Thoughts on Future Direction of Technology in Marketing (and Business)

Technologies Enable Forrester_New Opportunities
Last week at SMX East I had the opportunity and good fortune to connect with Scott Brinker for a long conversation on the convergence of technology and marketing. I am not a technologist, yet I follow many on Twitter.

That is beacuse for many years I was the marketer on the client side, and it was clear then that technology was critical to marketing.

From establishing strong inside sales teams to developing copy, images, and interactive tools to help prospective customers learn more about their needs from us and self-select when to have a conversation with a sales pro, to creating field marketing outposts to build quality experiences prior and leading up to a formal sales call, building the right technology stack to serve the organization was critical.

It is easy to look back with the knowledge of what is happening now and see the early signs of the explosion in the multitude of software and technology choices available today. It was not so obvious when we were launching the first cloud services and hosting the early SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) firms.

As a brand person, if the iPhone launch was met with some interest, while on the corporate side these new computers in the pocket were not adopted, the launch of the iPad was met with some outright resistance in many circles (even doubts, see brand evangelists).

I made some jokes about the name, too. Then I went out and bought one and I could not imagine working without it. Here is some data on the iPad discontinuity# in adoption* from Harace Dediu @Asymco.

Because of the iPhone being in the pockets of employees and many executives by then (see the reverse fortune of the BlackBerry), the tablet was a somewhat easier sell.

This somewhat lengthy introduction was to frame how the context in which marketers operate has changed dramatically from a short few years ago. Whether the business model of an organizations is through channel or direct to consumer, marketing technology — that is technology developed to support customer experience — is here to stay. For one, every employee now brings their own devices to work.

In fact, the array of products and tools available to marketers continues to grow. If you are in marketing on the client side or have the word “digital” in your job title chances are you are getting daily calls from an array of tech vendors.

Directionally, as brands, marketers tend to want to consolidate spending and simplify integration, while at the same time keeping their options open and limiting their "captive" status to any one organization.

Appetite for experimentation and spending allocations depend on implementation — the skills gap — who will use and maintain the technology, and opportunity cost, if not gain or benefit.

Companies that intend to create differentiated products and service experiences leveraging technology and insights gathered through data crunching and analysis are now partnering with startups# or outright buying data analytics providers#, or acquiring user experience design firms#.

Agencies, especially the full-service kind, tend to want to keep their options more open. However, too many relationships can be costly and hard to stay on top of both on skills development and in actual integrations into client implementations. In an added effort to differentiate, a few agencies are developing some home grown technologies.

Brinker received first observer access to the views and technology stack configurations of 9 direct-to-consumer brands. The whole post deserves a read, even as the data is directional due to the sample size — and potentially representing organizations that are ahead of the curve.

I am most intrigued by the other considerations at the end, some of which I will quote (in italics) to build on below:

  • Customer experience is increasingly the gravitational center of this mission — this has been a bullet in conversations for years, until the iDevices and the whole concept of mobility and how we search for and buy things became a reality through scale. Now it is worth walking the talk
  • As such, it is viewed increasingly as an enterprise-wide mission, not merely a marketing mission — although marketing is largely in the driver’s seat — as this realization spreads to many size organizations, I would venture that the technologist with marketing savvy may become more common; unless marketers do ramp up in technology skills
  • Change management with people and processes is by far a greater challenge than the wrangling of the technology involved — indeed, and if the getting the technology right is tricky, the people side of things is a make or break proposition; culture is the hardest to impact
  • There is high variance in team structures and budget/funding models for marketing technology — but those management decisions are now being surfaced explicitly at a C-suite level — decisions with broader implications tend to escalate to the highest paid person; in my experience this conversation rarely starts with an optimization effort, it is typically more focused on innovation and S-curve type movement
  • […] The agency world is merely inches away from a major tipping point, in my humble opinion — yes we are; so many more ways to do the job, and so many options to go with a firm that was started to solve exactly the kind of problem brands are seeking to solve and not one optimized around what used to work well. Which is why we need media, creative, and technology to work together

Governance issues will need addressing, including who services what at program level.

The moving line in behavior driving the blurring of digital/in store, the quantified self, the Internet of things, all the way to Apple pay being a more secure# and supremely portable system are all reasons why the motivation and intent behind this movement is accelerating.

This is why we call it digital transformation.


[chart via Forrester, The Future of Mobile, 2012]

[*in the post, Dediu demonstrates iPad adoption based on an S-Curve he recreated from Pew data. Historically products which become “mainstream” or widely adopted follow an S-curve during that adoption. The curve is remarkably predictable given a limited set of points.]


Valeria is an experienced listener. She designs service and product experiences to help businesses rediscover the value of promises and its effect on relationships and culture. She is also frequent speaker at conferences and companies on a variety of topics. Book her to speak here.

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