The world of marketing is changing. Long gone are the days of the monolithic, national campaign with a single message. Today, innovative technologies have democratized communications channels allowing micro-targeted conversations between brands and consumers. This type of micro-targeting has opened up opportunities for messaging but also created a fresh set of challenges along the way.
To find out more about how this change is being felt on the front lines WP Engine Senior Director of Brand David Fossas sat down with a panel of tech CMOs to discuss ways their role has evolved amid the explosion of marketing tools and technologies. The panel, hosted by TeXchange at the Austin, Tex. offices of CBRE, featured CMOs Maria Carballosa of Zilliant, Colleen Langevin of Epicor Software and Marissa Tarleton of RetailMeNot, Inc.
When asked to describe the macro view of how things had changed, the panelists spoke about the proliferation of marketing solutions and the ways tech innovation has helped marketers be more effective, but also about the complexities that come with embracing new technologies.
“It’s been an interesting transformation,” Tarleton said. “Data and mobile tech has definitely enabled marketers to have greater visibility into the effectiveness of marketing campaigns on the business, but it’s also added a tremendous amount of complexity and a level of measurement that’s hard to keep up with.”
Some of the challenges surrounding measurement, the panelists said, come from sifting through the sheer number of metrics and analytics platforms that now exist, as well as dialing in to the metrics that provide the most transparency and then effectively communicating them internally.
“With all of these new technologies, the amount of metrics you can have is tremendous,” Carballosa said.
And once you’ve decided on the metrics to track (Carballosa recommended contribution to pipeline and contribution to revenue), building consensus around them is an additional challenge.
“The numbers you’re reporting on have to be credible, meaning your partners in the C-suite have to believe it,” she said. “So, there are challenges in doing the work, getting the work done and then demonstrating it in a way that’s believable.”
In addition to some of the new challenges the panelists are facing, they also spoke about new channels they’ve seen open up. Mobile, unsurprisingly, was at the top of the list.
“One of the most significant things that has changed for us is mobile,” Tarleton said. “We’re 90 percent mobile because I want to be where my consumer is, period.”
Langevin echoed those sentiments, saying some 75 percent of traffic to Epicor’s website was from mobile. But she added that more important is what’s underlying that statistic: an embrace of social advertising, because consumers on mobile devices are often using social media.
“It’s become another channel for us,” she said of social ads. “Where we used to focus on publications and big ads, now it’s much more targeted via social and it’s become another channel we’re using consistently.”
Educate the audience
Carballosa added that it’s not always easy to sell internal stakeholders on the importance of social media, despite its proven track record.
“It’s been fun to educate a new audience as to why, when we’re trying to reach business decision makers, we have to be on Facebook,” she said. “And we do; even when we’re doing account-based marketing, where we’re targeting very specific people with very specific accounts, half of them come from Facebook.”
One of the biggest changes the panelists said they were seeing was simply the massive scale of marketing technology solutions currently in the market. The most recent marketing technology landscape from Scott Brinker at ChiefMarTec, released last week, charts 6,829 marketing technology solutions from 6,242 unique marketing technology vendors. With so many options to choose from, they said it was an increasingly daunting task to build a MarTech stack while generating a return on investment.
“You could very easily spend your entire marketing budget on technologies and never get those dollars back,” Langevin said. “You have your foundational stack, but beyond that, you have to be very targeted about what you’re going after.”
Failure to do so can quickly result in an expensive and ultimately ineffective process, the panelists said. However, mapping it out and basing decisions on problems that need to be solved (as opposed to the next shiny thing) is a good way to move forward.
“If you think about the areas you invest in — content, personalization, data to get better at targeting — you can’t do it all at the same time unless you have a ton of money,” Tarleton said. “But, you can timeline it out. Start with the right data to get to personalization and then go from there.”
Test and Learn
Overall, the panelists repeatedly stressed the importance of being open-minded and experimental in this new, innovative world. The pivot to social advertising, for example, which would have drawn a far different reaction in most B2B C-suites even a couple of years ago, is proof that CMOs and marketers in general must adapt to reach consumers where they are.
One way the panelists said they can experiment with the myriad new technologies is through short rounds of testing to see what adds value and what doesn’t.
“From a technology perspective, we’re constantly testing and trying new things,” Langevin said. “Today, you have to constantly be experimenting.”
Carballosa added that her team will try out different things for limited amounts of time and then check results.
“You have to just test things out and determine what you think is going to add value,” she said. “What’s cool is you can test things in short bursts, for 30, 60 or 90 days, and if it works, fantastic, and if not, that’s ok.”
However, Tarleton said, even in this age of digital innovation, endless metrics and piles of customer data, there’s still some room for the marketing skills set of old.
“Sometimes you just have to follow your gut,” she said. “We test constantly but I do think if you over-test you can get to a place where you don’t make fast decisions and speed is critical. So, especially when you’re talking about one-to-one marketing, just do what you think is right and go, because you can watch the data in real-time too.”