If I could have a statistic to statistically stratify the marketing strategists who are stressed about the pace of technological change, I'm sure it would reflect about 99%. Today's marketers no longer attend conferences and summits on the art of advertising. Instead they spend their time grasping for an understanding of the Marketing Technology ecosystem - particularly in the advertising realm. Industry thought leaders speak not of proper segmentation and how today's technology presents tools which enable marketers to do great things. Instead, they confuse these new tools of the trade with a trade of tools. A dangerous concept that has left the progress of marketing in a lull. The creatives are told they are being disrupted. The agencies have been told they're on notice. The brand marketers are told evolve, become IT and information professionals or quit. And as a result, we have an industry confused. I don't know about you, but I'm ready for technology to become what it is - a set of tools and for great marketers to leverage those tools for great marketing - not the other way around.
Few other industries confuse the wonderment of amazing new technology as much as marketing. The restaurant industry doesn't doubt the future of the chef as new food and kitchen technology arrives, the design and construction industries don't worry that everyone from architects to builders will face obsolescence as software and hardware improves. Instead, they leverage that technology to change their industry. Today's architecture and structure is magnificent! Cities everywhere are seeing a revival, as smart design and build efficiently and cost effectively replaces the old. Technology not only made it possible, but it made it accessible. You could define it's output as a renaissance. Marketing, it's time for your renaissance.
So how do we get there? If Marketers are still underutilizing Marketing Tech, what are the steps to success?
1. Get started. This year's bells and whistles are the same as last year. Begin with a few Marketing Technology providers and iterate. As Peter Their says in Zero to One, planning can be 'arrogant'. You don't know what the business will need in 5 years, but you know it needs better tools now, so start small and evolve.
2. Know your role. As a marketer, you are an artist and a strategist. You may not be able to successfully draw a stick figure, but you're an artist. You have to paint and repaint the picture of your brand. But there's a word for an artist without an audience - a 'starving' artist. If the marketer's job is to segment, position, create and iterate, there must be a complementary partner to connect that to an audience...
3. Know technology's role. The infrastructure. Like a network of highways and high speed trains, Marketing Technology is your new infrastructure to distribute and optimize your messaging. Marketing Tech is new media at it's finest, and it prefers an inventory of targeted audiences, agnostic to the destination, over yesteryear's publisher monopolies. Marketing Tech is a set of tools to complement you; and if you know that, you're already winning.
4. Realize it's early in the game. 20 years ago, we were still figuring out what the 'World Wide Web' meant. There is no way that everyone can migrate from 'You've Got Mail' to the era of 'You've Got Algorithms' that easily. And the ones who say they can are pretending. Take a page from the history of personal computers. They arrived on the scene in the late 1970s. They became friendlier in the 1980s, they became practical in the 1990s, and they made you money in the 2000s. That's 20+ years until the technology was understood, compatible with life, and seen as a tool - not a replacement for business functions.
For marketing tech? It's 1987. The geeks are using it well. But the real first movers are just getting started. If you could go back to 1987 and write yourself a note about computers and the internet what would it be? You have that chance all over again, right now, with Marketing Technology.
5. Leverage the supply chain. When you bought your first computer, your first software, your first network, operating system, ERP system, CRM system, Accounting System or Cloud Based computing system, you did not try to reverse engineer the code, you did not try to understand the code, nor did you pretend to. In those days, the manufacturers and originators of the components that made up these products may have been in Japan. You did not attend their conferences or trek to their factories to debate the ideal number of transistors on a chip or KBPS in a modem. You enjoyed being an end user and the luxuries you deserve as a customer. In Marketing Tech, it's time to do the same thing. Leverage the supply chain and work with real distributors. Sure, this time around, the originators are software companies, in sunny Silicon Valley, with cool logos and websites and charismatic founders. They seem like retail providers. They're not. Successful Marketing Technology manufacturers build tools and platforms. They must pour their investments into R&D and development. Inherently, these firms should not seek to provide both managed services and cutting edge technology and the best know that. True platforms rely on a supply chain to build on their platform, or distribute their platform. In Marketing Technology, a supply chain is slowly developing. Seek to find your retailer. Because when your technology breaks or won't connect, it's the retailer in your neighborhood who is paid to respond, not the Tech firm across the country.
Fortunately, history paints a wonderful picture for how Marketing Technology will diffuse through the marketing industry. It won't disrupt the industry, it will empower the industry. It won't replace the creative, it will make the creative better. Marketing Technology is simply a set of tools. Has the industry confused this? Yes. But that's precisely because it's 'early' in the game. So, to the marketer looking for some old-fashioned first-mover advantage, start moving, know your role and that of technology and find distributors who can be responsible for your success.