By James New
APAC Marketing Director, Marketo
Some in the marketing world have always been attracted by what’s bright, shiny and new. The latest applications, new gadgets, emerging social media platforms – they’re onto it, trying it out and finding ways to incorporate it into their next marketing program. The argument is, you have to be up with the times so you can communicate with customers in the way they expect. What’s more, the senior folk in the business expect their marketing chiefs to know what’s new in the consumer world, otherwise, what are they doing all day?
It’s of little surprise, then, that almost 40 percent of respondents to research of marketers in ANZ by The Economist Intelligence Unit said they plan to increase investment in social marketing over the next few years. A quarter also said they would invest in mobile marketing, a few more in marketing analytics and almost the same were investing more in email marketing.
This is great news. Marketers have recognised the role that technology will play in their future and they are spending money on solutions that will help them build a stronger communications bond with their prospects and customers.
There’s only one drawback. Is this love of all things shiny and new, distracting marketers from building an integrated approach to technology?
In the past, lack of data has been a bugbear for marketers. They’ve found it difficult to accurately track sales back to originating campaigns. Data from core business systems, often designed to provide high level metrics, don’t give the detail marketers need to do their job properly. CRM systems, which could have helped, have often implemented with little involvement from the marketing team. Instead they’ve been a collusion by Sales and IT.
These days, marketing automation tools have added a layer of sophistication above the conventional CRM system. Today it is possible to track the source of leads and monitor their progress through the marketing journey, to the point of sale or to the stage at which a contact is handed over as a qualified lead to the sales team. Integrated into your business such a system works across all channels of communication, including social, email, websites, and, yes, whatever tomorrow’s bright and shiny new thing is.
This is a quantum shift for marketers. At last they are able to track behavior with real-time analytics. Yet, The Economist research has just 13 percent of ANZ respondents saying they intend to invest in marketing automation and integration over the next few years – a few percentage points below the rest of the world.
Could it be that marketers are losing the big picture? They see the need for technology, but are focusing on siloed tools for each new thing that comes along. The risk of that approach is that they add to the pool of disconnected data. They know how many people have responded to a mobile promotion, but can they tell which of those people visited the website, or responded to an email, or downloaded a white paper?
Yet, marketers understand the importance of managing the end-to-end lifetime experience. Almost three quarters of respondents agreed that this will be an important job for them over the next few years. The question is, to get them there, will they take a holistic, integrated approach when it comes to the technology? Or will they make short term decisions based on what’s new and exciting?
Part of the answer might lie in the response to the question, ‘Which future trends will have the biggest impact on marketers by 2020?’ ANZ marketers were more likely than those overseas to highlight virtual or augmented reality. That’s a step beyond the rest of the world where more than half suggest the internet of things will have the biggest influence. So, are we just a step ahead? Are we more visionary, or is it because we are looking at the next big thing to distract our focus from an integrated approach to marketing?
I suspect it’s the latter. Integration isn’t a very exciting word. It sums up thoughts of overly complex IT projects, running significantly over budget and failing to live up to their promise. But that’s changing. Tracking customers’ digital behaviour is now possible with off-the-shelf software, with open APIs making integration with other core systems a relative breeze. Such a capability is, undoubtedly, the next big thing in marketing. The more ways there are to communicate, the more essential it is to have an engine that manages it all and gives you an understanding of what’s working and what’s not. Check it out, before you don that augmented reality helmet.