It’s no secret that over the past decade, marketing has become a much more complex and fragmented market. New channels have appeared almost overnight, received marketing wisdom has fallen by the wayside and new technology has dramatically changed customer engagement.
Add to this environment the unprecedented disruption and challenges brought about by the pandemic and it’s safe to say the marketing industry is at an inflexion point. So amid all this turbulence, how can marketers ensure they retain a competitive edge and adapt to changed consumer behaviour?
Is tech the answer?
On paper the answer to a lot of these questions starts with technology. Marketers are spoiled for choice with different solutions offering ways to gain insights, measure engagement, generate and share content on the right channels at the right time and much, much more.
However, it’s not a simple case of getting the right kit and reaping the rewards. What matters just as much is how the technology is used both within a marketing department and the wider business. The effectiveness of your new marketing tech is directly linked to how an organisation adapts structurally. Often, the biggest limiting factor for efficient and impactful use of technology is the siloing of insights, expertise and content within a marketing department.
So what do we mean by silioing? Essentially, marketing can often suffer from being treated as a completely separate department. Yes, there will hopefully always be a degree of interaction with sales, product development and customer service, but generally, siloed marketing works independently.
Content is created, pushed out on the right channels, its impact analysed and knowledge gained used to refine the approach. Marketing channel owners, like performance marketing specialists, create and orchestrate their own content for their own purposes, for example running ad campaigns on respective channels.
The wealth of data within performance marketing
While usually only hard KPIs are shared with the wider business, the knowledge gained through these activities is much richer. Think about it this way: A performance marketer can test which messages resonate best with a certain audience. In addition to this, performance marketing sits on a wealth of data points – from user journeys, to user behavior to audience-specific information (e.g. which persona is more likely to consume your content on the weekend).
Usually, the only insights shared with the wider business is the impact of specific campaigns. The reality is that marketing departments sit on a wealth of information, knowledge and content that, if shared throughout the business, can provide incredibly valuable insights and increase efficiency by reducing the duplication of work.
Similarly, as we saw with the slow pace at which many businesses adapted to the first lockdowns, expertise and even the access to marketing platforms can be so concentrated within a marketing department that entire businesses can be hamstrung by the absence or time limitations of one or two team members. This silioing is also a two way street. In many instances, the wider business uses completely different platforms that are not integrated into the marketing department, knowledge and content is only shared on an ad hoc basis and marketers have little visibility on what other departments are working on.
This failure of insight and content sharing, tech integration and widespread skills is the essence of siloing. From the perspective of adopting and using new marketing technology it can result in the purchase of the wrong technology and the ineffective use of new tech. This can be particularly relevant for affiliate marketing and lead generation. A poorly conceived tech stack can often make or break a performance campaign. You only have to look at how a slow website can result in terrible conversion rates.
How do we solve the siloing problem?
Solving this problem requires breaking down the walls between marketing and the wider business. This means enacting cultural, structural and skills based change. Decision making on tech use within a marketing department has to be shared with the wider business, particularly the data, development and IT teams, and, vice versa.
Knowledge and data needs to be integrated so that information sharing is not reliant on meetings, emails and Excel spreadsheets. This also means having a unified and consistent approach to data governance to make information both accessible and usable across a business.
Ideally, a marketing department evolves into a truly multidisciplinary function, with data scientists, architects, developers and IT specialists all working hand-in-hand with the various marketing specialists. This doesn’t just mean having them sit around the same part of the office and attend the same meetings, it means training or hiring so that skills are shared.
Marketers gain a working knowledge of data science and IT issues, and those specialists learn how different marketers work. The result is the needs, expectations and aims of different functions of a business are better understood by the people within them. Cross-team collaboration is also improved enabling a more agile approach to projects.
When implemented correctly, many of the issues that can dog the effective use of marketing tech can fall away. Shared knowledge means there is no single point of failure on using a platform. New tech is chosen not just on the requirements of marketing, but also on the existing and future plans for the wider business tech stack and its ability to be integrated into existing systems – this lowers costs and enables future proofing.
All data that resides in a business is pooled, maximising both the accuracy and utility of insights gained from marketing. Content can be recycled to maximise its value and impact. And, the success of the tech itself is judged not just on the aims of marketing but also how it feeds into wider business goals.
If all of this sounds like too big a challenge, especially in the current climate, don’t despair. Start small. A review of your existing marketing tech stack is an easy first step in determining whether your team has everything it needs to get the best results and will let you know what gaps you need to plug.
You can use what you learn through this audit to pilot a multidisciplinary approach to procuring, integrating and using your next piece of marketing technology. This experience will begin to create the culture and processes you need to break down your marketing silo. It may take time, but the rewards will be huge.