Mastering the Pace of Technology Innovation: 9 Things Every CMO Should Do

January 19, 2018 Ginna Hall

One of the best (and toughest) things about being the CMO of a technology company is that technology is always changing. Platforms evolve—our own and those we use—and there’s a steady stream of new tools and tactics to leverage.

The complex web of companies involved in the process of delivering marketing and advertising will come as no surprise to most of you. Each year, new tech implementation gets substantially more demanding.

Implementing new tools means allocating budget, training, team and time as you integrate or move from one platform to another. This means weighing which innovations to take advantage of as each opportunity arises.

Like many of you, I’m managing change on all fronts. With the recent acquisition by Nielsen, we’re merging cultures and offerings to solve the marketing measurement, attribution and optimization challenges of some of the world’s biggest brands.

At the same time, we’re ramping up our data analysis and reporting capabilities internally to learn more about our prospects and customers. This will allow us to dig into the buyer’s journey so that we can create a better experience and provide more relevant and useful content.

In this rapidly changing environment, harnessing the possibilities of martech/adtech innovation requires insight, guts, and a fair amount of tech savvy. Here are nine things every CMO should do to get the most out of the expanding technology ecosystem.

1. Know Your Technology

The number of solutions and vendors continues to rise each year. Two main categories—adtech and martech—serve different purposes. You need both types of tech to steer your organization toward successful outcomes.

Adtech platforms drive single interactions by enabling the programmatic buying and selling of ads. Martech solutions drive long-term engagement for for existing customers and prospects—CRM platforms, creative, design, and SEO.

The two converge when data from core systems such as CRM and marketing automation feed into programs such as email, search engine marketing, and advertising. The challenge is unifying audience and marketing performance data to generate insights.

Takeaway: Learn how the capabilities and benefits of each type of tech can feed your strategy.

2. Understand That One Size Does Not Fit All

Each marketing organization faces challenges that are unique to them. Factors such as whether you offer a product or a service, cloud-based or local, one-time or SaaS, and go-to-market all determine your tech needs. CMOs need to build adtech and martech stacks that are flexible enough to be deployed to meet a variety of different needs.

Takeaway: Create the tech stack that’s the best fit for your organization.

3. Test and Verify

Much of the tech sphere is dedicated to systems designed to automate the workflow around marketing and advertising programs. Innovation tends to happen around the edges of those systems. Looking ahead, smart vendors will begin to help CMOs determine a good fit by making it easier to test and prove their software prior to a full implementation. Look for short free or paid pilot programs that allow you time to assess usefulness within your martech stack.

Takeaway: Work with vendors that allow you to test a program before you implement in the core.

4. Factor in ROI

ROI needs to be a primary factor in weighing any technology investment. Is your adtech/martech stack an accelerator toward your goals or is it getting in the way? A robust tech stack will justify investment because it will allow your organization to generate more revenue. But CMOs also need to align team size and organizational goals.

Takeaway: Sometimes you can achieve the scale that you need through technology. Sometimes you need to add more people to the team.

5. Get Data Savvy

Marketing has become a data-intensive practice. Some say that the ability to collect and analyze vast quantities of data is the biggest innovation of marketing and advertising tech. Meeting your objectives depends on being able to parse the data to know what’s working and what’s not.

Today this involves working with multiple data providers or finding a partner that can unify data from multiple sources—including your own. A commitment to developing data expertise will position you to leverage technology innovation.

Takeaway: Arm yourself with an attribution solution that analyzes and processes data efficiently, quickly and accurately.

6. Move at the Speed of Your Data

Digital programs depend on quick decisions. Marketers need to optimize channels daily using most accurate and up-to-date metrics. Multi-touch attribution solutions that update their models and metrics on a daily basis make decisions about optimizing channels and tactics in near real time much easier.

The speed of decision-making is dependent on the product category, the purchase frequency of the product and the length of the consumer’s consideration process as well as the size of your company, goals, and budget. But the need for data to be available in near real time cuts across all sizes of companies and a growing list of tactics.

Takeaway: If your ability to analyze data isn’t moving as fast as your programs are, then you have a problem.

7. Prepare for Privacy

With the launch of General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in the EU this May, companies’ access to and use of consumer data will come under heightened scrutiny.

Although GDPR only applies to businesses with customers in the EU today, brands need to prepare for much more regulatory pressure around privacy. In 2018, companies will begin to figure out how to do good marketing and reach the right people and still be compliant with regulations and others.

Takeaway: Protection of consumer data is a debate that starts in 2018, but it will take several years to create meaningful solutions and approaches that work.

8. Get Smarter About AI

Although at this stage, artificial intelligence (AI) is mostly a buzzword, any CMO evaluating tech should look for some evidence that the vendor roadmap includes the idea of AI or machine learning (ML). There is so much data that it’s impossible for humans to see patterns and make sense of it. Machines must do it for you. AI and ML can make you a better marketer and drive scale into your activities. Look for evidence that your vendor has embraced this idea and at least begun to incorporate these types of algorithms.

Takeaway: Using machines effectively is essential for future success. AI/ML can deliver tangible benefits. Look for AI as you evaluate technology solutions.

9. Pursue People, Not Personas

The goal of both adtech and martech is to help brands reach the right audience with the right message at the right time and place. Today, this means a “people-based” approach—targeting real people, not personas. This depends on getting an accurate picture of an individual and being able to recognize that person wherever they are.

Only then can you unify a customer’s experience and tailor it to their needs and expectations, while optimizing spend and campaign effectiveness. As a CMO, your tech must enable a holistic understanding of the consumer and the tactics that influence their behavior.

Takeaway: Look for tech that gives you greater insight into individual consumers across channels and devices so that you can embrace the power of people-based marketing.

A New Era of Marketing

Marketing is complex, for sure. It’s time for marketers to move beyond the world of cookies as consumers come to expect more relevant, personalized experience. Using emerging tech can help you understand consumer behavior, optimize marketing and advertising performance, and produce results.

Nielsen Attribution provides the vital information needed to understand and optimize marketing and advertising performance in the context of key audiences. Use these nine points as a guide as you navigate the expanding adtech/martech ecosystem.

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