After 15 years of guiding clients through their digital initiatives, I’ve noticed that organizations who deliver great customer experiences start with a clearly defined marketing technology roadmap.
There are several reasons why you need a marketing technology roadmap.
It starts with your customer, she has fundamentally changed and so has how we market and sell to her. Customers now go through 70% of the buying journey before they connect with a vendor. When they do become a lead, 50% are not ready to buy, and need to be nurtured with great content and experiences. The growing demands of the customer, new channels, and the growing importance of digital in impacting customer acquisition, are all radically changing how organizations need to market.
You must engage the customer across their journey with contextual content and experiences that meet their expectations. You need a single view of the customer and your technology must work in symphony to allow you to orchestrate experiences wherever the customer is.
The marketing technology eco-system has exploded. Scott Brinker has tracked the landscape for a few years, and found that the marketing technology product landscape has grown from 150 in 2011 to a staggering 3,874 in 2016, including 87% market growth in just the past year. Further, according to CabinetM, his list is still missing 1,900 companies!
With the explosion in marketing technology, too often, companies take an ad hoc approach to their marketing technology needs, using services and platforms as the need arises, with little or no planning about future needs. They end up with a hodgepodge of technology that doesn’t work together, doesn’t enable marketers to deliver a great customer experience, and ultimately disengages customers who aren’t receiving the experience they expect.
This creates confusion, added costs and technology problems - a broken marketing technology eco-ecosystem breaks the customer experience.
Your customer experience (CX) strategy is hugely dependent on your marketing technology, as delivering a great experience requires the proper use and integration of various platforms and data sources.
To deliver great experiences to customers, you need a strong marketing technology roadmap that allows you to engage customers wherever they are. Your marketing technology roadmap will ultimately deliver an engaging customer experience and will enable teams within the organization. I recommend a 5 step process that organizations must follow to execute their roadmap:
To start the technology roadmap process, we have to dig into the fundamentals and understand the needs, goals, and strategy that underpin the business.
I believe that first, your strategy must align with 6 key principles of great customer experience (read my blog on this topic) that your marketing technology roadmap must deliver. You can find more detail on these principles here on another blog of mine, but here is a gist of the key principles:
You must understand the customer by profiling and segmenting your customer base, and defining the customer journey for each segment. Your data and analytics tools can give a good picture of your customer segments along with information from internal stakeholders in sales and customer service.
Your platform must be integrated to deliver contextual experiences across channels against a single view of the customer.
You must create a single view of the customer that captures a holistic and complete view of their needs, challenges and demands throughout the buying journey.
You must deliver experiences that are contextual and relevant to the customer.
Using a Create Once Publish Everywhere (COPE) philosophy, you must deliver relevant and accessible content to the customer on any and every channel.
You must provide simplified and easy-to-use experiences to your clients as well as your internal marketing team.
As you define your strategy, assemble stakeholders from all relevant departments - sales, marketing, IT, legal, etc. to create, categorize, and prioritize the intended outcomes and functionality for your marketing technology. Through this process, you should assess both immediate needs and future vision.
To assemble this information, several processes and exercises will help gather and organize relevant insight and data:
a) Stakeholder interviews - This includes the interview with the leadership, business stakeholders, and international stakeholders
b) Current strategy review - You should review and align on the existing strategy for individual department across the organization and try to identify the gaps. You should understand how each department interacts with the others. You should examine and share the best practices based on the business objectives to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of interdepartmental communication.
c) Vision Definition - One of the important activities of this phase where you should take all the learnings, analysis, interviews findings, business objectives, gaps, and opportunities put into consideration and use them to define the high-level, strategic vision.
Analyze the current market, trends, and best practices to help guide the future of the technology plan based on the broader market.
The digital vision document informs the details of the strategy and comprises the following capabilities:
Once you have defined a target outcome for your marketing technology, you will need to assess both your current technology and the technology of your competitors and organizations you benchmark as leaders in customer experience.
In this phase, you should perform a fact-based analysis to identify a summary set of objectives, goals, pain areas, and opportunities that bridge the gaps in your current organization and strategy. There will be a prioritization exercise where business stakeholder and leadership inform the priorities in addressing these deficiencies and leveraging available opportunities.
From this analysis, create a report that details gaps in current functionality as well as external threats and opportunities. This assessment provides the framework for the eventual strategy, providing a clear picture of current processes and their variance from desired outcomes.
With the understanding of the vision and gaps, conduct a review of specific capabilities and functionality that would be necessary to meet the intended goals (now and into the future). At this stage, you are looking for functionality rather than technology, as to not get into the weeds too much. Create a capabilities blueprint document that captures all key functionality you will need to support an exceptional customer experience.
In this phase, you define a technology architecture to support your capabilities blueprint. The illustration below provides a list of must-have technologies for B2B companies, but the eco-system is typically much more expansive with capabilities that meet the specific needs of your organization.
You can then start to define the technology blueprint through logical and physical architecture design.
Once you have identified technologies, you can start a selection process that includes conducting RFPs, demos, and architecture planning sessions with vendors. I recommend that you conduct proof of concepts prior to purchasing the technology -- everything can look like that nice, shiny car, but until you take it out for a test drive, you don’t know if it’s a fit for you!
Businesses often face three challenges in the selection process of new product technologies:
When the project and the decision cross organizational functions, bias based on the loudest voice can be introduced into the selection process and lead to selecting a technology that meets only part of the organization’s needs.
Businesses often lack a structured and objective methodology to use in the evaluation and selection process.
Many businesses are dependent on a limited subset of the total available data and lack the necessary inputs across all dimensions of decision making to make a truly objective and informed decision.
Technology Blueprinting aims to ensure that the right decision is made in order to overcome these common challenges. A successful approach to technology evaluation and selection results in secure knowledge in the technical viability of a new digital product:
Throughout this stage, there should be a clear and rigorous process to evaluate and select the proper solutions for each piece of the technology strategy, including a detailed review of necessary integrations and cross-functionality.
Once you have identified your technology blueprint, you need to define a plan to operationalize your marketing technology. You need to create a roadmap that links your strategic priorities with program initiatives, while managing dependencies.
Throughout this process, there should be an underlying focus on future advancement and timing for technology change. In this stage, we will outline not just the specific tools and platforms that will be used, but also the timeline for development, deployment, and upgrades/advancement.
After completing this process, your team will have a clear vision for what the marketing technology stack will look like tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. This will allow your team to plan and manage for coming change, including creating specific budgets and schedules for their own needs that may be dependent on changes in marketing technology.
The roadmap is not static. As you execute your initiatives, you will learn from them. You must review your roadmap on a consistent basis. I ask my clients to review the roadmap once a quarter and consider refreshing it annually to keep it current and aligned with changing business priorities.
By planning for the current state of technology and creating a roadmap to handle and manage change into the future, you’ll be able to position your business for strategic growth rather than fall victim to the challenges that come with poor technology management.
Managing change is a key area of focus as you work on your roadmap. Create a communications plan in order to keep relevant stakeholders informed, a training plan to ensure team members are brought up to speed and build in evaluation from your customers to ensure you are moving in the right direction.
The B2B Marketing Technology Roadmap development may seem like a laborious process, but it is critical to the successful execution of your marketing strategy.