We've all heard the predictions: Gartner analysts forecast that the CMO will exceed the CIO in technology spending by 2017. 

Red-hot innovation has spurred hundreds of new start-ups and offerings in the MarTech space with an unintended consequence — massive confusion about how to invest. Forrester dedicated a special report to the challenge CMOs face, “The CMO’s Role in Technology Purchasing” (fee). It's main takeaway? Marketing leadership needs a technology vision and strategy within the context of the company’s business goals.

That puts a good deal of pressure on CMOs and their marketing teams. They're already struggling with what to buy and how to integrate, manage and measure the marketing software that comprises what we now call the MarTech stack. On top of that, we're seeing a convergence taking place of MarTech, SalesTech and AdTech — previously siloed platforms. 

The consumer is in the driver’s seat of all this convergence. The line between offline and online has blurred, if not disappeared entirely. Google, for example, reports that 82 percent of consumers use their mobile devices in making purchase decisions in store. Decisions about brands are made in “micro-moments,” according to Google, and that’s where brands need to be engaging their customers. Mobile has become a huge, disruptive force in digital marketing.

Indeed, marketing pressures to gain a single view of the customer — regardless of where, when and how they engage with your brand — is a driving force behind the convergence we’re seeing in the marketing cloud. So too is the need to track customers not just at the bottom of the marketing funnel when they make a purchase, but earlier when they research, browse and advocate across channels and platforms — all pivotal touch points in the customer journey.

A MarTech Mountain To Climb

We're still in early days when it comes to integrating the full MarTech stack and getting the greatest possible value out of emerging innovations. In light of that Scott Brinker, household name in our industry as the man behind the chiefmartec blog, recently inaugurated the first-ever Stackies Award. Its mission: to recognize well-organized marketing technology stacks in order to help companies learn from each other.

Many MarTech stacks still involve integrations with legacy systems. And closed platforms — which cannot keep up with new, best-of-breed technologies — continue to be in use.

Fortunately, we are seeing many signs of improved MarTech strategies. That’s important for two reasons: 1. to track the omnichannel consumer across every channel and/or device, and 2. to personalize communications whenever and wherever possible. How else can you truly connect with consumers in those micro-moments when decisions are made?

Guideposts on the Journey

So, what kinds of general principles support the most effective MarTech strategy and investment? Four areas in particular come to mind:

1. Make small bets

Large companies in particular tend to bite off big enterprise-wide initiatives when it comes to choosing and implementing technology to enable omnichannel marketing and personalization. 

Top-down mandates, of course, are important. They allow the enterprise to align across geographies, product lines and functions. But gaining footholds with smaller, bottom-up initiatives is equally important as a strategy. Make small bets to deliver quick wins — and expand from there.

2. Invest in open platforms

Focusing on technologies that plug into existing platforms and resources is a good way to reduce costs and implementation risk. Most enterprises have limited budget and resources, and are saddled with combinations of legacy internal systems and off-the-shelf point solutions. 

The last thing most companies want to do is completely rip and replace existing investments. Augment your current marketing choices with open platforms as the less disruptive alternative to implementing a collection of new technologies — and accelerate time to market.

3. Build omnichannel consumer profiles

The Holy Grail of marketing is engaging the consumer holistically across every offline and online channel and device. Building on the notion of early wins, start by focusing on the handful of channels most critical to your brand — and the channels easiest to integrate. Stitch together the rich behavioral and contextual data that users generate when they engage with your brand onsite, offsite and online into profiles to support targeting and personalization programs. 

For example, you can personalize onsite experiences by leveraging a combination of offsite, CRM and web-behavior data to increase relevance. And, don’t forget to test and optimize each channel based on the data from the omnichannel customer journey.

4. Own your data

For the best path to true customer understanding and highest marketing ROI, ensure your marketing cloud can collect and act on first party data from everywhere, including third party domains. This will result in your data being more accurate and actionable at a granular level. Maintaining full ownership of all your data will also allow you to gain complete freedom of movement between vendors and technologies as the MarTech world continues to evolve.

While there aren’t hard-and-fast rules for building a great MarTech stack, it is essential to be thoughtful about new technology investments that support your marketing initiatives. A marketing cloud that enables you to move at the increasing speed of consumers has just upgraded from the “nice to have” to the “must have” category.

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