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Posts Tagged ‘cross-channel’

I’ve been doing a deep dive into the integrated marketing management segment over the past few months. My goal has been to unravel the complex vendor landscape; to help marketers discern the capabilities of distinct vendor segments; and to help figure out what is a ‘best fit’ for their marketing organizations. (While we’re on this topic, as an update for those following this series, I DO plan to publish the final installment of my three-part series on the ‘Top 20′ platform vendors in this segment – i.e., the final ‘list’ – at some point over the next few weeks. So stay tuned.)

I have primarily focused on three ‘camps’ – demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM) in my research and writing to date. My hypothesis with these camps has been that despite “… different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, [they] are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer,” as I wrote in February.

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Enter the fourth camp – the ‘inbound marketing’/marketing content management crowd – examples of which include new inbound marketing pure plays such as Hubspot, Magicomm, Vazt and Video Army, as well as content management stalwarts such as Crown Peak, which are evolving toward inbound marketing.

I’ll admit that when I first heard the phrase, inbound marketing, I said, ‘I don’t get it.’ In fact, I thought, ‘Wow, more confusing buzzwords.’ But I wanted to get to the bottom of this phenomenon, so I dug in, did some research, sat down a few weeks ago with Hubspot marketing VP Mike Volpe and more recently had a call with Vazt co-founder Seamus Walsh.

Now I think I get it, but I’m not sure that the phenomenon around this fourth camp is purely about inbound marketing. Dynamic and search-optimized marketing content management is a critical component and key value-add in a broader, integrated marketing context and for companies that deploy both inbound and outbound marketing. That’s why I describe this space as a dual helix of inbound marketing and marketing content management that is bound to eventually intertwine with the other camps. In fact, my conversations with Hubspot and Vazt made me think of the evolution of Marketbright, which started as a marketing content management system but has evolved into a demand generation system.

So what is inbound marketing, how is it tied to marketing content management and what does this all mean for marketers? Moreover, is this a real ecosystem of solutions, or is it merely a Hubspot phenomenon?

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This is the second in a three-part series of posts on integrated marketing management platforms.  The first post identified the strategic need for integrated marketing management, mapped this to key marketing ‘pain points’ that these systems address and provided an overview of the disparate technology camps that are vying to deliver robust integrated marketing management platforms to marketing organizations.  Click here to view the first post, “Marketer’s Needs + Technology Landscape.”

Today’s post will present high-level thoughts for marketers on approaches to analyzing their needs and to selecting a platform that is the right ‘fit’ for their organization.  The final post in this series will present snapshots of the top 20 vendors I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in this segment.

    

What should guide your decision to purchase an integrated marketing management platform? 

Let’s start with the basics:  What are your fundamental business goals?  And what marketing programs have you deployed to achieve these goals?  Ideally you want to invest in technology infrastructure that can help you achieve your business goals, that mirror your marketing programs and that (when all is said and done) can help you measure the impact that you made in reaching this goal.  Seems straightforward … except (and let’s not sugar coat this) … marketing processes and communication flows are complex and borderline ‘ugly’ when it comes to the level of complex, integrated execution and monitoring involved.  This means that your technology infrastructure must be able to handle this ‘ugliness.’ 

Source: iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

That brings us to the more advanced issue in evaluating the purchase of an integrated marketing management platform:  “How do I bring method to the madness?” as Market2Lead CEO Geoff Rego framed in a phone interview.  Whereas focus should rule the day in marketing strategy and planning, robust capability and the ‘kitchen sink’ factor should, in part, guide your technology decisions.  You want a platform that can give you real leverage.  In fact, you probably need more than you think you need.  And you can’t ‘wimp out’ when it comes to digging into this decision; this is a system that will become your lifeline; nor can you simply go with the marketing technology equivalent of ‘Big Blue’ (because no one got fired for buying Big Blue, right?).

“One thing not to do is to look at a generic list of the ‘top three’ products or ‘industry leaders’ and refuse to consider any others,” comments industry analyst David Raab in a white paper, titled “Three Differences that Matter in Demand Generation Systems.”  Raab continues, “On the other hand, few marketers have the time or inclination to perform an in‐depth technical analysis of several dozen demand generation systems, or even to document their own needs in detail.”

