2020: The Age of Complexity

2020: The Age of Complexity

January 2020 | Marketing Operations

Marketing is getting more complicated. More data and more technology will mean to more integration and more alignment with the rest of the business.

Eighteen months ago, new data protection laws and ad blocking techniques decimated databases. Marketers have spent the time since trying to fill that data gap only to realise that all the information they need to run successful campaigns is already available in their business. Inbound tactics don't require personal data to get results, while more personalised outbound communications can compensate for lower data volumes.

Full Stack Integration

Making this approach work in practice requires much better data management capabilities than has existed previously. All parts of the business need to feed their data into a central customer data platform that can be used by both marketing and sales. Such a platform should cover not just profile information but engagement history and prospect activity collected from web analytics and the wide array of marketing channels and technologies in use across the entire customer journey. Bringing all this data together opens up new segmentation options for marketing, new reporting metrics for the c suite and greater visibility into the hottest and most active accounts for Sales.

Unfortunately, the existing marketing technology stack simply can't cope with the complex data management requirements required to organise such a vast array of data sources at scale. Best in class data normalisation, data deduplication and data enrichment capabilities are necessary to make this entire approach work. Marketing Automation and CRM are good at what they do but are designed for specific marketing and sales use cases. An array of database technologies such as CDPs and MDM are being pitched as the answer to this data challenge, but in many cases existing data warehouse or BI tools can fill the gap.

Cloud Portfolio Integration

Taking advantage of new data platforms requires a concerted effort to get the entire tech stack working in harmony. There is no other way to execute personalised cross-channel experiences at scale. Too many point solutions still don't integrate with Eloqua or Marketo, let alone BI or CDPs. As the year progresses, this will change. Oracle, Salesforce and Adobe are making major investments in integrating every aspect of their marketing cloud portfolios. All too often the integrated technology stacks pitched by the largest vendors turn out to be integrated only on paper. Third party solutions or development resource is needed to close the gaps between two products sold as part of the same deal.

It is no coincidence that Adobe and Oracle spent most of 2019 trying to pitch their brand new CDP products at every opportunity. These new CDPs are the backbone of vendor efforts to finally offer a fully integrated product portfolio. Individual enterprises may find other solutions, but 2020 will be the year that the hype surrounding Customer Data Platforms turns into reality, with CDP implementation projects going live among early adopters leading to real world results and best practices. In turn, this will create a blueprint for CDP vendors and their customers to follow.

Operational Alignment

There is a dark side to the increasingly sophisticated network of integrated platforms and digital marketing tools. While it does enable new multi-channel orchestration opportunities and personalised content experiences, marketing can no longer operate alone. The price for tapping into the web of business relationships, customer touchpoints and internal knowledge owned by other stakeholders is a loss of control. Marketing is increasingly responsible for all digital interactions of the customer lifecycle but needs to be deferential to the business outcomes that other departments need from each engagement.

This has long been recognised in the context of Account Based Marketing. It is no coincidence that a renewed focus on sales and marketing alignment arose at the same time that ABM hit the mainstream. If marketing is going to focus heavily on a set of individually selected target accounts, then those accounts need to be attractive to Sales. The messaging provided to those target accounts needs to be consistent across marketing and sales channels, particularly if marketing will continue to interact with accounts after Sales have established a relationship. As a result, sales enablement has become a significantly more important part of every marketer's day to day.

Sales enablement is no longer just about briefing reps on the latest campaigns. Sales are demanding a lot more visibility from marketing about what their accounts are doing online, as well as greater context surrounding the assets and website pages that prospects are viewing. In short, they want to be fully informed about recent marketing engagements before they pick up the phone. That's because marketing activity provides a good excuse to call increasingly time-poor decision makers in key accounts. In return, marketing are asking for more sales engagement with campaigns including increased involvement in campaign audience selection, a proactive approach to inviting customers to events and broader adoption of sales campaign kits that extend the lifecycle of campaigns beyond the point a lead reaches MQL.

Revenue Alignment

Then there is the age old argument about following up leads in a timely manner. These still dog many organisations. Strict SLAs have become an industry standard, assisted in part by the use of marketing run tele-qualification teams in markets where the jump from engaged prospect to active sales lead can't be assumed using lead scoring alone. The patchy adoption of CRM among Sales teams is improving too. Allowing for greater visibility surrounding two of marketing's other big complaints about Sales: lack of insight into which MQLs actually resulted in an opportunity and more information about why rejected leads were not followed up. Both of these issues have major impacts on the ability of marketing to report on campaign outcomes.

One much discussed solution to eliminate any lingering alignment issues and the resulting reporting challenges is simply to place Sales and Marketing under the same leadership. This is common in SMB where Marketing isn't big enough to justify a separate seat in the boardroom. At an enterprise level, such a merger typically only affects the Sales Operations and Marketing Operations teams. Whilst it is talked about increasingly frequently, the trend towards a combined Revenue Operations team is more common in theory than in practice because of the corporate politics involved. It can work in businesses where there is already strong alignment between marketing and sales. Otherwise, the combined team ends up the scapegoat of both team's problems, stuck in the middle of arguments about Lead SLAs and campaign attribution figures.

2020 will see more marketing operations teams merged with their Sales counterparts. Far more common will be a closer working relationship, even without the re-org that a full-on merger would entail. The learnings from those businesses which have gone down the Revenue Operations route will be used to establish that relationship. A single cross-functional view of the entire funnel and shared reporting dashboards will go from best practice to industry standard. Shared ownership of contact data will become increasingly important too so that businesses are no longer powerless to fix data quality issues where it impacts sales reach and marketing campaign performance.

A New Stakeholder

IT is now taking a role here too, after having been sidelined from the marketing technology stack for so long. 2018's wave of GDPR compliance projects accelerated the trend for bringing IT back into the management of marketing automation and downstream systems. In most boardrooms, GDPR was initially seen as an IT concern with the processes and systems for managing consent and data subject rights placed outside of marketing's control. That changed over time, creating a need to ensure marketing integrated with the wider business processes surrounding GDPR. The net result of this collaboration was more trust and a better working relationship than had existed previously. IT leaders now have a better understanding of the needs of marketing, and Marketing leaders now believe that IT aren't out to completely sideline them from their own tech stack.

Over the last few years, IT departments have become much more willing to allow technology to fall outside their direct control. They still want visibility of what technologies exist in the business, what they do, and how they are managed. However, day to day control is less important so long as technical risks are mitigated, and compliance obligations are respected. In return, marketing is now able to tap into the technical expertise and development resources within IT much more readily than before. That is fortunate because marketing technology architectures are much more complicated than they used to be. Many marketing operations teams are struggling with the data and integration challenges that are being placed on them. Alas, the trend to complexity is not going away. In 2020, it will get worse rather than better.

Written by
Marketing Operations Consultant and Solutions Architect at CRMT Digital specialising in marketing technology architecture. Advisor on marketing effectiveness and martech optimisation.