pug with its tongue sticking out
PHOTO: Daniel Sandoval

A few months back, Gartner released its CMO Spend Survey 2017-2018 (registration required), which showed marketing budgets slipped from 12.1 percent in 2016 to 11.3 percent in 2017. The report also noted a 15 percent drop in the percentage of the CMO’s budget that is allocated toward marketing technology.

These numbers should give marketers pause and make us wonder if we’re truly getting the biggest bang for our buck when it comes to our marketing tech stack. The reality is, too many organizations aren’t extracting maximum value from their investments and aren’t connecting with customers in the ways they had hoped.

MarTech Sprawl is Real

Today’s marketing technology landscape is far more complex than ever before, with thousands of vendors vying for your business across every stack layer, from analytics to CRM, marketing automation, lead generation, advertising, social, content management, and the list goes on.

But when was the last time you took a close look at how these tools are working together to drive customer experience and business growth? Are they working in unison to drive a cohesive customer experience? Or, and more likely, do they exist in silos, failing to deliver fully connected experiences that recognize each customer and provide the right information or offer in their moment of need?

Now is the time to reevaluate your martech stack and take a close look at your infrastructure to identify how to put your existing investments to work in the interest of your customers — and growing your business in an age when experience matters.

Related Article: How to Simplify and Increase the Complexity of Your MarTech Stack at the Same Time

Adopting a Customer Journey Mindset

I’ve talked a lot about the customer journey in my past posts. It’s no secret that today, customers are in the driver’s seat. Brands are expected to reach out with relevant and actionable content and offers across digital and non-digital channels if they want to win, serve and retain customers. Personalized customer engagement is mandatory for businesses that want to compete, across every market. As a result, marketers face a more challenging environment today than ever before.

The proliferation of channels, martech and adtech systems, and the abundance of customer data and content has expanded the responsibility and purview of marketers exponentially. Meanwhile, many companies still have marketing technologies living in their own silos, creating a complex and disjointed marketing infrastructure that may make their already difficult jobs harder than necessary.

Related Article: How to Take Customers on a Better Digital Journey

Making It All Work Together

When marketing technologies are not being used in a concerted effort and the information they possess is scattered in bits and pieces across the organization with no central repository, it’s likely that marketers aren’t seeing a comprehensive view of their customer.

This makes it virtually impossible to execute data-driven customer journeys tailored to the prospect or customer at every touchpoint and to deliver valuable offers, content and experiences.

This is the new requirement for the modern marketer, and to do this, organizations must unify technology, touchpoints and customer data. This is the only way to truly deliver optimal omni-channel, one-on-one engagements across digital and non-digital channels.

Related Article: The Path to Customer Centricity Lies in Dismantling Data Silos

Steps to Creating Engaging Customer Journeys

Connecting all the pieces of the customer journey is a multi-step process: the first step is creating the right marketing infrastructure to meet the needs of your business and your customers.

Unfortunately, there's no handbook for this since it will be different for everyone. But new technology solutions are available to help marketers better understand their customers, make existing investments more valuable by connecting disparate tools and channels of engagement, and help unify various sources of customer data to orchestrate great experiences in the moment.

The best place to start is by thinking about your marketing and customer experience tactics and aligning them with your customers’ challenges and goals. Think, too, about what an ideal state for your customer experience might look like. Below are some steps to help you start this process:

1. Take the time to understand your customers’ motivations and map the customer journey.

Your customer is in charge of their journey, and, ultimately, how and when they interact with your brand. So, it’s time to adopt a customer-first mentality. Place the customer in the center of the universe, and think about them as individuals, each with wants, needs, desires and goals. Are they trying to buy a new TV, obtain a credit card, buy life insurance, get customer support for their new cell phone, book a hotel? What do they require to accomplish their goal?

2. Unify customer data to create a 360° actionable customer view.

Building successful personalized customer journeys comes down to knowing your customers intimately — and having the right customer data and connected systems in place. We know you’ve got a lot of data. Make it a primary mission to unify this data to create a single view of the customer to drive an end-to-end, personalized customer experience.

3. Connect your disparate martech and adtech to work seamlessly together.

Brands struggle to manage a diverse ecosystem of marketing tech and adtech that drives content and experiences across channels. The problem is, these technologies operate in silos. To achieve unified customer experiences, it’s critical to connect disparate tools so they work together if you’re going to execute data-driven personalized experiences.

Related Article: Forget MarTech Convergence, Here Comes MadTech

4. Understand your content ecosystem and personalization capability.

Delivering great customer journeys requires targeted content to engage individuals. Content is your fuel for successful customer outcomes. You need a clear understanding of your customers’ interests to create the right content, in the right format (e.g. videos, blogs, white papers), and engage with them across the customer journey.

5. Trigger the best actions and offers at the right time.

To make personalized customer experiences work across the customer journey, especially on a large scale, customer journey orchestration tools can help. This powerful technology lets you plan for journeys and sequence communications and interactions that are both digital and nondigital, from in-store to web, email, or even across social.

6. Create a report card that indicates what’s working (and what’s not).

You’ll never know if your customer journey strategy is successful without analytics to help you measure and evaluate customer engagement metrics like conversions along the journey path. Analyze your customer journeys to understand what content individuals are consuming, what channels they’re using, what’s converting and when. Iterate, rinse, repeat.

At the end of the day, it’s up to each brand to harness as much of the journey as they can to achieve their goals and satisfy their customers. An efficient, well-oiled marketing stack working in harmony with itself can go a long way toward forming these engagements and, ultimately, long-term customer relationships.