So then what is the middle ground, and how should marketing organizations approach finding the right ‘fit’ for their organization … without having to build CIO-level expertise and while staying true to their current, successful (but not fully leveraged) marketing processes?

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Today’s post is a bit different from the usual.  We won’t be diving into a key topic at the intersection of brands, marketing, innovation and technology, nor will we be presenting a Q&A with a forward thinker in the space; instead, I am asking for your help with a project.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

I am in the process of writing a book – tentatively titled Connected Marketing – that is for marketers, that covers the topic of marketing technology and that is meant to help marketers deploy and use technology in a substantially-different way than they do today.

This book has evolved from a convergence of 1.) my interests and blogging about this space, 2.) my past experiences as a marketing leader and consultant in the technology industry, 3.) my ongoing discussions and interactions with leaders in the marketing technology space and 4.) research I’m conducting as part of my current graduate program, which I will conclude in May 2009.

So what are the details, and how can you be a part of helping marketers to better leverage technology and, thus, to take the ‘connectedness’ of their marketing organizations to the next level?

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This past November I posted a blog piece, titled “Top 20 Cross-channel Marketing Execution Platforms?”  The piece was a call for input on the state of technologies that assist marketers in running complex, cross-channel, integrated marketing communication programs that ultimately are focused on delivering one thing – customer sales.  These technologies are becoming more critical to marketing organizations over time.  Why?  Chaos:  Rapid growth in Internet-based communication mediums has led to a power shift in the buyer-seller dynamic; marketers have never been at a greater disadvantage.  Meanwhile, their roles and campaigns are becoming more complicated.  At the same time, they are being asked for greater, real-time visibility into results and marketing ROI as never before.  “The online world … has refused to stay in a nice, little box,” commented Scott Brinker on his Chief Marketing Technologist blog in October.  “[It] has exploded into millions of microchannels, with few boundaries, in constant motion, with people sloshing freely among them — often under little or no direct control of the marketer.”

Since my first blog piece on this topic, I’ve gotten some great feedback from folks in the industry, have spoken with nearly a dozen technology vendors and have digested quite a few recently-published books on the subject, including Sandy Carter‘s The New Language of Marketing 2.0, David Raab‘s Raab Guide to Demand Generation Systems and Steve WoodsDigital Body Language — all great reads.  This process has helped to evolve my earlier thinking – validating some initial observations but also changing others.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

A key revision from my first piece is a re-thinking of my taxonomy for classifying this technology group.  First, it is clear that a centralized, intelligent and automated layer is emerging at the heart of the continuum of marketing systems (see diagram), and this layer serves a critical functional role in integrating high-level strategic management with tactical execution.  I have chosen to refer to this layer as integrated marketing management.  Second, it is clear that there are several existing software ‘camps,’ with different roots, aims, legacies and constituencies, that are both converging on and vying for this core integration and management layer.  These camps include:  demand generation, marketing automation/enterprise marketing management (EMM) and advanced customer relationship management (CRM).  While each comes at this layer from a different angle, the lines between these systems are blurring and their features and capabilities are increasingly quite similar.  Yet these camps remain important points of distinction and differentiation today because they are how many vendors classify their systems, and they help to understand both the strengths/weaknesses and the capabilities/gaps of these vendors systems.

The result is a complicated decision-making environment for marketers that want to harness the capabilities of integrated marketing management.  “Now everyone is trying to tie it all together, [but] you wind up with a weird gulf in buyer expectations,” commented Steve Woods, CTO of Eloqua, in a phone interview.  “Marketers aren’t used to doing this evaluation.”

That is why I’m writing about this topic.  As a marketer, who has taken the time to become more educated about this space, I’d like to help lift the veil off of what is perhaps the Holy Grail of marketing – having IT systems that actually provide leverage to your integrated marketing activities and processes, rather than just drowning you in more data and execution responsibilities.

So what is an integrated marketing management platform, how can it help marketers, and who are the top vendors in this segment?

