By Jill M. Speirs

Genuine customer experiences are now possible — but only if the right technology is deployed for the right reasons.

The marketing technology industry is over 30 years old, and while it is delivered major benefits to businesses, marketing teams continue to struggle with the same three core issues year after year:

  1. A lack of consolidated data in a single place.
  2. A siloed work environment using multiple tools that can’t talk to each other.
  3. Technology driving processes rather than vice versa.

However, things are now changing. I believe we’ve now reached a point where it’s possible for marketing teams to use technology to move from simply pushing messages that drive customer engagement to creating genuine, personal customer experiences. Here teams can react one-to-one in real-time to individuals’ needs and behaviours — in other words, enabling a two-way conversation.

Given the potential marketing technology delivers, how can the three core issues be addressed?

Ensuring adoption by focusing on user needs

It’s often the case that after technology has been selected and deployed, end users start blaming it for not being able to do what they need it to do. In fact, it’s not the technology itself that’s at fault, but the process that was undertaken to choose the technology that is flawed.

What’s usually occurred is that technology selection has been solely driven by an RFP/RFI process which has asked multiple team members or departments within an organization to put together a list of “what we think we need”.

Here’s a recent example of an RFP I saw that focused solely on the following selection criteria:

  • Pricing methodology
  • 150+ questions on customer profile, channel capabilities, app marketing and web marketing
  • Insurance
  • Security review
  • Customer references

These are all important questions, but this approach misses out three key fundamentals which need to be addressed before any new technology is selected:

1.Base the decision on the roles of your different marketing team members

Firstly, it’s essential that the technology is matched to the make-up of the team — are the end users all in marketing or is the team a mix of marketing and IT?

If you don’t take the time to understand who your end user team is and how will they be using technology, how can you be sure that the new solution will enable them to fully automate their roles and actions? Typically, team members will fulfil one of four key roles: data analysis; campaign development; creative and messaging; and campaign management. Each has specific needs, and you have to be sure that the technology meets all of their requirements if automation is going to be successful.

If you don’t take the time to map out your team’s business process and align it to technology, disconnects are inevitable. Selecting a solution that only partially addresses your team’s requirements means that another technology solution will be needed to plug the gaps, or you’ll have to settle for working with a suboptimal solution, leading to manual workarounds and compromises within marketing operations.

2. Understand current and future customer journeys

The second fundamental of technology selection is establishing exactly what you want to achieve. Take the time to map your current and desired future customer journeys and confirm that the new technology can actually deliver on all of these needs.

Start by determining a set of customer journeys from each of the following types:

  • Simple: welcome series, abandon cart, newsletters;
  • Intermediate: automated campaigns, triggered emails; and
  • Advanced: very specific, multi-channel journeys.

Once you’ve mapped out each step within the journeys, you need to align these steps to the capabilities of the marketing automation technology that you’re considering. Make the technology vendor prove that each and every step in your customer journeys can be automated by its technology. Running the solution through its paces is the only way to determine if you’ll get the 100 percent automation that you are looking for.

3. Deploy a single platform that can bring your entire team together

The most important success factor when selecting a technology solution is aiming for a single platform that can design, build, deploy and report on all of your customer journeys.

Currently, each marketing team member is likely to be using a different tool to do their role, and these technology solutions don’t easily integrate with each other. This creates an inefficient, not fully automated process, defeating the main reason for deploying a marketing automation solution in the first place. Manual processes remain — for example, processes are routed through email or have to be uploaded from one tool to another. And critically, this means that team members are not working from a common data source.

If we’re going to move to a world where genuinely interactive one-to-one customer experiences are the norm, then companies need to take a step back in the procurement process and focus on the three fundamentals described above. This will drive the adoption of holistic marketing automation solutions that meet the current and future needs of all team members, across all types of customer journey, therefore accelerating marketing success for your organization.

Kelsey Stumpf, Director Digital Marketing at IHMVCU explains why focusing on the roles and responsibilities of her team, their customer journey needs, and a single platform was fundamental to their technology selection process:

“Currently, we use multiple technology platforms for our various channels — any communication between them is manual and leaves room for error. We also can’t accurately follow customers between these channels or seamlessly maintain touch points. As such, we are looking for a platform that integrates across multiple channels — our website, email, SMS, and push notifications. We want to create a complete journey for the customer from the first time they interact with us and throughout their membership. We need a single platform that allows all team members to complete their job responsibilities, whether they are designing a campaign, sending an email, updating a webpage or doing all three. Rather than being frustrated by navigating multiple platforms, they need to have a single platform they can become an expert in so as to do their job seamlessly and more efficiently. This should also lead to higher employee retention. If team members feel like experts, they’re likely to be more satisfied with their role. It also allows for easier cross-training, so if a team member is sick or on vacation, someone else can easily hop in and cover for them.”


 Jill M. Speirs is President and CEO of M2 Partners.

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