Ending the inaugural MarTech Conference, I felt this would be a perfect time to provide a completely subjective list of the year’s most important marketing technology-focused blog posts. Ironically, this list is in no way based on content performance, traffic volume, social influence, or any other metric that one may have used to support the logic behind choosing these posts. Nope—this list is simply comprised of martech blog posts that stood out to me and a few of my colleagues. Think of our selection process as a tribute to the marketing tactics of old.
That being said, we did want to select and provide informative summaries of works that continue to have wide appeal, focusing on the more popular topics of industry discussion: the proliferation and categorization of marketing technology, the challenges presented by such growth, and ways CMOs and marketers can better deal with these challenges.
Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2014) – By Scott Brinker, Chiefmartec.com, January 7
If you haven’t yet read this Chiefmartech post, you should do so immediately (after finishing this one, of course). As far as marketing tech blogs go, this is the foundational work upon which later, more specific discussions have been based. The post introduces Scott’s third iteration of the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. Though the third of its kind, its importance lies in both its year-over-year growth of included vendors and the new ways in which they’re categorized: Internet, Infrastructure, Marketing Backbone Platforms, Marketing Middleware, Marketing Experiences and Marketing Operations.
After explaining the structural breakdown, Scott provides “5 takeaways from an armchair analysis of this new landscape”:
- Backbone Platforms and Marketing Middleware are providing structure to the currently disjointed marketing technology stack. This observation paved the way for marketing automation platforms such Marketo and Oracle Eloqua to focus on system openness rather than product acquisitions.
- The Emergence of the Marketing Apps Category is enabling marketers to acquire and nurture customers via interactive experiences without expensive, custom programming.
- Consolidation and Diversification in Marketing Automation. Here, Scott explains that while there will be acquisitions and consolidation among the top players, new vendors will continue to emerge and innovate.
- “Ad-Tech” in the Minority in the Marketing Technology Landscape is indicative of “the seismic shift of marketing away from advertising to experience-driven marketing.”
- A Rich Collection of Agile Marketing Tools “speaks to the increasing traction that agile and lean management philosophies are gaining across more and more organizations.”
Is 'marketing' ready for digital transformation? –Michael Krigsman, ZDNet, June 29
The article first explains how digital transformation is responsible for profound changes to business models, affecting departments throughout the enterprise. Unfortunately, research shows that that: “Chief Marketing Officers risk becoming marginalized because their focus looks inward toward marketing rather than more broadly at the larger domain of organizational strategy.”
The work’s main value is Michael’s advice to CMOs (based on substantial research) on how they can avoid this fate of marginalization. First, they must understand the full implications of digital transformation:
True digital transformation is not just a website or attractive new channel for sales or customer service. Instead, transformation involves redesigning processes, strategies, business models, and even culture to take full advantage of new capabilities offered by digital mediums and technologies.
But even evolving operations, strategies and culture within marketing isn’t enough — CMOs must lead other departments through the transformation as well. Their unique understanding of the brand and customer lifecycle enables them “to envision a transformation that bridges the entire customer experience, including sales, service and product.” Success in this capacity will be determined by their ability to wield technologies, collaborate with the rest of the C-suite, and draw upon external partners to continually further their expertise — across the entire organization, not simply within marketing:
Genuinely transformative CMOs must figure out how to broaden their scope of concern, interest, and credibility to include strategy, process, and business model change that affects the company as a whole.
6 Business Benefits of Marketing And IT Collaboration – By Vala Afshar, Huffington Post, June 3
Eduardo is Motorola’s SVP of Marketing and IT, and if you haven’t seen one of his presentations, you should certainly make it a point to do so. Vala does a great job summing up the reasons businesses should implement a collaborative relationship between marketing and IT:
- Stronger customer focus — IT is typically so focused on back-office systems that it tends to forget the customer-facing systems that impact both marketing and sales, which creates tension. Collaboration inevitably leads to a holistic business view that keeps the customer top of mind.
- Cultivating an agile and insight-driven culture — Collaboration enables IT to focus on end-to-end processes within the company which span around the multiple software they may have in place, providing insights into the data and an agile approach with quick wins.
- Shift from a product to a solution-oriented mindset — Eduardo’s model replaces marketing’s old four Ps model, shifting the emphasis from products to solutions, place to access, price to value, and promotion to education — SAVE, for short: "The SAVE model starts with customers and backs into the solution and how we solve their problems."
- Improved user experience through contextual intelligence — Marketing should design the customer journey in conjunction with IT so that the technology and the customer goals are moving in lock-step all the time. Collaboration allows teams to look at all the relationship systems the company has so they’ll have a single conversation where they all come to an agreement. This creates a tight interconnect in all the groups, centered around the customer.
- Acceleration and adoption of change management —Both IT and marketing should play a huge role in culture change. On the marketing side, creating a purpose-driven company based on brand values impacts the culture of the team externally and internally. IT’s impact is equally important, influencing cultural transformation through IT systems.
- A shift from departments to integrated processes — Mapping the end-to-end experience allows you to start seeing things you would do differently, because you’re having a conversation that spans across marketing, sales and services, and you’re looking at the architecture holistically.
Questions To Ask About Your Biggest Marketing Technology Challenges – Travis Wright, MarketingLand, August 11
Travis' post provides practical advice to marketing pros rather than high-level insight to CMOs. The post discusses the changing nature of marketing and the ways technology solves problems while creating new challenges, namely, requiring marketers to evolve their strategies, processes and culture in lockstep with the evolution of marketing technology:
Management and the industry at large expects marketers to master every channel and every technology that pops up, to integrate them flawlessly and to realistically be able to forecast what’s next. Those expectations are at the crux of many marketing technology issues.
Approaching these challenges isn’t always easy, but Travis provides a couple tips to help marketers along their transformative journey:
Educate yourself — Researching thought leader e-books and white papers is a good first step toward understanding the marketing technology landscape. I particularly like this passage:
The reality is that it’s not nearly as complicated as it’s made out to be. These often aren’t new concepts, but just new ways of saying what you already know. In order to navigate what seems to be a new language, take a deep breath and (you guessed it) Google it.
Figure out what you want from your technology — Marketers should ask themselves questions regarding what they’re lacking, what solutions they require, how much are they able to spend, etc. Answering questions such as these, and identifying their specific marketing challenges, will allow them to focus their efforts, rather than waste time demoing hundreds of products.