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Marketing Technology: Solving Problems, Or Creating Them?

Posted on 3.01.2017
Marketing technology has never been more sophisticated. Today’s marketers have a wealth of tools to choose from, and mountains of data at their fingertips. If you read enough promotional materials, you might actually believe that marketing is now as easy as pushing a button. But each new tool and technology—despite claims of making the marketer’s job easier—also creates its own challenges. 

In a world where there’s a tool to solve every conceivable marketing problem, what are the real barriers to marketing success? A recent report by Return Path in partnership with Ascend2 explored this issue, and that found that the complexity of modern marketing is causing headaches for marketers everywhere. 
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Integration: The Square Peg in the Round Hole

The reality is that not every piece of marketing technology is designed to work seamlessly with every other tool. Most solutions are built to do one thing (or a few things) very well, but ensuring that data is shared effectively between all of your marketing tools is no small task. It can be done—and marketing technology vendors are making great progress toward simplifying integrations—but smaller marketing teams often lack the resources to connect those dots.. 

Budget: The Never Ending Battle

Has any marketer in all of history felt that their budget was perfectly adequate—or even generous? Probably not. Limited budget is a constant, and it’s not likely to change any time soon. So it’s critical for marketers to make smart decisions with the budget they have, and utilize data to demonstrate results when it comes time to make the case for more budget. 

Strategy: The Chicken and the Egg

It goes without saying that strategy should drive your choice of marketing tools—and not the other way around. But in the context of limited budget and constant pressure to increase ROI, many marketers find themselves trying to incorporate existing tools into their strategy decisions, rather than building a strategy that makes sense for their business and then finding the tools to support it.

Utilization: The Abandonment Issue 

There are many reasons a particular piece of technology might not be fully utilized. The tools may be unexpectedly difficult to use, or may not deliver the expected results. The marketing team might simply not have time to learn a new tool. The solution may become irrelevant or redundant over time. Whatever the cause, under-utilized technology creates an unnecessary drain on an already limited marketing budget.

Unfortunately there is no simple solution to these complex obstacles. But there are some critical, strategic steps that marketers can take to address them.

Recommendation: Build Your Strategy with the End in Mind

Rather than looking at the tools you have at your disposal, start by determining what you want to accomplish. What business problems are you trying to solve? What expectations are being handed down from the C-suite? What are the mission-critical tactics you’ll need to execute in order to meet your marketing objectives? What kind of reporting will you need to demonstrate your results? Stepping back and thinking holistically about your marketing strategy will provide a clearer idea of what tools are required to get there.

Recommendation: Conduct a Thorough Technology Audit

Ideally, you would start with a clean slate and build your technology arsenal from the ground up. However, existing integrations and contractual obligations typically make this impossible. Instead, take the time to conduct a complete audit of your technology solutions, in light of the strategy decisions you’ve made. Consider what’s working well, what gaps exist, and where there might be overlap. Look at inefficiencies like single-use tools that could be replaced by a more comprehensive solution. Don’t forget to account for your team’s expertise and capacity for learning new technologies. 

Recommendation: Choose Your Foundation Wisely

In most cases, your email service provider and/or marketing automation platform form the foundation of your entire marketing program. To function effectively,  every other piece of marketing technology needs to integrate with these fundamental solutions. Fortunately, most major “marketing cloud” vendors offer extensive integration capabilities—just make sure you’re looking at the bigger picture when evaluating these critical components. 

Recommendation: Don’t Go It Alone

Marketing is no longer a siloed function, and marketers can’t afford to make sweeping technology decisions without consulting their peers in other departments. For example, bringing your IT department into early conversations can help to avoid difficulties with data security and systems integration. Sales, service, and marketing must also remain closely aligned on any decisions that could impact data flow into and out of the CRM.


About the Author

Jen Ribble is a marketing professional with more than 15 years of experience in the tech and financial services sectors. She currently leads PR and content marketing efforts for Return Path. Access their report on the topics above, here.
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