Outlining the requirements of a marketing stack is the most foundational challenge for IT leadership and marketing technologists. Which tools are essential versus just nice-to-have? What’s the right balance between stack completion and software bloat? How does everything work together? And where should you start?

For almost every brand, the marketing stack begins with the customer. Driven by a vision of delivering the right message to the right person on the right channel, many marketers have pursued a data-heavy technology roadmap, stitching customer records (via CRM or DMP) together with downstream content delivery (via marketing automation, multi-channel campaign management, web content management, SMMS, etc)

Focusing the stack downstream has led to greater complexity

In theory, this focus on the customer record should be able to deliver a relevant and compelling customer experience. However, in practice, these systems have introduced a tremendous amount of complexity into the marketing process, inhibiting a marketer’s ability to take full advantage of this new data-driven opportunity.

Even with a common customer data layer, this downstream approach has created deep silos within the marketing department. In the stack described above, each channel team manages their own messages in a different system – marketing automation for email, CMS for blog content, SMMS for social – and struggles to coordinate across the organization. As a result, content lives in the channel-specific system where it was created.

Without appropriately managing the upstream marketer journey, brands are not able to create a coherent customer journey or deliver consistent messages. Marketers need to change the way they approach work, how they understand content, and how they can measure the performance of their marketing and the operations of their teams.

What upstream technologies should marketers consider?

IT leadership and marketing technologists need to consider systems that will help marketers organize, orchestrate and optimize their programs. This may sound like a familiar challenge to some: since 2001, marketers have been working with a category of upstream systems called Marketing Resource Management (MRM), with offerings from several major players like SAP, SAS, IBM, Infor, and Teradata.

Traditional MRM provided some value to manage a select set of upstream processes, such as financial management and planning, reactive marketing fulfillment, and the automation of creative production processes. However, the new scale, pace, and pattern of marketing have presented challenges that traditional MRM solutions have not been able to answer.

What is MRM 2.0?

With a March 2017 report called MRM 2.0: A New Perspective on Marketing Resource Management, Gartner analysts Christopher Ross and Adam Sarner have detailed a set of capabilities that reflect the new (and often unmet) needs of a modern marketer. While the reboot of the “MRM” moniker may cause some initial confusion, the report is a helpful methodology for IT leadership to evaluate their marketing stacks for coverage in both upstream operations and downstream processes.

Gartner recommends investigating solutions in three key competency areas: (1) Work Management, (2) Asset Management, and (3) Performance Management.

1. Use Work Management to handle the marketing process

According to Gartner, Work Management includes “tools and technologies to support the ideation, creation, production and management of marketing materials and related projects.” In short, it’s where the marketing process happens.

Gartner outlines how project management solutions are often used for Work Management – including both lightweight multipurpose project platforms and heavyweight enterprise work management systems.  However, given how long project management systems have been available and their relative lack of adoption by marketers, there is a strong indication that they have left many needs uncovered, suggesting many are in search of a more intuitive or purpose-built solution to manage the status of campaigns and content.  

In practice, Work Management is often a manual undertaking by teams – a complicated dance of spreadsheets, Powerpoint presentations, and meetings to manage essential processes like planning and briefing. A system for marketing Work Management can’t just streamline these manual processes — it also needs to introduce greater enterprise visibility, cross-team coordination, and improved governance across an organization.

2. Use Asset Management to organize marketing output  

Asset Management applies sophisticated organizational principles to manage the high output volume and velocity enabled by a Work Management system. Without a DAM component, Work Management runs the risk of producing a “junk drawer” of files over time.

Most marketing organizations will have a DAM (or in some cases, several DAMs) as a storage unit for content and files produced by marketing. However, as a mature category, traditional standalone DAM suffers from commoditization of features.

Gartner outlines in their 2016 Market Guide to DAM that “DAM capabilities are often narrowly differentiated in repository and life cycle management features” while Forrester predicts in their most recent DAM Vendor Landscape that “DAM vendors that offer just a basic, static repository for departmental content will not succeed.”

In some cases, IT interest in the features and functions of Asset Management may even be a mistranslation of Work Management capabilities and outcomes described by their marketing customers. Accordingly, IT leaders looking to anticipate future marketer needs should investigate Work Management solutions alongside Asset Management capabilities.

3. Use Performance Management to discover what works — inside and out

Performance Management describes the set of capabilities used to measure and optimize the business impact of marketing activities. For many marketing leaders, Performance Management will resemble existing investments in marketing analytics and channel attribution solutions. However, Gartner’s recommendation also turns this lens inward, advising that marketers analyze operations and internal activities alongside external performance.

Gartner breaks Performance Management into three distinct categories. The first is performance optimization – the collection of business impact metrics from marketing campaigns. IT leadership will likely discover these solutions exist in their marketing stack already, as Gartner highlights an “extremely wide range of vendor solutions” in this category.

The next two categories of Performance Management are likely to be new for many organizations. Performance planning covers metrics associated with people, budgets, and resources aligned with projects and activations. Operational performance measures workflow efficiency and the mapping of activities to resources.

By combining performance data with production data, marketers can get a glimpse of true marketing ROI – not just the external effect of marketing activities, but the internal requirements to deliver those programs.

Use MRM 2.0 to unlock value across your marketing stack

While Gartner does not recommend a specific vendor to cover the breadth of Work Management, Asset Management, and Performance Management, the MRM 2.0 framework is a very strong articulation of what Percolate has been calling the System of Record for Marketing. Percolate has been driving at this set of capabilities with the openness of a best-in-breed platform with the depth of a suite provider.

When architecting a complete marketing stack, the “content record” managed by MRM 2.0 should be considered a strong complement to the “customer record” managed by existing downstream technologies. This approach can unlock savings via marketing process efficiencies and deliver incremental revenue through more effective, coordinated communications. As this new category starts to take form, IT and marketing leadership should use MRM 2.0 capabilities as a blueprint to assess current investments against this set of evolving marketer needs.