Marketing Tools and Technology – How Does A Marketer Decide?

Much of marketing today is all about using new technologies to drive better decisions, more effective campaigns and more efficient customer support.  Technology is becoming critical for marketers to remaining competitive.

Yet new technologies rise up every day and cut across many areas of the marketing supply chain such as content, media, analytics, CRM, marketing automation, social media, reporting,  etc.

So how does a marketer decide which technologies to test and use to grow their business?

A colleague of mine suggested this excellent question for my blog recently and I had no idea how to answer her. So I asked some of the best marketing minds I know to tell us how they approach all the new technologies in the marketing landscape.

The key takeaways from these 5 experts highlighted below: have a solid process, clear goals, a culture of testing and  innovation and listen to customer needs.

Cheryl Burgess is the Managing Partner at Blue Focus Marketing. Cheryl has written about this in the Quest For The Marketing Technologist, so she was the first person I thought of to ask.

First, you need to create a business process for reviewing new technologies.  This may include establishing a small team of marketing/technologists who understand both the marketplace needs from a customer perspective and, of course, technology.  To keep this process less than a full-time team endeavor, you must establish specific criteria to help the team determine (quickly) if the new technology has potential to be adopted and in what time frame.  For example, a hot opportunity gets more time and attention from the team compared to a technology viewed to be of a lesser (back burner) opportunity.   To avoid pitfalls, the firm must develop actionable criteria, used systematically for each new technological assessment.

The goal is to determine the technology with the highest expected value to the firm.  Specific criteria become the basis for determining the course of action, e.g., leading to a trial or pilot.  For example:

1) Provider’s brand reputation, 2) potential market impact, 3) interoperability across our  technological platforms, 4) implementation cost, 5) cost savings, 6) time savings and other expected business benefits, 7) handle internally or outsource,  8 ) business risk assessment, 9) meets overall business needs, 10) ease of use/simplicity

Current example of Google+.  An immediate technology review was warranted because of Google’s brand power.  It didn’t matter if previous social media ventures (Google Buzz and Wave) resulted in failure.

Scott Brinker is President & CTO  of ion interactive, a company that delivers post-click marketing software and services. He is also the author the Chief Marketing Technologist blog where Scott demonstrates his leadership in this area.

I believe there is value in both a top-down and a bottom-up approach to managing marketing’s technology landscape.

The top-down approach is to focus on the business needs — start with the strategic objectives of marketing, the differentiators of the brand, and the desired customer-centric capabilities — and then do a targeted evaluation of technologies that are “known” tools or components for the implementation of those business needs.

The bottom-up approach is to maintain awareness of new marketing technologies being released — TechCrunch, ReadWriteWeb, AdAge are great sources for these announcements — without examining them too deeply or thinking too hard about how to immediately apply them.

The bottom-up approach feeds ideas and new options into the top-down approach.

Of course, I’d advocate that a technically-savvy individual in marketing take the lead in managing the department’s technology landscape — the role of a chief marketing technologist, a marketing CTO.

Steve Woods is co-founder and CTO of Marketing Automation provider Eloqua. Steve is also the author of the book the Digital Body Language, the Digital Body Language Blog and the user-community blog Eloqua Artisan.

In the past decade, we’ve transitioned from an environment in which marketers were able to define what messages they sent out, and over what channels, to an environment in which buyers are exclusively in control of what information they discover.  This means that the decision of which channels to participate in is one of understanding how buyers discover information, and where they are when they discover it.

Buyers generally discover information in three ways; actively, passively, or through influencers.  Active discovery is where buyers directly seek a piece of information – as they would in a search on Google.  Passive discovery is where buyers stumble across a piece of information that they were not directly looking for, as they would with great content or an advertisement that caught their attention.  Influenced discovery is where buyers receive information through the people whom they trust in their social graph.

Marketers today need to think of their communication options in terms of how buyers discover information, and from that, where they need to be in order to be discovered during a buying process.

To determine which of the many new marketing outlets to use in a business, marketers need to follow a three step process; first map out the set of questions, from earliest stages of awareness through to close, that a buyer goes through.  Then, for each question, determine how a person is likely to discover this information – actively, passively, or through influencers.  Finally, map each question to its most likely place of discovery, and ensure you are found there.  This might lead to better content and search engine optimization if you notice that buyers are actively discovering information on your products via search, or it might lead to more social media engagement if you find that buyers are being educated via influencers on how to think about a particular market space.

