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Posts Tagged ‘marketing execution management’

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.

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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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I wrote in a recent piece on this blog, titled “Marketing Personalization 2.0,” about how companies are increasingly applying techniques from mass customization, using ideas such as personas and embracing what Patricia Seybold refers to as ‘customer scenarios’ to improve personalization of marketing efforts.  I also cited a range of technologies that can manage execution of this type of marketing.

Yet, even as this evolution represents an advancement over Marketing Personalization 1.0 (i.e., demographic and lifestyle channel targeting), there is much to be desired.  We are still at a point as marketers where we are guessing at personalization.  It is still possible to make costly mistakes, particularly if we misjudge customer persona or the channels for interacting with a given persona.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

“If you think backward from the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels and methods you’ve used to try to reach them, it all argues for taking a much more integrated approach to the work of marketing and communications,” argues Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communications for IBM, quoted in a recent piece by Paul Dunay on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Fortunately, waiting in the wings is a new wave of technologies that promise to rapidly leapfrog the current state and to take us to what I believe is a very tenable basis for structuring and ‘propelling’ forward to Marketing Personalization 3.0 (see diagram).  These technologies, which include semantic analysis and social graphs, offer the potential not only to get closer to customers than ever before, but they also approach enabling what I believe is true ‘co-creation‘ of the marketing experience.

What do I mean by this?  Customers, who increasingly have power and leverage over brand-companies, will not only specify what they want but will also shape the boundaries and expectations of their communication with, recommendations regarding and the ultimate delivery of products and services from vendors. 

The entire experience will become a partnership, but why is this important?

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In my recent Marketing Personalization 2.0 blog piece, I spent some time talking about what I referred to as ‘cross-channel marketing execution management platforms.’  This is a technology segment that is of particular interest to me for two reasons.

First, as someone who has run integrated marketing communication campaigns that have included elements as diverse as PR, live events, direct e-mail, salesforce materials and blogs, I recognize that managing a consistent marketing campaign across mediums is tough.  This is particularly the case when it comes to ensuring outbound continuity of brand presentation, while also personalizing content to the customer, and achieving comparable metrics for campaign effectiveness analysis across mediums.  Getting a normalized sense of ROI remains the Holy Grail.  So I think that every marketing leader has a vested interest in the advancement of the ‘state of the art’ in this technology area. 

Cross-channel Marketing Execution ManagementSecond, related to the first point and complicating matters a bit, as marketers we are only being asked to handle and operate across more mediums over time, not less.  Platform provider Eloqua claims on its Web site, “According to industry surveys, 34% of marketers cannot execute a coordinated, integrated, multichannel marketing campaign.”  I hope this isn’t true, because it is a sad state for marketing if it is.  Operating diversified, integrated marketing communication campaigns are a way of life, not an option.  And with the explosion of social media and social networking technologies and platforms, our lives are only more complicated and fragmented.  So we not only have a vested interest in this technology area, it will rapidly become the keystone for execution.

So I wanted to devote some time in this post to:

  1. better identifying the state of this technology segment,
  2. building out a ‘definitive list’ of the major providers, and
  3. presenting insights into their strengths and weaknesses.

But I’m hoping to do this is a collaborative fashion, and this is where I invite your assistance.  Please help review my initial entries on the list and provide suggestions on who else should be included.

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I was doing some research over the past week related to best practices for shaping customer-brand experience, and it made me think more about the state of marketing personalization.  The whole point of marketing is to build a relationship between a customer and a brand through which both the customer and the company behind that brand derive benefit.  It is a direct, one-on-one and mutual commercial exchange; for the customer, the brand is experienced at a very personal level.  In fact, we may aggregate data about brand perceptions for larger populations, but the basic unit of measuring brand experience remains something that occurs at the individual level.

That’s why “[e]xperiences need to be designed for individuals,” advocates Bruce Temkin, Forrester Research‘s principal analyst for customer experience in his blog-published book, The 6 Laws of Customer Experience.  “While it may not be possible to individualize every interaction, focusing on narrow segments (like Personas) is critical.”

Yet so much of marketing practice and technology infrastructure seems to focus on de-personalizing and scaling marketing communication to as large of an un-segmented population as possible – a trend decried by marketing pundit Seth Godin.  We extract the individual and disregard his/her personal experience.  We engage in shotgun marketing.  Why is that?

I’m not saying that as a marketer we shouldn’t attempt to reach a scale audience.  Quite the opposite, we should absolutely shoot for scale, but I’d argue it’s how we build that scale that is critical.  We need to do it one customer at time … which is the point of personalization.

How can we make both scale and personalization co-exist as hallmarks of every marketing program?

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