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Unlock Martech’s Potential By Building A Systems Approach
This article originally appeared in Randy Wootton’s Forbes Tech Council column.
When I talk to marketers about their work, I can sense their optimism about bringing creativity to life and developing experiences that engage their customers. But when I ask them about their jobs — that is, the actual day-to-day tasks — their answers are more about meetings and emails. Many admit to feeling crushed by the number of tasks on their plate. Essentially, their jobs are getting in the way of their actual work.
While creativity is the heart of marketing, on its own it is not enough. In order to build successful marketing campaigns, it’s important to have the proper systems in place. Otherwise, creativity falls far short of its potential. In my experience, one of the top challenges modern marketers face is enabling creativity to happen at scale. This is why so many marketers are investing in more and more technology — marketers spent almost 30% of their budgets on technology in 2018. However, despite how much creatives cringe upon hearing that dreaded S-word, this is a systems problem, not necessarily just a technology problem.
So what exactly is a system? It’s a set of interconnected parts working toward a common goal. It has three components: workflows, stocks and feedback loops. The key to fostering creativity at scale is defining what these systems need to do in order to be useful. An effective system must distribute decision making, process information efficiently, operate with simple rules and be subject to constant analysis and refinement.
In order to build an effective marketing system, there are a few questions marketing technology leaders need to ask themselves:
Is your plan designed to help you achieve success?
Do you plan for the sake of planning, or is your plan the default starting point to drive briefs and make decisions? A plan should give your teams clarity and help them set priorities. In many cases, however, plans just add more busywork and serve as another box to check. To ensure success, check in on your plan regularly, and make sure it’s targeted to help you succeed.
Can you identify how each campaign, large or small, ties back to the plan?
If your CEO came into the room right now, could you tell them which campaigns you have in flight and why? For any given piece of content — whether that’s a tweet, blog post or byline — you should be able to identify the campaign it’s part of, the customer it’s targeted to and its metrics for success. A study on the top challenges facing marketing leaders showed how important it is to align each team and campaign with the focus and goals of the business. Otherwise, your hard work might miss the mark and go to waste.
How much do you really know your ideal customer?
How much time do you really spend getting to know your ideal customer and figuring out the best way to reach them, rather than just reacting to today’s fires? When you talk to actual customers, you should check to see if they resemble your ideal customer. If a campaign isn’t a fit for them, you might seriously want to consider not moving forward with it.
Are your team members engaged?
As a manager, do you measure activity and effort, or do you measure impact? If reports from your team are about ticking the boxes instead of moving the needle, you might need to reassess your leadership approach. Lots of research has been done on the best way to build an engaged team. Some tactics include listening and responding to employee needs, creating a fun work environment and implementing incentive systems.
In my nearly 20 years of experience working in advertising technology (adtech) and marketing technology (martech), I’ve grown to learn a great deal about building technologies to solve problems — but equally as important, I’ve learned that technology is only part of the solution. In fact, did you notice that none of the questions above is about technology?
If we want to cross the chasm from “doing digital” to “being digital,” we must accept that systems are at the core of mature marketing organizations. Systems save us from being dragged around by new channels and short-term trends. With them, we can set our strategies and build organizations that will make channels and trends work on our behalf. And with a good system, all this talk about how much change is happening in marketing shouldn’t scare you, because you’ll be prepared to deal with it.