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[Framework] Modern Marketing: Today’s Marketing Process and “Marketing Cloud” Technology Platform

Andrew Jones

What will 2015 bring marketers? Rather than look into a crystal ball, we have only to look at the present.

Today’s marketers face unprecedented challenges and extraordinary opportunities. Both stem from an empowered and dynamic consumer that creates more data than ever before. As a result, the very process of marketing is changing and marketing technologies swell in number. No single “mar-tech” platform will ever exist (even if a new Marketing Cloud category can help with a foundation), so marketers must identify those technologies that best complement their unique marketing process. This post, based on dozens of interviews with brands, technology vendors, and consultants*, establishes a framework to align the process and technology of modern marketing.

Marketing Today: Unprecedented Challenges and Opportunities

The widespread adoption of social and mobile technologies has empowered consumers, and their buying journey is more complex than ever. They have access to more information than ever and a voice to praise or complain. And they now expect to have relationships with brands, which entails two-way, relevant, consistent conversations and experiences.

Rather than just communicating the value of a product or service, marketing increasingly involves relationship management. And because relationships are predicated upon an understanding of who the individual is, customer data is more important than ever.

Know and Engaging Today’s Customer

For each new channel or device a consumer adopts, it creates more data. Each new piece of data represents a tremendous opportunity to gain new customer insight. Yet it is also a challenge, because with more data in more new channels and devices, marketers increasingly see disconnected data fragments rather than a better view of each individual customer.

Most companies today are engaging with audiences on email and a variety of social media like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Instagram, Yelp, Flickr, blogs, private communities, and more. Meanwhile, time spent on phones and tablets has surpassed time spent on PCs and time spent on apps is far greater than mobile browsing time. We are also at the advent of a new surge of connected devices, like our cars, watches, glasses, home devices, and more. It’s harder not only to tie together the actions that an individual takes, but also to reach that individual with the right message at the right time and place 

Marketing Technology has Proliferated, but is Often Implemented Haphazardly

Companies have rushed to invest in new engagement tools to reach customers in new channels—and many vendors likewise rush to address new needs. Scott Brinker, who tracks the growth of marketing technology, has found the number of marketing technology vendors grew from approximately 100 to 1,000 between 2011 and 2014. But often lost in the rush is how new tools fit into the greater marketing process.

The majority of marketing technologies are focused on a single channel or point of customer interaction. Brands have needed new tools to reach customers in new channels, but with each new tool that is not integrated with the others, the ability to understand and engage the customer becomes more disconnected, incomplete, and uncoordinated.

What are marketers to do? What goes into the marketing process today, and what technologies best address it? The following framework shows the distilled modern marketing process as well as the core technologies that enable it.

Modern Marketing Framework: Process & Technology

marketing process and technology

Note: not included are related technologies like data storage, processing, and visualization

 Know  Engage

Data from Interaction

Each customer interaction is a point to learn about him. Most of this data is in a silo, though. Next is to unify it with Customer Identity.

Relevant Content

Identity sets the stage for creating personalized content. As companies move from a limited number of customer segments to true personalization, however, they face the challenge of creating and managing far more content at scale. Once we have personalized content, we need Coordinated Engagement.

Customer Identity

One-to-one marketing requires some form of identity. And in today’s cross-channel world, it is necessary to consolidate data from multiple channels to gain a holistic view of the customer. Now that we know the customer, next step is to create personalized content.

Coordinated Engagement

Personalized content needs to be delivered consistently, in a coordinated way across all the customer’s touchpoints. After engagement, we need to collect data from interactions.

Marketing Cloud: Modern Marketing Foundation

Marketing is the only part of the business today that doesn’t have a core technology platform. No single platform will ever solve all challenges throughout the process, yet there is efficiency to be gained by consolidating at least certain foundational elements. Most marketers will always have to compile their own marketing technology stack, but some vendors are trying to build can help establish a strong technology foundation.

Although not alone, Oracle, Salesforce, and Adobe in particular have been busy building their “Marketing Clouds” to address this need. Each of them has marketing technology in each of the four quadrants of the marketing process framework—and each vendor has its strengths and weaknesses. IBM, Microsoft, and indeed even less complete solutions can be viewed in context of completing the marketing process.

Building your Marketing Cloud

Building a Marketing Cloud should depend on your biggest pain points. Those pain points should be based on your customer journey, gaps in experience delivery in that journey, and ultimately the technologies needed:

1) What is a compelling digital customer experience for your customer journey?

2) What’s missing in that journey in terms of customer experience?

3) Which technologies are needed to close those gaps and complete the marketing loop?

Prioritize those and focus on the vendors that can best address them.

Technology selections must consider your current marketing process — inevitably unique to each company, even if the basic process is similar — and what will best integrate with existing technology infrastructure. In few cases will it be possible to rip and replace legacy systems. Organizational factors, as always, will be another consideration. We’ve heard similar comments in various interviews: “Teams already have a hammer in their hand and they want to keep using it.”

What do you think?

The primary marketing perspective has always been to look at the customer — whether a funnel, journey, or something else — and that will always be most important perspective. But marketers have not had a framework through which to look at and organize the marketing process and technology. They haven’t really needed one, because only recently have they both become so complex. This framework is based on many interviews as well as ongoing research — but is it complete? Is something missing? What do you think is the best way to know and engage today’s customer and to make sense of such a complex field of technology?

*Companies interviewed in the course of this research:

Adobe, Ancestry.com, Attentively, BlueConic, CAKE, Conversant, Cox Media, DirectBuy, Falcon Social, Gigya, Greater Toronto Airport Authority, IBM, InsightPool, Janrain, Kenshoo, Lighthouse3, Lithium, Lytics, MarketShare, MomentFeed, nGame, Nimble, Philips, Storage, Oracle, Polycom, SailThru, Salesforce, SAP, SDL, Spredfast, Sprinklr, Targetbase, Tealium, TheClymb, ThomasNet, Universal Music Group, Wpromote