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One common theme on this blog over the past few months is the myriad challenges facing marketers as they attempt to deploy and manage integrated marketing communication programs in an increasingly disparate and complicated customer-communication environment.  Past posts have covered the challenges of:  achieving Marketing Personalization 2.0 and eventually 3.0; managing cross-channel marketing execution; and identifying agency partners with sophisticated people, processes and underlying Marketing Infrastructure that are truly equipped to help their clients make order out of chaos.

There’s no getting around it:  Customer-brand dialogue is becoming more complicated over time, and effective dialogue with customers requires 360-degree coordination of programs and touch points.  This means marketing organizations need their own, increasingly-sophisticated and fully-integrated Marketing Infrastructure. 

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Technology ‘saavy’ is not an option for marketers today; moreover, the level of integration of their technology systems is more important than ever — not only for online marketing activities but also for interactions between the online and offline world.  And it is critical not only for effective and coordinated brand presentation, but also for building closed-loop feedback mechanisms so that marketing efforts can be effectively measured, end-to-end — something that only a fraction of marketing organizations are actually achieving today, according to the folks at SiriusDecisions.

Enter ‘cloud services’ … an emerging IT architectural vision of seamless, Internet-based application and data integration — via common, Web-based service layers — that could get all of your marketing assets talking, in real time, within days. 

Except it’s not so much a vision as it is becoming a reality today — now trumpeted by some of the leading next-generation CRM vendors, such as SugarCRM and Salesforce.com (see below), and backed by next-generation integration services providers, such as Cast Iron Systems.  Want proof this is becoming mainstream? 

  • BusinessWeek recently headlined, “Cloud Computing Is No Pipe Dream,” in a piece by Jeffrey F. Rayport
  • IDC reported this past October that “… spending on IT cloud services [will] grow almost threefold in the next five years, reaching $42 billion by 2012,” according to Roger Smith in an InformationWeek article.  “The growth will in part be helped by the economic crisis that began in the United States, according to a statement by Frank Gens, senior VP and chief analyst at IDC. ‘The cloud model offers a much cheaper way for businesses to acquire and use IT — in an economic downturn, the appeal of that cost advantage will be greatly magnified.'”

So what are cloud services … really .. and how can they help marketers gain control over customer-brand dialogue and achieve a holistic view of their brands through intelligent integration of Marketing Infrastructure?

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This the second in a two-part series of posts.  This past Friday I discussed the five key characteristics (‘pillars’) I believe will mark successful, integrated marketing services agencies in the future, I also cited some current barriers to firms succeeding in this ‘next-generation’ context.  Click here to view the first post, “Next Generation of Marketing Services Agencies 1 of 2: Pillars and Barriers.”

Today’s post will complete the picture by presenting snapshots of several, specific firms I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in the emerging, next-generation marketing services agency world.

  

Are there any firms out there, today, that exemplify the vision of a next-generation marketing services agency?

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is that no single agency, today, is at the stage of sophistication previously described (i.e., no firms are embracing all five pillars) … yet.  But there are quite a few that are moving in the right direction and that have embraced different combinations of these pillars.  Not surprisingly many are smaller, more-nimble (or at least holding-company-independent) firms that do not have scale investments in the old-school models and that are experimenting with new approaches; thus, it is easier for them to break the mold. 

Who are these firms, and what are they doing differently?

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Over the past few months I’ve checked in with a number of current and past colleagues and acquaintances who work at a variety of marketing services agencies — PR, ad agencies, social-media firms, brand consultancies, etc.  In addition to the usual pleasantries, our discussions could not help but touch on the state of the industry.  I’ve also seen and commented on a growing critical mass of news articles and blog posts on the future of advertising and PR  firms.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

What has been interesting about all of this dialogue, both online and off, is one consistent theme:  The business environment for ‘traditional’ agencies is changing … radically … and overnight. 

“I hear death is imminent for your business model, in fact I’ve heard the industry itself might be beyond repair,” commented Kyle Flaherty, a former PR agency professional and current tech-industry marketing director (now on the ‘client side’), in a December post on his Engage in PR blog.

What is causing this ‘plague’ of Biblical proportions throughout the agency world, and how can agencies overcome this situation by preparing for the next-generation of client expectations?

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