations.
[pullquote]There has never been a better time to be a (tech-savvy) marketer.[/pullquote]
The Path To Performance
Marketers may still lean on their IT brethren for guidance on critical issues of mobility, security, data storage and operations infrastructure, but when it comes to choosing technology solutions to drive marketing performance, it’s now largely the domain of the marketing technologist.
So what are the common marketing technology challenges marketers must overcome?
1. Change Velocity
The rate of change is accelerating, and shows no signs of slowing. High-performing companies constantly adapt as new technologies and opportunities emerge. This agile approach requires someone to own marketing technology. For large enterprises, that position is likely a chief marketing technologist or someone with a similar title, while for small-to-midsize businesses the responsibilities may fall to the most tech-savvy marketer or possibly an outside consultant.
Demand is growing for tech-savvy marketers, but there’s a shortage of talent. Capgemini Consulting reports in its Digital Talent Gap study that 90 percent of companies lack necessary digital skills in key areas of social media, mobile, internal social networks, process automation, and performance monitoring and analysis.
Unfortunately, universities also are struggling to keep up with the changing demands of a digital-first industry. As marketing author, business consultant and Rutgers adjunct professor Mark Schaefer states in my book, The Marketing Performance Blueprint, “Right now, the university system is structured and rewarded for stability, with an emphasis on long-term research.”
Schaefer points out that in digital marketing, and particularly social media marketing, “Not only are the platforms dynamic, but the rules of engagement are dynamic.” Competitive candidates must “not just be trained, but immersed” in digital marketing tools and technologies.
So, while universities continue to play an integral role in preparing students for marketing careers, the onus of developing marketing technologists largely falls on businesses. Brands must find candidates with core competencies and traits (strong writer, detail-oriented, analytical, strategic, curious, intrinsically motivated), train them through a blend of internal and external resources, and immerse them in marketing technology and strategy.
See 11 Steps to Build an Internal Marketing Academy for additional insight into developing a team of modern marketers.
Complacency is bred by a lack of will and vision, conservative cultures, stagnant leadership and internal politics that lead to inertia over innovation. In Embracing Digital Technology, MIT Sloan Management Review and Capgemini Consulting researchers found that while 78 percent of respondents indicated that digital transformation will be critical to their organizations within the next two years, 63 percent felt the pace of change in their organizations was too slow.
The most frequently cited obstacle was “lack of urgency.” The report defined digital transformation as, “the use of new digital technologies (social media, mobile, analytics or embedded devices), to enable major business improvements (such as enhancing customer experience, streamlining operations or creating new business models).”
As forward-thinking executives and marketers accelerate digital transformation, businesses that are too slow to evolve and too afraid to take chances will be left behind.
With thousands of marketing technologies to choose from, and new products and features emerging daily, redundancy within your marketing technology stack is inevitable. However, marketers need to take a strategic approach to avoiding it whenever possible.
Consider the red-hot content marketing space as an example. There are a number of specialized content marketing platforms, including Contently, DivvyHQ, Kapost and NewsCred, which are designed to plan and manage content programs.
For some marketing teams, a dedicated content marketing solution is precisely what’s needed. For others, common features such as calendars, project management, analytics dashboards, and document editing and storage will be redundant to existing marketing automation and project management solutions. Every organization is different.
Consider your full marketing technology stack when making software decisions, and avoid inefficiencies and sunken resources resulting from too many solutions providing similar functionality and value.
The challenge for marketers is to figure out the right solutions for their businesses, and integrate technologies by all means necessary. Industry giants such as Adobe, IBM, Oracle and Salesforce.com are spending billions to buy complementary marketing technology companies, create app networks, and build competing all-in-one marketing cloud solutions.
Meanwhile, the startup ecosystem is producing a steady stream of products that solve niche digital marketing challenges. The good news is that core marketing technology platforms are increasingly open and can be integrated with more specialized solutions.
These platforms often feature open APIs and app marketplaces in which third-party developers can release complementary products. For example, Zapier lets SaaS users create integrations in minutes that push data between hundreds of web applications without having to write any code or struggle with APIs.
The End of Marketing As We Know It
As many organizations and professionals struggle in a perpetually changing industry, high-performers will maintain a sense of urgency regarding digital transformation. They will construct scalable marketing technology frameworks that adapt as new solutions and opportunities emerge, and as consumers’ interests, preferences and behaviors evolve.
Enormous challenges lie ahead, but we are entering a world in which anything is possible. There has never been a better time to be a (tech-savvy) marketer.