Battle of the Marketing Cloud

Posted On by Tony Spelkens

There weren’t many clouds around the weekend I started writing this post. I was hoping Scott Brinker had finished his yearly Marketing Tech Landscape to give a state in Marketing Technology (martech), but I presume this to be for the MarTech USA conference in San Francisco.

I use his landscape a lot to show customers and prospects alike that one “Selection/Email/Social-tool”, as most of them see them, is not the next one. And although the name “Selection/Email/Social tool” is a misnomer for all marketing tech out there, it is a fierce reality: we in the industry we often are led by the new martech goodies out there (Internet of Things to name just one), forgetting that customers still struggle with finding the right solution for their current (basic) needs. One might argue that they are basic needs, but if you listen closely to customers, as we all should do, those basic needs are not always what the tools focus on. And who can blame them if you just take a look at the vast landscape of martech out there.

BattleOfTheMarketingClouds pic1

In this blogpost I will focus on the following points:

  • Clouds are gathering: what are the martech vendors talking about?
  • Into the rain: what are martech customers are looking for?
  • Then lightning struck: what is the right approach for adopting martech?
  • The perfect storm: what should be your battle plan?

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Clouds are gathering

For the time I have spent in martech, I’ve had the pleasure to work with and for different martech vendors. I once heard someone say, if you know one, you know them all, but I disagree. Each vendor has his own background and focus points and these are different indeed. I tend to classify the different vendors alongside the following graph from different angles.

BattleOfTheMarketingClouds pic2
  • Email+ or Digital Platforms: these systems evolved from pure email marketing systems by constantly adding additional features for advanced selection and adding additional channels (sms, app notifications, social posting,..)
  • Analytical Systems: these systems focus on getting insights out of larger amounts of data. Their goal is mainly to get the right targets and less on what you do with the insight. One could argue that with the merger of advertising technology (adtech) and martech, that adtech is in the same playing field.
  • Content platforms: these systems typically evolved from web content management systems. With the surfacing of e-commerce, these systems needed to have more marketing capabilities and thus
  • CRM integrated: these system evolved from operational CRM sytems to add additional marketing (CRM) functionality

I’m not claiming if a vendor came from one end, that they don’t have any functionality from another angle, nor that a vendor is stuck in one angle. What’s more, when Scott Brinker for the first time introduced the term “Platform/Suite” in his martech landscape last year, he was talking about that: different martech technology bundled together.

Let’s call these Marketing Clouds.

Into the Rain

Each Marketing Cloud vendor is claiming the central spot as Engagement Systems, Marketing Automations systems, Omni-channel Campaign Management solutions, Decision Hubs or whatever other term you want to give the newest buzzword in marketing technology. This makes martech buyers more and more confused. What’s more, not only the platform/suite players claim they can do it all, but also the niche players claim the same and then martech buyers get frustrated.

Let’s have a look at what we think martech customers need.

  • Integration: it seems so obvious, but in a fragmented market of technology there are so many cases where integration is just the key word. Most of the time it should be a standard feature, but isn’t:
    • bounced emails should be coming back to the CRM: just imagine service agents asking, what the new email address is
    • people subscribed to anything (events, content, ..) or viewing, opening, downloading content should be visible within the CRM
    • content/templates created in one system should be easily reusable in the other
    • sales should be able to use marketing material at any time
    • and marketeers should be able to create campaigns (outbound) and customer journeys (inbound) taking abstraction of channels and data
  • Ease of use: how can you gain trust in a martech system if setting up basic stuff requires a huge effort? Any solution that needs heavy lifting will not be accepted and thus not used, even if it in features it satisfies current needs.

  • Fitting to one’s needs: a solution that satisfies their current needs as well as their future ones.

You can compare buying martech to building a castle. You don’t need to have a castle from the beginning, you will build slowly towards one. In other words, don’t you need a shelter for the rain first before you build a drive way? Be sure to have a solution that allows you to go from design to execution and measurement. Afterwards you can build the extra turret, by adding extra channels and managing key moments before going for entire journeys.

Those who know me, know my relentless hope of receiving birthday mailings as one of the key moments. But let me be clear, no marketeer will build a shelter if he/she knows it is the end state and not a temporary one: in marketing we all want to build castles in the clouds, not castles in the rain.

Then Lightning Struck

If I had to put my eggs in one basket/angle, I would put them in the split basket of CRM-integrated and digital systems and I have 2 major reasons:

  • True 360° view of the customer. How many times did someone talked about 360°, or even once I heard 720° (360° current + 360° future)? Truth of that matter is that you should start with a 180° and use that data. The next 90° should follow from your learnings, not your theoretic approach. Having any degree view on your customer implies linking in your CRM. And look, lightning and CRM go hand in hand: isn’t that a good sign.

  • True Close-the-loop marketing. How many times did I hear about RO(M)I, return on (marketing) investment, and how important it is even though there is no clear way to measure it? Truth of the matter is that by actually designing and executing and measuring, you learn the best. Simple learnings (email subject A works better than email subject B) out performs vast analytical interpretation in the beginning. But in the same trend, how many successful closed opportunities where influenced due to your marketing? I bet your sales managers are dying to know if their invested marketing bucks are paying off.

Let me explain my choice for the 2 former angles for your marketing, and not the latter (content platforms and analytical systems).

My choice to not take the content approach is because… content is only king if you have citizens and citizens, that is your targeting. And yes, even journeys require targeting. Take targeting away and content is just … content. This means that you will always create or reuse content, no matter if you go for an advanced martech system. Just make sure the integration is ok. Next to the targeting reason, I’m convinced that a limited number of channels (web, sms and email) is only part of the journey.

My choice to not take the analytical approach is because… I choose to not to take analytical systems as a first step. You will eventually use it to improve your marketing, but if you’re having difficulties doing your one-to-one marketing now, why bother doing it all together. Going for the analytical approach is a matter of maturity of data and organisation.

One thing I learned is that martech buyers have different levels of maturity, and that’s ok. If you call a solution a Selection/Email/Social tool, that means you want to use it for that. What’s more if you tactically opt for an advanced solution but you’re organisation is not ready, why try?

In summary, you should know your current maturity first in data, tool, processes and organisation before you go further into the path of marketing technology. Second you should chose the digital/CRM approach first and follow up with analytics.  

The perfect storm

So as the vendors are building their clouds, what do you need to do to build yourself a castle?

We think you should:

  1. Define your goals
  2. Get a clear idea on your maturity level in data, tools, processes and organisation
  3. Create your roadmap
  4. Execute quick wins
  5. But above all, please, setup campaigns, create journeys and learn.
  6. Here at 4C Consulting, we are aiming for just that. We help you design for, build with and learn from your customers by making your goals more clearly, assessing your current maturity, creating roadmaps and executing quick wins.

As I said at the beginning, it was a sunny day this weekend when I started this blog, but as it turns out clouds are gathering. Maybe there’s a storm coming up. Where’s your castle?