Grant Keller is a Director of Acceleration and is primarily responsible for driving the company’s growth in Europe. Based in London, he brings a passion for online marketing into the workspace, helping companies to make the most of their campaigns.
Discussions around the integrating of marketing technology systems are likely to get any marketer excited, but also hot under the collar. While no-one doubts the benefits of integration, the process of getting there is easier said than done. What can marketers do to ensure the integration promise becomes profitable business reality?
The benefits of marketing technology integration look like a no-brainer. It promises better insight into prospect and customer data, more granular segmentation and improved targeting, along with more meaningful measurement and better results. Integration of online marketing systems also helps put the user back in control of the process, so that campaigns can be quickly and easily adjusted in line with business goals.
Naturally, many marketers have been lured by the promise of being able to automate and run marketing programs, across various communication channels. With this imperative in mind, they have bought into technology systems based on compelling features and benefits.
Admittedly, there are many powerful online technology tools at marketers’ disposal: today’s email, ad serving, web analytics and search marketing platforms offer great levels of sophistication.
However, while technically capable, these systems are generally not living up to expectations: users have not always been best advised on how to use them to full effect in conjunction with their other business systems and processes. Invariably, the results have been disappointing.
For many marketers, investing in new technology can create more problems than solutions. This is particularly evident when a new system is implemented alongside a legacy one. Given the heavy investment and emotional attachment to existing technology, marketers are loathe to dispose of old systems. In this case, integration is necessary, but the process is lengthy.
With integration comes the issue of data overload. Marketers seem overwhelmed by the volume of information available. In addition, they may struggle with inconsistent reporting data, bringing into question the usefulness of the new system. For example, data from a legacy system might provide the basis for management reports, while the new system provides data that cannot be correlated with the management reports.
Managing these disparate systems is a key challenge: ways need to be found to understand the delta between the data coming from legacy systems and that of the new technology.
Equally challenging is lack of internal adoption of the new system. The effect of people’s natural resistance to change cannot be underestimated, especially with the usual teething problems associated with the new system.
The new tool can also come into disrepute because of inadequate training or lack of user sophistication. If there is no buy-in from the top or an internal champion assigned to drive the implementation, the system will fail to gain traction, and ultimately lose credibility.
In the battle to win marketer’s hearts and minds, the marketing technology industry can be its own worst enemy. Until recently, the industry has been heavily focused on the development and sales of technology systems.
As a result, there is a wide range of robust technology tools available, with many promising integration nirvana, but once the software has been sold and installed, marketers are left on their own. The management and servicing of marketing software are severely lacking.
Essentially, there is a dire shortage of skilled professionals in the marketing services technology area. Faced with constant change and intense rivalry, many experts have either left the industry for greener pastures or found themselves on the product side of the fence. This reality, coupled with increasing fragmentation, has made the management of marketing technology difficult.
For marketers, system integration tends to works well at an implementation level, but the user-level issues such as data management, technical support and training are not well catered for. Post-implementation service is often remote and impersonal. A typical response from many vendors is to cross-sell or up-sell additional software and other components, rather than deal with user issues.
While management of technology is time-consuming and demands a financial commitment, it is crucial to the success of system integration. The technology solution cannot be viewed as the end in itself, but rather the start of the journey.
What can marketers do to close the gap between technology promises and perceived value they derive from their systems? Aside from the desired outcome, attention needs to be paid to the process itself, and the steps needed along the way.
What processes and solutions can be put in place to help with integration and ensure new tools are leveraged to their full capability?
The first requirement is to identify where workflow processes can be automated and optimised. This will help to improve operational efficiency and to expedite campaign launches.
Next, the level of skill required to use the tool needs to be determined. Here, training is vital: it should not be viewed as a grudge purchase or an intrusion on time, rather, an investment in knowledge and the pursuit of better results.
Also, sufficient time should be set aside for testing to make sure the system works properly. Ideally, small user groups should be formed to help iron out initial bugs or errors. This stage is instrumental in managing expectations and facilitating internal adoption.
Importantly, reporting requirements and associated metrics should be defined up front, and the reporting process automated. This will enable reports to be customised and limit data overload. It will also make with the decision-making process a little easier.
Ongoing technical support is a critical part of the process. Whether onsite or remote, investment in this area will ensure system efficiency and support the functionality of the tool.
Having a knowledgeable partner that you can turn to for best practice advice when you hit a bump in the road. This partner needs to be able to solve your problem and implement a custom solution, rather than simply sell you another piece of off-the-shelf-technology. This is the domain of an expert.
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