If you’re like most marketers, your marketing operation has an increasing number of marketing tools and systems, a plethora of processes and a boatload of data being generated. And, there seems to be a new piece of technology creating more data and requiring new processes every week. While marketing technology holds tremendous promise, it doesn’t create nearly its potential value if it’s NOT integrated.
Why? Your prospects and customers are informed by multiple sources, channels and types of content, and they likely have very little interaction with you on your own turf. You’re responding with marketing initiatives that utilize integrated channels, content and offers to engage and nurture your prospective customers. Yet, the systems and tools we’re using to acquire the full picture are often siloed. Disconnected systems result in inactionable data that hamstrings our efforts to make meaningful connections with customers and drive business value.
The natural response is to buy a system that does it all – it slices, it dices, it…. But that’s simply not reality for a large majority of marketing organizations due to both legacy systems and the pace of new technology. The “magic bullet” system does not exist (please share if you have info to the contrary). With investments in marketing tech expected to reach $20 billion by 2017, according to the Gartner Group, now is the perfect time to take a look at your need for integrated systems.
Let’s dive in to learn from the past and map a plan to move forward in an integrated marketing world.
We have seen this movie
Over the past 20 years, I’ve learned to strategically and tactically apply technology to deliver business value on escalating internal and external expectations. As publisher of InformationWeek, I watched the proliferation of software solutions play out in the IT industry as companies moved from simplistic, yet centralized computing to an era in which every department invested in its own specialized technology. The technology may have made the department productive, but it didn’t unlock value across the business. All tools, systems and departments had to be reconnected, re-integrated. The cycle is inevitable, so why not integrate from the get-go?
In my days as CMO of UBM, we worked hard to transform legacy systems (and processes) to modernize a media business, including consolidating 24 databases into one and connecting online, social, email and media processes and customer info. The true value was only realized when the systems (and thus the data) were connected to better understand the prospect/customer and how best to discover, engage and nurture them (what’s working and what’s not!).
Marketing systems integration takes center stage
This is the new reality in marketing today. Marketing departments, under pressure to generate pipeline, personalize customer experiences and increase lifetime value, are implementing multiple systems, tools and technologies. Sometimes marketers are replacing legacy systems and sometimes new systems are simply added to the mix. At a roundtable I moderated earlier this year, the average mid- to large-size marketing department had more than 15 unique systems to operate marketing, including email, social, content, web, PR, data, etc. The largest had more than 50. The lesson here is to learn from our past, integrating both existing and new systems as you bring them online. The mantra should be: “We won’t invest, unless we can connect.”
At Integrate, I experience this every day as we work with marketing teams to power integrated prospect acquisition programs by automating and integrating systems and fragmented data sources. Based on our learnings, I’ve crafted a set of steps to increase marketing performance and bottom line via integrated marketing and systems.
A check list to integrate:
- Get C-level agreement on business priorities and marketing metrics. These will be your guiding light when it comes to where to focus. (This is also known as “What does success look like?”)
- Communicate your plan to stakeholders. Ideally, get them to put skin in the game to support your efforts as you deliver on your commitment and show value.
- Take inventory. Identify current marketing systems, processes and data flows that support integrated marketing, including any other systems or departments these systems must be connected with.
- Identify your most utilized integrated marketing channels. These will be the systems and processes you prioritize and master integration around.
- Develop a blueprint. Document the systems, workflow/process and data flow to assure you have the whole picture and can determine where there’s the most value to be gained.
- Identify disconnected systems, processes and data flows. These will help determine how to eliminate gaps, silos and/or choke points.
- Prioritize integration (channels and systems) that show the quickest business value. This allows you to gain trust and to master the art and science of integration.
- Communicate your successes and failures to stakeholders. Wins and setbacks are part of the process and the reality.
- Make integration part of your process with every tech investment, process introduction or data move. Ask the “Is this integrated?” question with each initiative.
This checklist is a starter framework. And, it’s really important to get started. We’ve learned enough from our past about technology, systems and data and the need for integration. Connected systems enable integrated processes that create actionable data. The stakes are much higher today because our prospects and customers are way ahead of us in their expectations as well as the integrated way they consume info and make decisions. The bottom line is that meaningful technology integrations are becoming just as important to marketing’s success as the technology itself and the pros that use it.