The Three Keys to Solving Marketing’s Massive Technology Problem

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All too often, technology becomes the personification of success. I’ve been guilty of it, too. Tech is easy to buy and therefore, feels like an instant upgrade! The first decade of the 2000s was all about inbound, so we raced toward marketing automation with open arms, in a dust of purchase orders and definitive guides – we were off and running with our newfound platform. We slapped on the blinders on when it came to strategy because strategy seemed slow; it wasn’t sexy.

Marketing was going to take a seat at the revenue table by any means necessary – it was a battle cry. But when the years crept by and the ROI measures that were promised simply never came, those cries transformed into actual tears. It’s easy to weep for Martech when you look at the returns it’s generating – less than one percent of all marketing leads currently convert into customers. That’s a staggering failure. And if we don’t solve for the root cause of this symptom, the marketing profession is in danger of being eradicated, almost before it ever began.

It’s critical that we attack this problem at the root cause, as well-funded tech vendors are inclined to shift the blame to something that enables the purchase of more software, like changes in buyer behavior. The only true change that needs to take place is marketing’s approach. In order to succeed in marketing, and really succeed in business, you’ve got to give equal and intentional thought to the three components that govern that success: your strategy, your tech, and your tactics. And they all need to be aligned, across the board.

So, what does that look like? Glad you asked. Here’s my take.

Strategy: The First Domino

No matter your job title, you need to understand the overarching strategy of your organization. In layman’s terms, what are the ultimate goals of the business? Marketers, salespeople, customer service folks… everyone on your team should know the answer to this critical question. It should be the first thing that everyone knows, understands and cares about. If this isn’t clearly defined, ask: What are we trying to achieve? What are our key growth levers? Logically, the next step involves understanding what you can do daily to help achieve that growth strategy. In short, be the change you want to see in the business.

This serves two purposes:

  1. To ensure you are spending your time working on things that matter.
  2. To stop doing anything that doesn’t. It sounds simple, but you would be amazed at the amount of noise that exists in most businesses due to a fundamental disconnect between strategy and tactics. You’ll see a dramatic shift once you start operating from a place of strategy first. Instead of marketing getting excited about a one-off activity, like hosting an event, and then running with it with no clear objective in sight… you’ll pause. You’ll ask: What are we looking to accomplish? Who are we looking to engage? Why this event instead of another initiative?

We often hear about B2B businesses pursuing a customer lifetime value strategy, in which they aim to grow revenue and commitment from existing customers in lieu of acquiring new ones. The thread of the fabric of their entire organization should then be all about influencing negative churn. When you set your strategy, and then set a corresponding roadmap from the beginning, you’ll start knocking out even your loftiest goals a hell of a lot faster than you would otherwise.

Process: How the Sausage Gets Made

After strategy comes execution, and the guiding light for execution is a well thought-out process. If your strategy is about customer lifetime value, like in the example I used above, you might be laser-focused on a strong, repeatable customer enablement and account development process. You’ll drill down into how to market to your existing customers at all various stages of maturity, and map out how you can steward them through the journey you have in mind for them.

For instance, after someone buys your solutions – what’s next? Here’s where you figure out what each rung of your customer journey looks like. Let’s say a customer purchases Product X and the next step is offering training on how to be successful with it. After that might come educating the customer about why they might need Product Y, and preparing them for the purchase and implementation. When you map out a clear process and align your team around it, and it’s driven by your overarching strategy, your customer will better recognize your value. This takes intention and a die-hard commitment to keeping your strategy in the forefront.

Technology: The Reinforcement

And finally – your tech stack (I know, you were hoping we’d get to this part). First, notice that your technology comes third in this line-up. It’s still part of the dream team, but it’s not the starting player. Second, recognize it for the part it should play – a supporting role. Jill Rowley, chief growth officer at Marketo famously mused that:

A fool with a tool is still a fool.

I’d take it a step further and argue that the reality is even more dire, as that person is now a dangerous fool.

A bad process, disconnected from strategy, is a surefire recipe for failure when you add in the scale and automation of technology. You’ll get further off track, faster – and you’ll damage your brand. Your measurement of how successful your strategy and methodologies are should be reinforced by your tech stack. Your systems should capture your data, so you can analyze it and then make intelligent decisions about whether to stay the course you’re on or course-correct.

In order to make this work, marketing needs a clear line of sight into other customer data platforms. It’s not enough for each department to simply use its technology; it must also be architected in a way so that data can be passed and forth between departments in a meaningful way. When you architect your systems in order to reinforce your strategic direction and methodologies, you maximize its purpose. It might not be as flashy as making the technology the star, but it’ll help you get way more done and actually get results.

Many organizations unintentionally end up focusing on one of these three components and letting the other two fade to black. Or, worse yet, they try to handle all three – but in silos. When either scenario takes place, your team isn’t set up for success. Instead, you can accelerate your revenue by putting strategy first, followed by process and technology – in that order and as three parts of the same, aligned team. This is the sweet spot, and where you’ll really find success taking shape – and accelerating.

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