We all agree (don’t we?) that this is an exciting time to be a marketer. Over the last few years the proliferation of marketing technologies has been incredible, with the number of companies in this space almost doubling in the last year alone. These technologies create many new possibilities for attracting, engaging and growing customer relationships. This rapid expansion is also fraught with considerable confusion and trepidation for marketers responsible for enhancing their Customer Engagement capabilities. Factor in the army of salespeople pitching their wares and the situation becomes rather annoying, too.
As the volume of options increases, utilization and adoption of those new technologies is often slow and the full benefit of the solution is rarely realized. An admittedly non-scientific study I’ve been conducting with clients and colleagues suggests that utilization and adoption of a new technology platform hovers somewhere between 0% and “I have no idea.” I told you it was non-scientific. The point is that with the increasing importance organizations are placing on technology to solve their problems – not to mention the money being spent – far more rigor must be placed on getting the most out of their marketing technology investments.
Below are five tips to achieving higher utilization of your marketing technologies:
- Always, always, always start with a strategy
- It may seem obvious but many clients jump right in and buy without a clear plan. Although marketing technologies can do many wonderful things, at the end of the day they are simply enablers of a strategy. Not knowing how you’re going to engage with your consumers, utilization will languish and a return on investment will be harder to achieve. A Customer Engagement strategy should clearly define the objectives, the audience segments, the channels to be used, the cadence of communications and offers, the level of personalization, the content that will be delivered, the granular business rules that should be applied, and the measurement criteria. The strategy should be developed with an understanding of the company’s current marketing capabilities and it should guide decisions on new technology investments that need to be made.
- Do your detective work before buying anything
- Adding a new marketing technology often requires system integration, platform customization, hiring of resources, and, in certain cases, organizational change. This can lead to a “structural bond” between the company and the technology. That’s always great for the seller, not always great for the buyer. Any mistake can be a lasting source of frustration and cost. Marketers must do their homework before making any buying decisions. In fact, a company may already have what they they’re looking for; it just takes a little digging to find those hidden gems of functionality that just need to be dusted off or turned on. However, if a true gap is identified, the marketer must be thorough during the evaluation process. A few rules of thumb I recommend are: 1) Assign a dedicated resource (or team) responsible for documenting requirements and narrowing the options. If available, lean on objective advisers from other business units, or a consulting firm, business partners, or an agency to help with the evaluation and selection process. 2) If there are multiple technologies required, adopt a phased approach to ensure your baseline requirements can be met faster and easier, while also minimizing up-front investment. 3) Consider SaaS wherever possible to lower or eliminate capital expenditure, faster speed-to-market. This also limits any unnecessary burden on internal IT resources. 4) Consider multi-function platforms: the fewer the integrations the better. An example of this is a marketing automation platform that can natively perform audience segmentation, creation of automated, trigger-based campaigns, and the ability to message through email, mobile and web channels.
- Identify the right resources, wherever they may be
- It’s imperative that the right resources are in place to drive adoption of your new technology. Yet depending on the newness of the technology, those resources may not currently exist in your organization. If not an internal resource, an external resource such as an agency partner, a consulting partner, or even the vendor you purchased it from could be an option (although not all of them have a services model and those that do may not have competitive pricing). It goes without saying but this resource planning should be done before the technology investment is made.
- Plan on integrating the new with the old
- We hear a lot about silos in marketing organizations and there’s no exception with marketing technologies. The added benefit of many of the newer marketing technologies is that they can amplify a brands’ overall customer experience. This is where system integration comes in to play to ensure engagement activities happening through one technology can influence – or be influenced by – activities happening in another. Only then can you get closer to the notion of omnichannel that the salesperson likely spoke about.
- Push the new technology to its limits
- Make sure you don’t lose interest in your shiny new toy. It takes innovation, curiosity and a lot of trial and error to maximize the value of any new marketing technology. And it typically comes from a cross-functional group that is doing the pushing. For example your CRM strategist, project manager, solutions consultant and the end-user of the technology should work closely together to ensure those engagement ideas that look great on paper turn into functional requirements that can be built and executed. This should happen continuously.
While it is certainly an exciting time for marketers to imagine and re-imagine what is possible, it is imperative that companies considering an investment in marketing technologies have a well-defined plan and are positioned to use them to their fullest extent in order to continually innovate how they engage with their customers.