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Posts Tagged ‘technology’

The Internet changed everything … especially for marketers.  Now more then ever, customers have a million tools and information sources at their disposal, and the power balance has forever shifted to the needs of the customer versus that of the brand-company and its products and services.

Customers are now driving the marketing process … in case you haven’t heard.

The consequence for us as marketers (and our role in demand generation) is that our fundamental posture must change.  Yes, it remains increasingly important to get the attention of your customers and to ‘rise above the noise,’ but it also is increasingly important to be a better listener and observer – catering to the needs, preferences and timing of your customers.  I liken our new role as marketers to being similar to the attentive and omnipresent, but unobtrusive, waiter at a five-star restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton or the Four Seasons – standing by and ready to cater to the customer’s every need and knowing exactly when (s)he wants something.  Fortunately, the same Internet domain that has made our job tougher as marketers can also be a source of new and valuable insights into customers’ ‘digital body language,’ as Steve Woods (Twiter: @stevewoods), CTO and co-founder of Eloqua, calls it in his new book, (not coincidentally titled) Digital Body Language – Deciphering  Customer Intentions in an Online World.

Source: New Year Publishing

Source: New Year Publishing

Steve Woods is a forward thinker who has spent the last decade of his career learning about and building systems to help marketers better leverage insights into customers’ digital body language.  His book is the culmination of his domain expertise and years of experience in software architecture, engineering and strategy for marketing systems, as well as his track record of client successes since Eloqua’s founding in 1999.  This expertise, experience and track record led to him being named one of Inside CRM’s Top CRM Influencers in 2007.

Prior to co-founding Eloqua, Woods worked in corporate strategy at Bain & Company and engineering at Celestica.  Woods holds a degree in Engineering Physics from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

So what does it take to better understand digital body language, and how as marketers can we better leverage digital body language to improve our delivery to customers, our collaboration with our sales-team colleagues and our fundamental ability to drive demand generation?

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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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Marketing via word-of-mouth, social networks and brand communities is not new.  Effectively leveraging social media technologies both in support of these marketing initiatives and as part of an ongoing, two-way customer-brand dialogue, however, has emerged as a burning issue on marketers’ minds. 

Social media technologies, themselves, certainly have their own learning curve, but the greater learning curve for marketers is contending with the fundamental power shift in the customer-brand relationship that social media technologies are enabling.  Thus, recognizing and responding to the new reality that individual customers and brand communities increasingly define (and have part ownership over) brands requires a fundamental shift in our approach to bringing products and services to market.

IBM Press

Source: IBM Press

IBM executive Sandy Carter is a forward thinker on this issue whose experiences and industry dialogue eventually led her to realize that marketers need a new set of tools if they are going to better contend with this power shift.  Her new book, The New Language of Marketing 2.O:  How to Use ANGELS to  Energize Your Market, delivers just such a ‘tool box’ for marketers — presenting a normative framework, together with numerous case examples from companies in a variety of B2B and B2C industries, to help marketers think through these challenges inside their own businesses.

Few are as well-equipped to tackle such a subject as Carter, who has had an impressive career in the enterprise software arena and who currently is IBM’s Vice President, SOA and WebSphere Marketing, Strategy and Channels.  In this role, she is responsible for IBM’s cross-company, worldwide SOA initiatives and is in charge of one of IBM’s premier brands, IBM WebSphere, which under her leadership has shown strong growth.  She also led her global marketing organization to garner 14 industry marketing awards in 2007.

What is Marketing 2.0, and what are Carter’s thoughts on how marketers can gain leverage in the dizzying world of social-media technologies to energize their marketing programs?

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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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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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Over the last month or two, I’ve had numerous conversations with marketers in traditional (i.e., non-technology) industries about their Web-based and social-media strategies.  In fact, I talked about the challenges of so-called ‘buzz campaigns’ and Web micro sites in a recent blog post on Internet marketing sustainability.  Let me sum up the challenge that has surfaced in all of those conversations:  Many marketing leaders are excited about new marketing communication channels; however, they are approaching these new mediums with the same advertising/one-way-communication mindset that seems to pervade too much of the marketing communication world.

That’s why I was impressed with a very engaging Opinion-page piece by Silicon Valley marketing executive Tom Hayes and ABC News “Silicon Insider” columnist Michael S. Malone, titled “Marketing in the World of the Web,” in The Wall Street Journal this past Saturday.  Hayes and Malone argue that marketing participation on the modern Web and in social media platforms requires a new marketing mindset.  “A very different set of tools, concepts and practices is needed,” noted the two.  “Call it Marketing 3.0.”

What do they mean by this?

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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 listening to a presentation by marketing leaders at a major consumer packaged goods (CPG) company this past week, and it made me think about the issue of the sustainability of our marketing campaigns and investments online.  One of these marketers was talking about how her team, as part of a major brand marketing initiative, had launched a Web micro site.  The site was well-produced, but it was little more than an online brochure (with some value-added content, to be fair).  It was not bad, but my immediate thought was about the half life of such a site.  Sure it would help drive traffic and subsequent exposure and attention for a period of time, but it was static, with nothing special to keep people coming back once they had gotten tired of it.  It wasn’t serving as an ongoing catalyst for the customer relationship and for longer-term brand community.

I had a similar experience listening to another presentation by marketers at a different CPG about a month ago.  They were talking about how a key piece of a new product launch was a ‘buzz campaign.’  It made me wince, but — yes — they were talking about paying people to go online and create buzz for their new product.  The ethics of such a campaign aside, it also made me think about sustainability.  As long as these ‘buzz agents’ were being paid to talk about the product, there would undoubtedly be dialogue in chat rooms and on blogs, but once the campaign was over, how long would this continue, and what would be the impact on the brand’s reputation if people found out about the paid buzz agents?

Dr. Justine Foo, a scientist and marketing researcher, perhaps said it best in a post, titled “New metrics for sustainable marketing,” on her Brains on Fire blog earlier this year:  “Our current market is driven by short-term forces: get next quarter’s numbers up, what it will cost me now, # of mass impressions, etc. As a result, we create campaigns, not movements … .”

Where is the sustainability in all of this?

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I am impressed with the insights of Valeria Maltoni in a piece published last week on her Conversation Agent blog

She has identified an emerging group of online platforms which she believes represent a uniquely-new breed of ‘organic’ marketing platforms.  (Hint:  This is not an article about eco-friendly marketing.)

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The challenge of any marketing strategy is that as marketing leaders we always face the great ‘leap of faith‘ that you can’t get over.  We try to design marketing programs that coincide with right place, right time and right target audience.  And we have binders full of statistical, demographic and ethnographic insights that we use to justify this triangulation.  But it all remains a guess.

Further, our target customers don’t choose to participate in a given media or social-networking channel saying, “I hope my favorite brand will market to me there!”  They choose these channels out of their own personal and professional interests and needs. 

Finally, their choice of channel constantly changes over time.

Thus the underlying issue is that our brand communities are mobile – not just in the phone sense but in the holistic sense.  And it’s our challenge and opportunity as marketing leaders to figure out how to keep up with them.  Yet many of our legacy approaches, processes and platforms do not enable this; instead, they focus more on the medium, rather than the brand community relevance.

What can we do to help solve the ‘mobility’ problem and better center our marketing on brand communities?

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