This article first appeared on iMedia Connection.

At this year’s Google I/O, SVP Sundar Pichai got on stage to announce that Android had over one billion monthly active users and that they’re shipping 315 million new smartphones each quarter. This staggering figure is up 86% from just one year ago. Of course, one of the biggest challenges for developers is that Android is spread across multiple device formats and only 5% of users have the newest version of Android.

This situation, in essence, is how technology has impacted marketing. We have never been able to reach so many people as we can now. Billions of consumers in hundreds of markets around the world are all connected via digital platforms and can be targeted with visual and interactive content. But at the same time, the channels, content, and companies involved in executing a marketing campaign have also exploded.

Scott Brinker has been tracking the marketing technology landscape and released his first map of vendors in 2011 with just 100 companies. Only three years later, the landscape has expanded to 947 companies across dozens categories. Even if the field thins out a little through inevitable company closures or acquisitions and roll ups, this is the new reality: the CMO is forecasted to spend more on IT and analytics by 2017 than the CIO . The pace of change for marketing is accelerating — this moment is the slowest it will ever be.


How New Technology Forces Change

Technological shifts force organizations to change how they operate. The assembly lines implemented by Robert Domm, Henry Ford, and others were leaps and bounds beyond prior manufacturing practices. Ford was able to churn out cars 8x faster than before – new Model-T’s were now coming off the line every 3 minutes. Every automotive company had to adopt this “technology” or go out of business (and over 250 companies in fact did). In the same way, brands have to adopt new technologies that increase efficiency if they hope to deal with the volume of new posts, photos, videos, tweets, and comments that exist today.

The fact is, if you aren’t putting technology at the core of your marketing department then something is not right. Harnessing marketing technology isn’t a preference or a unique differentiator — it is table stakes. The real value is in bringing disparate systems together while figuring out a workflow that’s cost-effective, drives business objectives, and stays flexible to change.

How the Enterprise Adapts to Change

When faced with massive shifts, organizations traditionally respond with a standard playbook of tactics. You could hire a vendor to develop a solution for you — the old axiom “no one got fired for buying IBM” is perhaps one of the most effective marketing phrases in history.

The other approach might be to retain consultants with outside expertise to help augment your staff and your workflow and advise on solutions. At the height of the Six Sigma fervor, there were countless consultancies offering “black belts” and “master black belts” to help firms deal with the change.

And finally, you could outsource the function entirely to another organization and leave them the responsibility of setting the strategy and procuring the right solutions. Think of how legal firms and ad agencies often wield tremendous power within an organization by owning and executing on key activities for the enterprise

While these solutions are still effective, the marketer’s challenge is so much greater. CMO’s can’t reflexively just hire a new agency or buy the latest offering from lumbering tech giants and expect the job to be finished.

New Realities Require New Solutions

Bring technical expertise in-house. Gartner has been tracking the development of a chief marketing technology officer (CMTO): a marketing leader that’s part technical, part procurement, and part workflow management. Reporting to the CMO, this role requires a thorough understanding of the company’s strategic marketing initiatives, an appreciation for where the audience is, and what technologies would be most necessary to deliver results. CMO’s, particularly those with a traditional brand management background, would be wise to recruit such an individual into their team.

Vendors that understand your industry and your workflow. When you talk to technologists who sell to enterprise, across sectors, the successful ones have all come to realize that they have to do far more than just sell pure tech. They have to offer catered solutions that recognize that food and beverage companies operate differently from financial services companies which operate differently from the automobile industry. Finding vendors that have built a practice around your field is crucial.

Agencies that embrace technology. There’s a war right now between PR agencies and ad agencies to win more of the marketing business. That’s a great thing for brands because it means CMO’s have more options and opportunities to find a great partner. But some agencies see technology as a threat or as a way for engineers to turn creativity into a factory. This simply isn’t the case: great technology makes workflows more efficient, and frees marketers to focus on the truly creative and high-leverage activities: understanding audience, developing compelling campaigns, making data-driven decisions. Brands need agencies that understand the value of great tech.

We live in amazing times. We’re going to see 3 billion people move into the middle class in the next 15 years, a transition driven by internet access, mobile computing, and other technologies. CMO’s need to take the lead in transforming their organizations to prepare for a world where pretty much everyone wants — and can afford — your products.

(Title photo courtesy of dany13)

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