Whether grappling with or embracing the wonders of modern day marketing automation, one thing for sure is there’s an intense amount of change going on under the hood for today’s marketer, Pippa Chambers reports.
From automation, tech stacks, customised algorithms and mixed model attribution, the pressure is on to keep ahead of the latest dynamic and innovative functions that can plug in, finesse and ramp up a marketer’s specified ROI metrics. And as if the cornerstones of their ‘markitecture’ wasn’t enough to plan out, that’s only one part of an ever-changing and increasingly high-pressured role for CMOs.
Many companies are still struggling with personalised, relevant and timely communications with their customers but beyond the clutter, we are seeing an evolution in marketing automation technology, with a clear focus on ease of use and simplified implementation.
Sean Jenner, manager of business consumer marketing at Virgin Australia, said the biggest challenge for marketers navigating the automated adscape on the brand side is still educating the wider business on the fundamentals of automation and the implications of how it operates as a marketer.
“While we’re reasonably advanced to date, the pace of change is only going to accelerate as programmatic continues to roll out across more traditional media such as OOH and TV,” he said.
“Today, we’re still shifting internal expectations that campaigns must be led by certain media and publishers, rather than buying an audience and trusting in a programmatic strategy.”
With so much complexity, it’s almost impossible for a marketer to be across every available option in the tech stacks.
Andy Lark, CMO at software company Xero, and former CBA CMO, said a big challenge sits simply with human capability in the martech area – followed by process definition and invention.
“There is a serious lack of talent capable of implementing, running and then executing on today’s marketing platforms,” Lark said.
“Most CMOs now bear the burden of not just selecting marketing platforms and managing their deployment, but in reskilling, retraining and hiring the talent needed for them.”
Flight Centre global head of digital for business travel Kevin Wordon believes that down the line, these tools will no longer require specialised resources and will form a part of a marketer’s everyday remit.
“There will, however,be a greater need for marketing teams to have dedicated resources for content and analytics,” he said. “This is a skill set that many teams lack and this affects the ability to reap the full ROI of marketing automation.”
But Jenner reckoned that clients don’t necessarily need to be proficient in every facet of marketing technology emerging, be it data, IT or technical systems.
“There needs to be a level of understanding of course, but given the pace of change I think expecting too much is both unrealistic and unnecessary,” Jenner said.
“Our fundamental role as marketers hasn’t changed. We need to understand our brand and business, be able to solve problems and deliver solutions that generate sufficient ROI, and most of all, be able to delight and engage consumers. Martech offers us incredible new ways to skin that cat but it’s still the same cat.”
The long-range view of marketing automation is threefold: integrated technology across the marketing organisation; building the internal skills and structure to move from manual, broadcast communications to automated and individualised marketing and using the data to continually improve results, increasing ROI to ultimately gain market share.
Vice president of customer success and consulting at Oracle Marketing Cloud, Paul Cross, has spent the last 30 years in marketing and says he’s seen more happen in the last 12 months than the last 20 years combined.
“We are seeing almost all marketers now investing in the technology foundation of marketing automation with a goal to automate as much as possible to both reduce costs and improve performance (and customer experience),” he said. Cross added that in the past marketing automation meant simply automating repetitive tasks, mainly triggered email or simple personalisation mainly focused on emails to generate sales leads.
“Today we see modern marketers applying technology to their end-to-end customer lifecycle – beginning with automating all areas of data management in tools that enable custom audience creation or individualised targeting,” he said.
“Then moving from slow, expensive, manual campaign creation and management to automated cross-channel orchestration where data defines what happens, and an individual’s behaviour is used to further refine the communications.”
Cross revealed that marketers are both grappling and embracing the new streams of marketing automation.
“There is no doubt technology is being embraced all over the world by marketers, consumers, by everybody,” Cross said. “But to be ahead of the competition, marketers have to do more than just what everyone is doing. The marketers that are adopting faster, taking calculated risks and introducing the newest technology are those that are getting ahead.”
Flight Centre fights the fear
Flight Centre has a fully integrated technology stack that encompasses Salesforce, Marketo and Drupal. There are also multiple ancillary BI tools that it uses to analyse transactional data. It has also rolled this stack out globally, establishing governance, best practice and consolidation of its technology. Its global head of digital for business travel, Kevin Wordon, said “keeping up in the digital world can be exhausting but you don’t always have to be the first to market.
“Digital provides the ability to test and iterate on a small scale. Real-time results provide the ability to very quickly establish whether your investment will work on a large scale. There are so many demands on digital teams so a best practice approach is to focus on business value and prioritise accordingly.”
As customers place more demand on companies in years to come, leaders in the marketing automation space will set the standard for how businesses target, market and respond to customers.
Wordon believes that in response to change, trialling new approaches and pivoting when things don’t work out are key.
“We are heavily embracing pretotyping [inexpensive mock-up of an idea] to very quickly test theories and approaches before making large investments,” he said.
Wordon revealed the business will continue to assess how well matched its marketing is to the buying process and where customers are in the cycle and that its shift in marketing tech has enabled them to quickly gauge the success of itscampaigns and deliver the right offering to customers.
“We are able to analyse the ROI of our marketing in real-time and can very quickly pivot our spend and media mix to garner the best results,” he added.
“Ultimately, the implementation of good tech leads to the ability to easily show successes and failures. Marketing teams now have the ability to be seen as a source of revenue rather than a budget black hole.”
Wordon revealed that the fear of change is one of the biggest challenges a marketer faces, while there is also the fear of making mistakes.
“We overcome this fear of change and failure by pretotyping to learn quickly and adapt. Marketers need to be provided with the ability to embrace ad tech, test and trial, prove a use case and show solid ROI,” Wordon said.
“Failure is ok as long as there isn’t a negative impact on brand or budget and the change is reversible. Start small, prove the results and embrace the change.
“Most importantly, marketers need to present ad tech results in a way that the business understands.”
Red Balloon: A constant learning mentality
Marketing tech is a vital part of RedBalloon’s business and it has invested heavily in this space, allowing it to become more scalable, more targeted and more knowledgeable about its customers.
The company has shifted from being a purely transactional-based business to one that is now focused on discovery and is able to carry out extensive A/V customer testing, is producing more seeded contextual content and is ramping up in the personalisation area.
Last year, RedBalloon opted to utilise the Adobe Marketing Cloud, which CEO Nick Baker said has been pivotal in helping the business understand more about the customer and their journey.
From the various tech tools that sit behind the website and analytics to email campaigns, he said having one view of all aspects, and the customer, has been crucial. The next phase is to further improve the fragmented view of the customer and post-customer purchase aspects.
“But before all of that [setting up a martech stack] you have to have an organisational culture that embraces and takes on that technology and marketing and mix because if you don't have the people who understand it and will work with it then you will fail at it because it is hard work,” Baker said. “Digital transformation is not just about putting something in place, it's a way that you bring everybody together and chief to that is the role of the CMO and the CTO and they have to work lockstep with each other.”
As well as the CMO and CTO having shared KPIs, Baker said one trick for marketers is to spend at least one hour a day learning and exploring what else can be done within the martech stack. The “constant learning mentality” is a must, he said.
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