As marketers increasingly ramp up their technology investments, they need to better plan ahead for the monumental changes that are at stake. Otherwise they may discover their shiny new toys aren’t helping anything at all, argues Digitas LBi’s Justin Peyto
We have all heard a client say: ‘I know that only half my media budget reaches my audience, I just don’t know which half’.
At the most basic level, programmatic media has helped clients solve for this dilemma by letting them buy audiences instead of reach.
However, there is now a deeper problem. Clients are investing in new technology platforms, but only receiving a limited return versus the potential.
In fact, based on 2017 research from Walker Sands, only 3 per cent of marketers get full value from their marketing technology tools. And with 70 per cent expecting to invest heavily in transformation, this presents a serious risk.
The primary causes of the problem are as such:
Marketing technology is advancing at a pace which is too fast for companies to keep up
Brands and their agency partners often have only a limited understanding of how to best implement or use technology to maximum effect
There is insufficient operational planning, support and resource allocation dedicated to new technology.
In short, there is an optimistic tendency to believe that: ‘If we build something new, it will just work’. Unfortunately, it rarely works that way.
The problem with this is that it ignores the complexity of connecting back-end systems, incorporating third-party data, and navigating the politics that come between the chief technology officer and the chief marketing officer.
So, the question is: how do today’s brands navigate the complexity of marketing transformation in ways that yield the best performance? While the answer will differ for every challenge, the following three elements are crucial:
1 – Align KPI’s across teams
Implementing a new marketing platform is a complex and time consuming task that is led by a combination of IT and an SI or experienced digital agency. But the demand for the technology is typically driven a well-meaning CMO. The problem is that IT and the office of the CTO have traditionally prioritised operational and cost efficiencies, with delivery and maintenance being the primary goal. Meanwhile, the CMO strives for intangible benefits such brand awareness, engagement and brand value.
These two business units require each other to succeed in the project of marketing transformation, and yet their objectives and KPIs for the project are unlikely to aligned. In most cases the teams hardly even speak the same language.
For most brands, the logical ask would be for each of the departments to maintain their individual KPIs, but align around a minimum of one outcome – likely to be sales – that yields business contribution rather than just efficiency.
2 – Re-evaluate the tools you use in marketing and get your agencies to do the same
Agencies tools are not keeping up with the mar tech and ad tech landscape they are intended to influence.
The creative brief has hardly changed since the 1950s. The customer journey has moved from being linear to cyclical, but for the most part it still looks at a large-scale consumer move from unaware, to engaged to purchase. And despite most every agency saying they are ‘data-centric’, data is still principally used to validate a creative idea rather than inspire the idea. And that is not how you should define data-centricity. That’s not even how one would define data fluency; instead it simply ‘data-capable’.
Agencies need to build models and tools that capable of reflecting or at least getting the best out of the technology they currently work with.
That means recognising that today’s purchase journey typically requires somewhere between 12 and 35 different brand touch-points prior to conversion.
It also means using data not just measure past performance or to validate a creative idea, but as a constant predictive measure built around new agency skills
3 – Don’t just assess technology implementation needs, but operation requirements
A marketing technology platform typically requires a large investment with implementation taking from six months to years of development.
But with such focus on the technology and the initial cost, the investment required to train teams, to recruit new skills and to update agency relationships based on new demands often get missed until after the project delivers. The recognition only comes when the business realises that they are not recognising the value promised, but at that point it might be too late.
Do you sink more money in and hope you get the technology to work for you? Or do you consider a wider set of options?
Brands must work closely with technology vendors, implementation partners, and experienced agencies at the onset of the transformation journey in order to fully account for the changes and costs that will be required.
Then hopefully that painful sentence, ‘I know that only half my budget helps me engage my audience, I just don’t know which half’, will refrain from appearing during your next client meeting.