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There is no doubt about the exponential growth in the Marketing Technology landscape. It is very obvious both in terms of the sheer breadth of the types of marketing as well as the number of marketing technology vendors. It just continues to explode.

From 150 marketing technology vendors in 2011 to 3800 in 2016 and counting I am sure. From just 3 years back when we were still striving to define the Role of a Marketing Technologist, where Marketing Technology should sit within an organization, who owns the budget; the CMO or the CIO to now where most Fortune 500 and beyond have either a Chief Marketing Technologist or at least a Marketing Technology function within their respective models. We have come a long way.

I sat down with Mayur Gupta, SVP, Head of Digital for HealthGrades, the former Chief Marketing Technologist for Kimberly Clark, and author at InspireMarTech, we had a discussion on some of these topics.

Slow Response by Many Brands

Despite that exponential growth of MarTech, the response from brands and marketers has been rather slow and algorithmic. Technology has overshadowed the fundamental promise and has made us technology obsessed. There is a rush to adopt a high number of these marketing technologies, putting a tick on most areas. In the rush to go after these shiny objects, we are missing 2 key aspects of marketing and consumer experiences and relationships:

  • The need to delivering human experiences that will change behaviors and lives and inspire participation
  • The need to “apply” these technologies to drive tangible business growth

Needless to say, the whole landscape is so OVERWHELMING, marketers don’t know where to start, how to plan, prioritize, budget and scale especially if the technologies themselves change and evolve every few months. They either diversify or consolidate. – Mayur Gupta

Five Key Principles to Drive Business Growth with MarTech

While the solution may be easier said than done, here are five key principles to pierce through the clutter and focus on the “application” of these technologies to drive business growth and transformation:

1. Find the “Human” within your Marketing Technology Landscape

We need to flip the equation, shift from a technology-led approach to a human and consumer-obsessed mindset. The opportunity is in the “application” of these marketing technologies to solve business challenges like

  • Increase Market Share
  • Maximize Lifetime Value
  • Increase share of wallet
  • Drive household penetration

Or drive behavioral change for instance:

  • Drive Trial
  • Increase Loyalty
  • Build Trust
  • Or resolve for issues like Stigma as a behavioral problem, related to adoption and usage for certain type of products

“Design” a stack that will address these needs, the KPIs should center on the consumer need and the business challenge. Instead, most times we focus on delivering a personalized experience or adopting programmatic media buying capability. That needs to change.

2. Agile Methodology is your Savior, No such thing as a Roadmap

With an ever-changing landscape that diversifies faster than it converges; does anything like a roadmap exist anymore? How do you plan, prioritize and budget for these technologies? The competitive ecosystem gets more fragmented each day, smaller players are able to move faster as they have no historical baggage. So how do you compete and stay ahead of the curve? These are very real challenges that require a fundamental shift across a few aspects:

Marketing Technology Framework–Establish a framework that allows you to map and prioritize the marketing technology landscape against your needs. A process to execute a current state assessment across different dimensions:

  • Either mapped against consumer journeys–the most efficient process
  • Mapped against key technology categories and buckets–you could summarize the entire landscape within these categories; data, media, content and commerce
  • Mapped against horizontal layers

Relying on a framework, you identify the High, Medium and Low focus areas based on business priorities and consumer needs.

No more “business or functional requirements”–Move away from a technologist waiting for requirements, the traditional specifications and needs. The marketing technologist needs to think and operate like a product owner, a product evangelist who understands the only requirement–the most optimized “consumer experience”.

Always-On Assessment, Evaluation, and Adoption–There cannot be an end date to your roadmap. You need to be always assessing and evaluating new capabilities, technologies and partnerships. Dedicate a small percentage of your resources on scouting, industry analysis, thought leadership and building external partnerships.

3. No single Platform Winner aka Marketing Operating System

Many had hoped the big fours IBM, Adobe, Salesforce and Oracle to do to marketing what Apple and iPhone did to the smartphone industry; provide an mOS, Marketing Operating System that could provide a development kit to marketers and technologists to build on. It would provide all the fundamental pieces including the universal view of the consumer, the necessary connection points across different components.

The marketer could extend and build more creative applications on top of it. That did not happen. The landscape exploded at a faster rate than these players could build, acquire and integrate. So how do you survive?

Make APIs and Service Oriented Architecture your best friend.

Invest in and establish an API Service Layer in a loosely coupled architecture giving you extendibility and flexibility to plug-in and plug-out technologies as necessary. Believe in “data is the new oil”, the only lynchpin that can wire your ecosystem, tie the consumer journey together.

4. Be Clear About Your Build, Buy or Rent Strategy

It’s fascinating to see how many organizations still invest in building commoditized capabilities that are available outside at probably half the cost, more advanced and innovative and could be adopted and scaled at 10X the speed. It’s the traditional false notion of “control” and “ownership”. Unless:

  • It’s something you will sell in the market at scale
  • Or it is your core competency and it represents who you are
  • Or it makes you unique and differentiated
  • Or no one else can solve it for you

DO NOT build it; just rent it or buy it. The price for commodity capability in market is cheap. Your strategic head count is priceless. Apply that in your core competency. You may not find the perfect match but by the time you build perfection on your own, the world would have changed another 10 times. In marketing today, the need for speed is much higher than the desire for perfection. – Mayur Gupta

5. Drive Internal Buy-In & Stakeholder Influence by Measuring ROI

Just like marketing, marketing technology needs to be measurable and accountable. Quantify the impact of marketing technology investment; this is the prove point of tying marketing technologies to business objectives and consumer behavioral change. The only way you drive influence internally within the leadership is by measuring, analyzing and continuously optimizing the ROI. The return (top line growth or bottom line savings) may not be directly and singularly attributed to the technology investment, but you can measure incrementality across some of your key performance indicators.

Within the S-Curve of Innovation for Marketing Technology, we are only just getting through the early stage; we have overcome reasonable technology obstacles and have seen early. But the real application and exponential “business growth and progress” is yet to come.

That is our next chapter.

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This post was originally posted on Inc. Magazine by Travis Wright

About Travis Wright

Travis Wright is a Venture Catalyst, Digital Disrupter, Marketing Technology Entrepreneur, Interactive Awesomeizer, Technology Journalist, Stand-up Comic & Marketing Consultant.

As a journalism major in college and sports editor on his high school newspaper staff, he has always loved writing and sharing resources, “strategery”, opinions & random hilarity along with the occasional sport or political rant.

Follow him on Twitter:@teedubya or follow him here on LinkedIn: Travis Wright.