What a magical world we live in, where with a simple swipe of a credit card anyone can acquire one of a thousand brand new, innovative marketing technology products!  

What a terrible world we live in, where with a simple swipe of a credit card anyone can acquire one of a thousand brand new, innovative marketing technology products! 

What's the Worst that Could Happen?

It has never been easier to quickly test new marketing technology products in the pursuit of revenue growth, customer lifetime value and reduced cost of customer acquisition. 

That’s the good news. 

The bad news is that as credit cards are swiped throughout the organization without oversight, messy, costly and painful things can happen:

  • Individuals lose track of what they’ve bought, forget to cancel or miss the “cancel before auto-renewal” deadline resulting in monthly payments or a renewed annual subscription long after a tool has been abandoned. I had one CEO tell me recently that she’s resorted to reviewing the company credit card bills every month in an attempt to figure out who was buying what
  • Multiple groups end up purchasing the same tool without deriving any cost benefit through scale. This is particularly painful when a tool doesn’t perform and team after team pays, tries and fails with the same product
  • IT loses sleep worrying that someone will accidentally acquire a tool that isn’t secure and that may leave a door open for malware or expose customer data.

The list goes on and on.  

Siloes: Part of the Terrible World?

The blame for all this mess is usually ascribed to companies having too many siloes: groups or individuals operating in isolation and not sharing information with each other.  

Operating with siloes is generally frowned upon these days in the world of marketing, but I’m not so sure that they deserve the bad rap. There's value in having small agile teams that can test, refine and perfect technology implementation without creating drag on the rest of the organization.   

Having said that, I also believe the key to success is having all functional areas working in harmony with the common objective of delivering a great customer experience at all touch points.  

So what to do? 

Clearly, reviewing credit card statements isn’t the way to go. The path to moving siloes from the Terrible World of Chaos to the Magical World lies in process and communication.  

My colleague, Duane Schulz, Chief Marketing Technologist at Xerox who works with 30 different marketing sub-groups told me that when he stepped into his role, his objective was to figure out how to leverage — not stifle — the experimentation that was happening in all the different groups. At the same time he was tasked with putting a process in place to ensure visibility for this experimentation across the organizations.

Schulz started by creating a Marketing Technology Advisory Group that included members from the various marketing departments. Over a 12-month period they effectively cataloged products in use and created a process to keep everyone aligned. 

Today, Xerox has a very effective centralized repository that tracks tools being used and tested across the organization. The group classifies tools as mainstream, satellite or independent. Mainstream tools are used across the organization, satellite tools tend to be plug-ins or extensions of mainstream tools and the independent ones stand alone. 

Anyone in any marketing organization can quickly access a list of tools being used or tested by category, by user and by owner to find new tools that might also meet their requirements.

Living in a Magical Marketing World Takes Work

It is possible to create a process for managing marketing technology acquisition and implementation effectively in a distributed, silo-oriented environment. But first, all tech purchasers must commit to the process in order to ensure visibility.  

Here’s how to get started:

  • Identify everyone currently purchasing tools 
  • Build a team of stakeholders who can effectively represent all of the purchasers
  • Engage all stakeholders in cataloging the tools in use, being tested and that have been discarded. I’m completely biased towards doing this in a stack format — not only because that’s what my company does, but also because I find a visual representation makes it easier for me to see redundancies and gaps. A collaborative spreadsheet will work as well. Regardless of format you should end up with a minimum of three distinct lists:
    • Tools in use
    • Tools in test
    • Tools discarded (the Trash Stack as my friends call it)
  • Depending on the size and depth of the organization you may also want to consider further refining the “tools in use” stack or list to specify which tools are in use across the organization, or which tools are “officially corporate approved”
  • For each tool the following information should be collected:
    • Function (this helps explain why more than one email platform might be necessary)
    • Performance information (quantitative or qualitative results experienced in using the tool)
    • Tool owner 
    • Acquisition notes — is there a contract? A central purchasing agreement? What’s the cost of the tool?
    • The auto-renewal deadline — so you don’t accidentally renew a tool that isn’t working well
  • Make sure that everyone has access to the list and is aware of any process around testing and acquiring new tools (if you don’t have a process, you may want to think about creating one — but ... keep it simple with minimal restrictions)

Once this is all in place, direct purchasers to add to the lists as they acquire new tools to test, move tools from test to mainstream, or discard tools they are currently using or have tested. In a perfect world, this would all happen seamlessly, but in reality we all know that everyone gets busy — send out a monthly reminder to the stakeholders to ensure that information stays current.

With a little process and good communication, we can ensure we live in the Magical World of thousands of innovative marketing technology tools.

Title image "Feets of Fire" (CC BY-SA 2.0) by  Kurayba