Most CMOs think they have their marketing and media spend under control. But do they? Generally speaking, this budget is spread across various suppliers, each working with their own, different systems and all reporting on the basis of their own KPIs and objectives.

Technology marketers have long offered the possibility of providing transparency, visibility and control. Yet relatively few companies exploit this situation.

Is it a question of sticking your head in the sand, or is there more to it?

Mad Men, in the year 2016. What everybody already knew, was confirmed this summer: the media and activities that take place behind the scenes are a lot less transparent than we thought. The Association of National Advertisers (ANA) commissioned K2 Intelligence to carry out a six-month study on the transparency of the US media world. The conclusions were clear: discounts, kickbacks and deals behind the scenes appear to be the norm and the interests of the customer is not always leading.

If you ask me, this model has had its day

It's about time that CMOs and marketing managers gained, or regained, the upper hand when it comes to having complete insight, control of all owned and paid channels, by building bespoke reports and using their own tools. It's clearly preferable to be able to calculate your ROI on the basis of your own figures, rather than having them based on slick tables and bar charts in a PDF that appears in your Inbox every month.

Caught between the old and new worlds

Every brand should be moving towards a situation in which paid and owned media converge are equally as transparent. Unfortunately, brands and organizations are still caught between two worlds.

On the one hand there is the dependence on online media agencies that communicate on behalf of the marketer with people you don't (yet) know. Many of these agencies often, and erroneously, rely on a straightforward KPI, such as clicks, views, conversions, and so on. Brands and marketers are marooned in a world regulated by clicks and views, but with unresolved issues such as declining visibility, ad blockers, limited relevance and a lack of accountability and transparency. In other words, they offer little insight into or control of what you are actually paying for.

On the other hand there's the ambition of a data-driven organization that takes control of the situation, thus eliminating the above-mentioned problems relating to attribution and return. But try finding a system for it that you can blindly trust. Try pinpointing the software links there are between your media spend and your potential customers. On top of all this -- and this is no coincidence -- many software vendors also have their own media interests (like Google, for example), or they might even be part of your own media agency.

Turning the challenge upside-down

A step in the right direction towards getting that control is to set up a marketing technology stack. Which tools, databases and platforms can be "woven" together to increase your marketing productivity, effectiveness and profitability and make your results quantifiable? Innovation has brought powerful technology solutions, in the areas of both software and hardware, within the reach of every organization.

Ironically, as is demonstrated by a survey entitled How Marketers Get Things Done: The State of Agile Marketing in 2016, technology is not the biggest challenge that marketers face.

The five biggest challenges facing marketers are:

  1. Developing creative and innovative campaigns (37.2%)
  2. Innovating quick enough to keep up with the competition (25.9%)
  3. Having more influence on turnover and turnover growth (24.7%)
  4. Doing more with less people and smaller budgets than necessary (24.4%)
  5. Finding, learning about and integrating new marketing technologies (22.4%)

As far as I'm concerned, this list should be turned upside-down and the sequence exactly reversed. The question is: how?

My personal advice is:

  1. Make sure you have a vision on how technology should be used to help you
  2. Start building an ideal marketing-technology stack for your brand
  3. Adopt the starting point that you must maintain a central overview: one single point of truth!
  4. Build upon a data-driven strategy
  5. List the competencies you'll need to successfully execute that strategy
  6. Then weigh up which of those competencies you'll need to have in-house and which ones you will (for the time being, anyway) need to hire

Eight questions every CMO or marketing manager must ask himself or herself

A future-proof marketing-technology stack, along with its roadmap, must form the spearhead of your strategy for the rest of 2016, and beyond. This begins by taking a long hard look at the current state of your marketing infrastructure. In so doing, ask yourself these eight questions.

  1. What are the most important components of our current technology infrastructure?
  2. Do we understand all the features and functionalities of the tools and solutions we currently use?
  3. Is my marketing team aware of the role this technology plays in realising our KPIs and objectives?
  4. Is my marketing team getting the most out of the technology we currently use? (For example, are we using lessons learned and insights from data about existing customers for branding and data-acquisition purposes?)
  5. Do we have the solutions that will influence our performance? (For example, is a lack of marketing-automation software resulting in a lower lead-to-sale conversion rate, and are we making optimum use of the available (customer) data to maximise our communication?)
  6. Is there sufficient cooperation between marketing and IT to get the most out of investment?
  7. Would we benefit from more bespoke solutions, or is an all-in-one solution enough?
  8. What are we doing to stay up to date when it comes to innovation in the area of marketing-technology products and services?

The names and numbers, tools and platforms of each stack will vary for every organization, as will the priorities on which you arrange the stack, from acquisition to lead nurturing or delivery. But be aware that this is not a CRM on steroids; it is a facilitating system of connected solutions that supports your complete marketing and customer approach

For me, one thing is certain. It is the most important way to take control on the basis of facts, to communicate with your customers through the channel that is most relevant to them and to increase the ROI of all your marketing activities. Every CMO simply must devise his or her own vision and roadmap to help the organization achieve optimum results. And technology plays an indispensable role in all this. If you start with the relevant insight there are quick wins to be made with nearly all brands, both in the short and the long term.

About the Author

Ubbo Maagdenberg, Founder and CIO of Emark, a Salesforce Global Platinum Partner