The very nature of marketing today demands a heavy focus on tactics. Over 3,000 marketing messages a day target your prospects across all channels. How do you cut through that clutter and leave an impact with your message is a tactical question.
As anyone who follows the dramatic proliferation of marketing technologies knows, tools are out there to help with pretty much any tactic that you want to employ. And marketing technology spending as a proportion of overall marketing spend continues to rise rapidly as we invest in these tools.
Despite the marketing hype from the vendors, however, any marketing technology tool requires you to make a substantial investment over and above its fees into learning how to use it and integrating it into your current technology stack.
How do you choose which technologies to deploy? Back up…which tactics to employ?
In a word, strategy.
The Role of Strategy in Setting Tactical Direction
Let’s start with an analogy : you decide to build a house.
Let’s say the first thing to do would be to go to Home Depot, walk into the tool department and wander the aisles looking at all of the cool tools. The self-balancing laser level would be very useful, and you for sure couldn’t put up crown molding without that planer, or finish your bathroom without that tile saw. After you bought all of the tools you think would be useful, then it’s time to make up those blueprints and make sure you have somewhere in it where you can use each tool.
In the real world, the first thing would be to get an architect to draw up the blueprints for your house — that’s the “strategy” for building the house, right?
Wait a sec: how does the architect know how to design your house? Because you gave him your requirements. You needed him to design four bedrooms, three baths, home office, large kitchen and an outdoor patio.
Wait another sec: how did you decide on those requirements? Well, you have a family so you need multiple bedrooms; you need a space to work from home; you like to cook and entertain. You have a certain goals for your life – your “life strategy,” per se. And you decided on your home requirements to support your “lifestyle strategy.”
When you have a definitive strategy, you can align your housing requirements, blueprints and finally tools and materials to it to build your perfect home. On the flip side, an ambiguous (or nonexistent) strategy turns your dream home into “it’s a work in progress.”
When building your Demand Factory™, your strategy turns into requirements, blueprints, tools and materials and finally a Demand Factory that targets the correct leads with the correct messages at the correct time to achieve a high conversion rate and turn them into revenue.
And just as everyone has different lifestyle strategies, each company has a different business strategy and thus, marketing strategy.
Too often, the overall strategy is not defined or not known at the tactical level. Or it is not used to align tactics and the marketing technology that supports them to create an effective demand generation process. Or a marketer walks down the aisle at Home Dep… um, the expo at the marketing conference and looks at all of the shiny tools and decides to build his factory around the tools he wants to use.
So, you go away to the company retreat and come up with the marketing strategy to use account-based marketing (ABM) to target high value prospects as well as a target list of existing clients for cross sell/upsell opportunities. Now the next step is to go buy a bunch of ABM technology. . .
Not yet. What about the requirements and blueprints? Do your marketing and sales groups have the necessary capabilities, processes and procedures to support your ABM strategy? You need to develop those first.
A unified strategy has the power to turn a bunch of tactical actions into aligned efforts — resulting in revenue impact.
How Strategy Impacts Your Marketing Technology Mix
The lowest level of marketing technology you need is a marketing automation system and a CRM. How you use those and every other piece of the ecosystem around them should be aligned to your overall marketing strategy designed to support the overall company strategy.
Just as you would purchase the tools to help you build your house after you have your requirements, blueprints and specs, you should purchase your marketing technology systems after you have the strategy and requirements developed. After all, adding another marketing technology system is simply adding another tool in your Demand Factory and each new tool should have a specific targeted use to forward the overall strategy.
A strategy that is focused on top of funnel acquisition will require you to develop the necessary techniques and tools to capture leads, and the data surrounding those leads, so that vital segmentation data can be integrated across the funnel.
An ABM strategy will require the tools and techniques for extremely targeted marketing. For ABM, internal process alignment between marketing and sales is even more critical than it is for other strategies, because both sales and marketing are required to collaborate on naming target accounts and the personalized touches to address them. Once those processes are nailed down, a strategy heavy on ABM should look at tools that support account targeting, prospect account matching, touch orchestration, personalization, and analytics.
A strategy focused on increasing mid-funnel conversions would need to have data, segmentation and content creation processes in place. These processes are often supported by data services, analytics and content management technologies.
So what do you do if you already have a marketing technology stack and you don’t have a well-defined strategy? First, develop your strategy in alignment with your overall business objectives, without considering (as much as possible) the tools you already have. Then see how those tools fit and align to your strategy. After that, it becomes a cost/benefit analysis to see if it makes sense to continue paying the fees and personnel time and salaries to make the tool perform, or if it’s better to get rid of it. In his article The 7 Food Groups of Martech, DemandGen CEO, David Lewis, shares insights on how to identify solutions that align to your needs.
Most of the clients I work with could achieve bigger gains with less effort by focusing on doing a few key areas well — such as data integration, nurture, segmentation, scoring and analytics — before adding new tools into the mix. The clients who do focus on those areas end up being well placed to take advantage of new tools and technologies much more rapidly and effectively.
Make sure you have a comprehensive marketing strategy in place and understood across your team. And if you don’t, make developing and refining one your first step. Then you can align your tactics and tools to your strategy to make sure you’re getting the most results out of them.
After all, you’re trying to build your “dream” Demand Factory. If you need help laying out a technology roadmap and identifying solutions that align with your marketing stratedy, schedule a call or drop a note to our team.
Ryan Johnson develops and implements marketing automation strategies for DemandGen clients. As a DemandGen Consultant, he has helped clients across a wide range of industries to streamline and optimize their marketing and sales processes to drive measurable success and ROI. Other articles by Ryan Johnson: Is Lead Nurturing Working For You? Here’s How to Find Out