The marketing landscape has changed dramatically over the past 10 years and marketers are now under great pressure to achieve strong results. While the proliferation of new technologies has moved us forward in some respects, it has also brought in a new set of challenges. There are now over 8000 marketing technology providers, compared to just roughly 150 in 2011, meaning marketers now not only have great choice and variety in tech solutions, but they also potentially have a number of disparate systems working in silos.
In this ever-advancing technological landscape, it’s imperative for marketers to have a strong strategy in place in order to be successful. We often talk about this in terms of three key pillars: the first is having a strong content strategy, and this is followed by your customer experience and journey. Marketers now need to consider how they are engaging with and working with consumers to create a delightful experience that leads to successful outcomes for both the business and the consumer. Finally, based on all the different technology sets that exist, there is a strong need to not only integrate and create data flows that work to support movement of data between the different systems that support your martech stack and your sales stack, but also business process rules such as SLAs, to support the business.
A marketing automation platform can help support these three pillars and often makes it easier for marketing professionals to streamline tasks and conserve resources while delivering more productive campaigns that generate higher ROI. However, some recent research by Act-On found that marketers are struggling to effectively utilise their automation platforms.
Here are the key challenges marketers are currently facing and how these can be overcome:
- Realising value and ROI
The research shows that 55 percent of marketers aren’t getting enough value from their marketing automation platform. This is problematic, but the good news is that there are some key themes driving that lack of value which can be overcome.
Firstly, a lack of clearly defined goals and organisational alignment are often cited as a challenge that folks face, certainly with the complexity of the different systems and alignment of those processes. Alongside this, cost is increasing as additional suppliers and vendors are brought in, while the struggle of getting the right people and resources into the business to support the work that needs to be done is also proving difficult. Missing integrations and overlapping functionality can also cause problems, and all of these factors can lead to underutilisation of the tools.
The first stage to combatting this is to align your marketing goals with corporate goals. You should develop a comprehensive and metric-driven plan and think about how if you can’t measure it, you can't manage it. You need to be realistic in terms of what it's going to take – both in terms of systems and processes – that you need and make sure these are aligned with the skills you have in your team. This may require new additions to the team or training, but these will ensure optimal outcomes. KPIs should be developed by both sales and marketing and systems and tools will need to be integrated to work seamlessly. Finally, this should all be done with an eye towards the total cost of ownership and making sure that the investment that you're putting in is going to lead to the right ROI goals.
- The user experience
According to the research, nearly two in five marketers (39.6 percent) desire greater ease of use from their marketing automation platform. The main theme coming out of this challenge is that too many systems have become too complex to operate and manage. This means that marketers are spending a lot more time doing administration of systems versus being strategic in their role. This complexity is impacting the speed and agility and team skills have had to become highly specialised and technical. Finally, the extensibility of the systems and the reality that there are so many different adjacent technologies that are now part of your martech stack makes it harder to set up and maintain.
In order to overcome this complexity, marketers need to think about what it takes to implement and sustain marketing programmes. As companies implement and sustain marketing programmes, it is important to consider the marketing ecosystem in a holistic way and not as individual tools bolted together. There are a number of ways these tools can transform siloed work, helping marketers automate their monotonous work. Being able to balance strategic actions, rather than administering a platform can support marketers as they generate new leads.
- Seamless integrations and process flows
More than a third of marketers (36 percent) want to see more integrations between the various platforms they use and they want these integrations to be more robust and work better, according to the study.
Because there are so many complex tools available, which seem to be adding to complexity, rather than detracting from it, marketers need to discern what are the right technologies, processes and integrations that are needed to deliver success. A challenge is also created through a lack of documentation to support user journeys. Finally, multi-channel engagement requires a strategy and a plan.
Overcoming these centres on centralising the integrated platforms through a cohesive strategy, which enables a holistic view. Processes should be documented and build warning systems or alerts that notify you when there are breakdowns in your process and in your flows. Getting the involvement of your operations team is critical here to ensuring you build efficient user journeys and look at best of breed solution providers to leverage their experience. Finally, customer success teams should be brought in to help establish best practices and to optimise performance.
A strong, cohesive marketing strategy that links with the business goals is crucial for marketing teams to reach success. However, as outlined, there are many challenges to overcome before this can become a reality. While every marketer will face different challenges, the above three key challenges as outlined in the research can all be overcome with the right technologies and processes in place. Marketers must now seek the best partners for them that will help them on their journey and ensure all partners are integrated and delivering value.