Editor's Note: Today's post comes courtesy of Roland Smart (@rsmartly), Vice President of Social and Community Marketing at Oracle.
This Tuesday, March 17th at SXSW, Roland will be speaking on a panel about the future of marketing technology platforms. In Austin? Click here to RSVP for this 3/17, 3:30pm CDT session.
There's a battle going on today in the marketing technology world. On one side, smaller and more agile firms pitch their self-proclaimed "best-in-class" marketing tools. On the other side, the world's biggest enterprise companies (such as Oracle) promise a one-stop shop for integrating your most crucial marketing systems—including CRM, marketing automation, content marketing, data management, and social advertising among other business functions.
The related side story is supposed to play out like this: the enterprise incumbents ultimately use their deep pockets to acquire up-and-comers. By doing so, these acquirers invest in proven tools and rare product talent, and in turn shore up their own platform portfolios.
By all accounts, this story agrees with recent reality. If you're a digital marketer, you've probably witnessed the voracious pace of mergers and takeovers in just the last few years. Arguably, these are simply the moves that established players must make in order to survive your classic and stubborn Innovator's Dilemma.
However, I think there's a bit of hyperbole in this tidy narrative.
When it comes to marketing systems integration, a number of the small guys are getting really smart when it comes to building interoperability into their products. And on the innovation front, large vendors are taking the lead in forging a vision for how consumer and B2B modern marketing should be done. Consider, for instance, the products that enterprise technologists are building to prepare advertisers, publishers, and brand application developers for the Apple Watch and similar smaller-screen devices – even before these wearables hit stores.
In short, a race to the middle—that desirable intersection of best-in-class and most complete—is now fully underway. As enterprise vendors acquire newer technologies and incorporate them into their marketing platforms, they must accept the fact that such projects require a certain amount of time, resources, and process adjustment. And that, in turn, gives marketing technology up-and-comers room to compete on the same terrain (or else pivot drastically if need be).
What does this state of affairs mean for smart marketers? Three things mainly:
1) It's important to heed the modern marketing vision gap. As marketing technology providers compete with each other, it's reasonable to expect that you will continuously dream up ideal-world (if not outright futuristic) scenarios that cannot be accommodated 100% by one or some vendors. Can you currently use permissions-obtained biometric data (heart rates and glucose levels), for instance, to avoid sending messages to customers who are verifiably tired/grumpy/in high-stress mode? Not yet, but perhaps your organization has an opportunity to prepare for such a future. What's more, you should be evaluating your vendors on the basis of their ability to help you manifest your own vision as well as navigate never-ending technological uncertainty and disruption.
2) Don't indulge in the hyperbolized dichotomy of best-in-class versus deeply integrated—because that will lead you down the wrong path. For instance, if you assume that best-in-class solutions are all point solutions, you might spend too much time and money having an agency duct-taping together these disparate tools.
3) In evaluating the current landscape of marketing platforms, consider these additional factors/dimensions:
- Will you develop and manage your organization's marketing stack and services internally—with your own developers, designers, brand strategists, project managers, product marketers, data analysts, etc.?
- Or, will you rely on partners and/or third-party agencies to support the stack?
In fact, the boundaries distinguishing internal management and external management are often times blurred, given the reality that the vast majority of companies rely on hybrid marketing stacks—on both the people and product levels. Maybe your internal marketing team manages the reporting for your main website, while an outside agency generates the reports for your social media channels. Perhaps some of your marketing applications are managed on-premise, while others are powered by a combination of private and public clouds.
One last word: modern marketers have their work cut out for them, especially since they're being asked more and more to take the lead on marketing-related IT procurement. If you need a place to start, I think it makes sense to focus first on the core components of your platform. Namely:
- The foundational technology of any marketing platform is the database—ultimately, structured and unstructured data must be aggregated across all marketing systems in order to extract and deliver insight.
- In addition, the ground level of your marketing stack includes a customer relationship management platform and a marketing automation platform. If your CRM data doesn't have a high level of integrity, and if you're forced to conduct a lot of your marketing activities manually, your chances of being able to handle the rest (i.e., simply giving yourself enough time to write great marketing content) are slim.
By taking good care of this foundation, you'll uncover what you need exactly to build and maintain a first-rate, integrated, and complete marketing technology platform.