Every day, marketing executives confront a multitude of tough challenges to ensure their organizations stay ahead of the competition and their campaigns break through the clutter. These challenges range from targeting the right audiences, to personalizing messaging, to leveraging new digital technologies, to effectively managing complex multi-channel marketing campaigns in a rapidly changing environment.
To tackle these challenges, we’ve seen a significant increase in the availability and adoption of marketing technologies. Hundreds of vendors offer diverse applications such as campaign management, marketing resource management, marketing analytics, and content marketing. But, how can marketing executives know which technologies are right for their organizations and how they should implement them? What is the right sequence of technologies to purchase, how often should these choices be re-examined, what kind of new organizational capabilities should be built, and how should the value of the technology investments be measured?
Some organizations have deployed these technologies elegantly, allowing them to dramatically improve marketing effectiveness while creating compelling customer experiences based on deep insights and robust personalization capabilities. According to the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), meeting consumer expectations for real-time interactions and services is the single most important disruptive force facing marketers. Others have struggled to realize the value of their marketing technology investments and fall behind. The results of investments in marketing technologies are mixed, at best. A report published by the CMO Council in 2016 shows only 17% of respondents indicate the investments made to date in marketing and commerce technology solutions met or exceeded expectations.
When it comes to technology, marketers face a paradox.
Many of the technologies, while ostensibly aimed at enabling more effective customer journeys, actually add to the clutter and intrusiveness of marketing efforts from a customer’s perspective. How many of us dread sharing our contact information, specifically our email address, on a website since we believe this action will result in more emails and other forms of interruption marketing? How many of us genuinely enjoy being the “beneficiaries” of seemingly never-ending re-marketing or re-targeting efforts after a one-time exploratory website visit?
Figure 1 captures the dimensions of this paradox – the challenge of balancing between improving the customer journey and experience, making marketing processes and workflow more efficient, and developing new insights about impact and effectiveness.
What’s a marketer to do?
Explicitly recognizing the inherent tension between these sometimes conflicting objectives helps. Putting both customer experience and process complexity filters into any decision-making process related to marketing technologies brings the issue to the surface and forces a marketer to understand potential consequences.
I leave you with questions marketers need to incorporate into their evaluation process (in addition to questions they will undoubtedly already be asking about functionality, cost, risk, and sustainability):
- Will the introduction of this new marketing technology be visible to my customers?
- How, if at all, will it change the customer journey and experience?
- Will customers view these changes as beneficial? If not, are there mitigating actions we can take to reduce the adverse impact?
- Will the changes require customers to act/behave in a different manner? What will we need to do to help them adapt to these new behaviors?
- Will the changes create complexity from a marketing process or workflow standpoint?
- What can we do to mitigate the impact of this new complexity? What training do we need to provide to our marketers to help them adjust to this new complexity?
- How long a transition should we expect?
- Can we pilot or test the new marketing technology solution before we deploy it fully?
- What resources do we need to conduct a true “test and learn” environment that makes us better consumers of marketing technologies?
It’s clear marketing challenges prompting CMOs to search out marketing technology solutions will not go away in the near-term, nor will the challenge of navigating the marketing technology paradox. But, confronting the paradox head-on can only benefit all concerned parties.
Written by Jonathan Copulsky, Senior Client Service Principal and Chief Marketing Officer (Retired)
Edited by Mengwen Li, Medill IMC Class Of 2017
 See “Marketing Disruption: Technology to the Rescue,” ANA, February 14, 2017. Available for download at http://www.ana.net/miccontent/show/id/rr-2017-marketing-disruption (accessed 4/3/17)
 See “Context, Commerce + Customer: Best Practices to Exceed Expectations,” CMO Council, June 2016. Available for download at https://www.hybris.com/en/downloads/white-paper/context-commerce-customer-best-practices-to-exceed-expectations/591 (accessed 4/3/17).