Today’s marketers can spend hours talking about the new “multi-everything” consumer, and how customers’ instant access to information about pricing, peer reviews and other relevant data shapes their purchasing behavior in unprecedented ways. This new wave of data, while teeming with possibility, also poses never-before-seen challenges.
With that abundance of information, cross-channel marketing has become more important today than ever before. While everyone agrees on this, many organizations are nonetheless struggling to implement consistent messaging and targeting tactics across channels. Recognizing the challenges that lay ahead can help marketers pave the way for better practices.
To make the marketing organization more manageable, companies often create departmental silos; after all, it’s easier to assess the performance of five individual marketing units, each focused on a single goal. In contrast, try picturing the opposite: one department coordinating marketing activities across all channels and execution platforms, while remaining efficient and growing business for the client.
While silos may have worked well in the past, they’re not the best way to approach today’s more complex situations.
As recently as a few years ago, marketing execution sat primarily with the media agency — except for email and SEO. With the rise of marketing automation, the growth of ecommerce, and the generally enhanced ability of marketers to leverage data about their customers and prospects, it has become commonplace for organizations to assemble best-of-breed technologies in a “Marketing Technology Stack.” Simply put, a Marketing Technology Stack is the sum of all tools, ad management platforms and internally built systems used by marketers from the inception to execution of their marketing programs.
In my years of experience and having had the opportunity to handle data analytics for global marketers, it’s become clear to me that the Stack is only increasing in complexity. Need further proof? Look no further than this Scott Brinker-authored post where you can see the multiple layers of execution platforms.
I remember in the early days of digital advertising when the new big thing was acquiring an ad server. It was conceived and sold as a way for publishers, and later advertisers, to automate the delivery of ads that were originally hardcoded into web pages. Originally, it was thought to be the end-all solution that would solve all of digital marketing’s issues when it came to operations and production. It didn’t and I’ve seen the same story being repeated with every channel — e.g., paid search, social, mobile, etc.
This is where the first challenge of cross-channel marketing lies. Usually, all of the varying technologies within the Stack operate in completely separate data silos. While some technologies may have features that empower marketers to create a single customer view, many do not. The only way to truly integrate all technologies in your Stack is to build bridges across these silos and teach different sub-departments to work together effectively.
The second challenge is actually linked to the first: In companies with departmental silos, IT choices are made in an inconsistent way, often duplicating the same type of technology across departments.
Personally, I’ve seen companies use three (three!) different web analytics systems on the same website, and I’ve seen organizations track their paid search with two different bidding platforms, only to end up using data directly pulled from the search engine’s console because it was “more accurate.” In addition to being inefficient, this can cause confusion by creating multiple versions of data in different departments.
The aforementioned are only two of the various challenges involved with cross-channel marketing. In order to tackle these, businesses need to find those individuals who are motivated to build the processes that will create the necessary bridges across departmental silos. These people are happy to take on a challenge, get into the spotlight and risk making waves as they try to get initiatives off the ground.
Additionally, these professionals have to be able to negotiate everyone’s demands when it comes to rationalizing the Marketing Technology Stack, and understand which questions to ask technology vendors to ensure that information between pieces of the Stack can, in fact, be integrated effectively.
I know it seems daunting to make these shifts within your organization. The first enemy of change is inertia; change always finds resistance as an opposing force.
One thing is certain: Your customers aren’t waiting. Right now they’re comparing the prices of your products against the competition right in the aisle on their smartphone. Then they’re ordering the best-fitting product online based on reviews from their peers or social media. Presenting them with the right offer at the right moment can really make the difference in this sale, and in the next one, as they build a positive experience with your brand.