Jonathan Becher is EVP and acting CMO at my employer SAP. Jonathan writes the Manage By Walking Around Blog and is a former CEO of three software firms. I asked Jonathan to help answer this question because he knows Marketing Technology from both a leadership and a marketing perspective.

I think these tools have an analogy with transportation.  There are many modes of transportation: walking, bicycles, motorbikes, automobiles, buses, trains, planes, etc.  Each is better suited to different transportation needs depending on the distance I have to travel, the time I have to get to my destination, the amount of money I have to spend, the environment between point A and B, the number of other people likely travelling at the same time, and other factors.  Based on these imprecise factors, I choose a mode of transportation. Within a mode of transportation (perhaps automobiles), there are also choices of consumption (purchase, rent, timeshare, borrow) and choice of types (SUVs, sedans, convertibles).

Each consumer likely chooses a primary mode, consumption, and type that suits them for most of their needs.  When the primary doesn’t work, they then go to an alternate.  When evaluating the investment for the primary, they can either try to become an expert by doing lots of research (think buying a car) or go to a trusted expert (friend, professional service).

The exact same thing holds true in this space.  Five years ago I did research to figure out what service to use for my personal blog.  I was still confused and asked a expert.  Now, people ask me.  In evaluating whether I should switch from Twitter to Google+, I’m doing my own research but Dennis Howlett’s recent public decision to drop twitter will impact me greatly.

Mike Volpe is CMO at inbound marketing software company Hubspot. Mike blogs at Marketing With Mike and also on the Hubspot Blog. Mike answered the main question and graciously added two excellent follow-ups:

How does a marketer decide which technologies will produce the best business outcomes? 

You can’t know for sure in advance.  The key is to test and experiment.  At HubSpot, we do agile marketing for that reason – it provides for a lot more flexibility and ability to experiment.  We’re constantly testing new things and seeing if they work (like Twitter back in 2007) or don’t (like Google Buzz back in 2010).  Stop trying to guess what will work, and start building a culture and structure that embraces experiments. 

How many “point solutions” do we really need?  

Marketers have always tried to cobble together a bunch of different tools because no one gave them a single platform to manage everything in one place.  I think that is a huge problem, and that is one of the core 2 problems with marketing that we solve at HubSpot.

What do we outsource?

You should outsource tactics, not strategy. The strategy of what you do needs to come from the people that have the most to win or lose with the business itself, and who live and breathe your culture.  No outside firm will ever have the same incentives or cultural experience as an employee.  However, once the strategy is set, there is nothing wrong with getting someone on the outside to do the work to execute on it.

Well I cannot thank these amazing marketing leaders enough for their perspective on this tough question.

But now it’s your turn. Tell us what approach you take to decide which new tools and technologies in the marketing landscape can help grow your business.

Michael Brenner

Michael Brenner  is a Top CMO, Content Marketing and Digital Marketing Influencer, an international keynote speaker, author of "Mean People Suck" and "The Content Formula" and he is the CEO and Founder of Marketing Insider Group, a leading Content Marketing Agency . He has worked in leadership positions in sales and marketing for global brands like SAP and Nielsen, as well as for thriving startups. Today, Michael helps build successful content marketing programs for leading brands and startups alike. Subscribe here for regular updates.

2 thoughts on “Marketing Tools and Technology – How Does A Marketer Decide?

  1. Great post Michael! As a former technologist and a current CMO, I appreciate the post and the comments. I’ve seen so many tool vendors and technology vendors now getting crossed over to ‘Marketing Automation’ and ‘Marketing Integration’, yet, as a CMO I can tell you that many of them still come short of realizing the true complexity of the marketer’s role and their relationships within an organization (with a CIO, for example). Marketers should insist on an integrated approach in the tools and technologies as well – it’s the only way to scale your operation, your footprint, and your impact on your audience. But most importantly, after working within the Enterprise for many years, I realized that unless I start with my overall goals and expected returns, the technologies and tools are meaningless. Hence, start with that and move towards the best toolset that fits your goals, objectives, your organizational readiness, and your quest for integration and scalability. Or build your own! And this is where the partnership with the CIO comes to a fruition.

    1. Alex, thanks so much for your comments. I think you are spot on with the need to tie any technology initiative to business goals. This is something I feel really strongly about in all of marketing endeavors. And a tight relationship with the CIO is also key.

      Best, Michael

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