It isn’t possible to deliver customer experience transformation without a sound foundation for connected and integrated technology. This has been a major driver of businesses investing heavily in martech over the past few years, and the proportion of budgets devoted to technology is increasing. 2020 research has shown that although more than 75% of businesses surveyed are planning to maintain marketing budgets at the same or similar levels for 2021, almost 80% of them are planning to increase the proportion of those budgets on marketing technology over the coming 12 months. The rate of tech adoption continues to grow fast, but many businesses are still getting undesirable outcomes in not achieving what they set out to accomplish. According to Econsultancy and Oracle research from March 2020, only 47% of businesses say their investment in customer data is paying off, and Forbes says 84% of digital transformation initiatives fail. Why does it appear so difficult to drive value from martech investments?
What exactly is value?
There is a lot of ambiguity inside many organisations as to exactly what represents value from their technology investments.
We could think of value from two crude perspectives. What it means to the business’s customers, and then the measurable value that generates for the business. There is (in most cases) limited value from the tech deployment itself; the tech is an important enabler through which value for customers and value for the business can be derived. The real value is tied to turning a myriad of contextually relevant moments into experiences and optimised journeys for your customers, and making them feel like their needs are all that matters to the business. If you meet the needs and expectations of your customers, they are more likely to reward you with their repeat custom. This cannot be delivered without technology, but tech alone will never deliver this. Making moments count for customers requires a seamless harmonisation of many business functions, coming together to meet the customers’ needs wherever they choose to interact with your business.
If your organisation is primarily focused on acquiring tech, you’re likely to be investing all of your time laying foundations and creating outputs. On the other hand, if you’re focusing on what value you can drive from those outputs and have a clear plan to leverage those outputs into measurable outcomes, then you are likely to be thinking way beyond the technology alone. There’s a value gap between acquiring tech and utilising it successfully to deliver value for most businesses. To drive true value requires radical collaboration across multiple areas in the business and an orientation towards actions that can deliver the desired value.
To deliver measurable value, brands must be clear about the business outcomes that the deployment of martech will solve. Ask the question: “what does doing this for the customer mean for the business, and how do we measure that we have delivered that?” This ensures that investment actions can be clearly linked to outcomes and that the business utilises new or existing tech effectively to deliver the desired business goals. By adopting this balanced focus for value, which is beyond the scope of tech alone, the probability of success is magnified and time to value materially reduced.
Don’t set out to boil the ocean
There is no shortcut to value. There is no ‘automagically’. There is no silver bullet. As Vince Lombardi famously said, ‘the only place that success comes before hard work is in the dictionary’! To effectively deploy martech and drive connected value is hard. No hiding from that. That said, it is possible to accelerate value by not trying to boil the ocean and doing the smart things first. Thinking big and coming up with big ideas is generally not a challenge. Distilling those ideas down to smaller, smart tasks that can pave the way to rapidly scaling can be more difficult. Businesses that are able to conceive big ideas also often turn those into correspondingly big plans, and so much of the focus is investment into building and evolving the plan, rather than the actions that will directly and quickly contribute to value. Think big and start big is often correlated with an undesirable outcome. By attempting enormous and complicated transformation initiatives, brands are often paving the way for an undesirable outcome. Whilst the procurement part of the process may run to plan (it’s relatively easy to spend the money once the budget is approved), the value part of the equation, requires so much more than the technology to deliver. These are often not fully conceived, and so the business is unable to mobilise all of the capabilities at the scale of the plan, and the initiatives succumb to the domino of interdependencies tumbling.
Make it work. Make it better. Make it bigger.
One of the surest ways to deliver value fast is to begin with a clear visualisation of the desired outcomes, in the context of the full picture and the big idea, and yet start in a small and focused way. Just make the idea work. Don’t overcomplicate it, but understand the full context required for its success. I feel the need to stress here that when I say start small, this is in the context of the multidisciplinary team required to deliver that first start. This is a collaborative, cross-functional start that enables a subset of the integrated solution to work.
Once your initial idea is working and doing that which it is intended to do, the focus can shift to making it better and bigger. A very large proportion of initiatives never progress out of the ‘make it work’ phase, and it is only when you make it better or bigger that you see a clear and measurable outcome. You need tech for the ‘make it work’ phase. You need the collaboration of people with process and strategy and planning and analytics and creative and offer and promotions etc. to make it better. When you institutionalise change, embed customer experience strategy, have evolved to enterprise agility (vs. a few isolated agile teams) and underpinned what you do with aligned measurements that matter, you can turn your investments in technology into a strategic advantage.
If you’d like to discuss how your business can better drive value from marketing technology, do get in touch.
This is a summary of a paper written and published by Richard Lees.