A better way to spend your tech dollars

social media applications and content management just a small part of the long list of technology marketing teams are investing in

When you think of technology spending at a company, you probably assume the IT department disperses nearly all the money, with a small percentage going to departmental tech like smartphones and cloud services. But according to Laura McLellan, Gartner's vice president of marketing strategies, 50 per cent of IT spending outside of the IT budget goes through marketing departments -- on top of IT's expenditures on marketing technology. In fact, by 2016, 80 per cent of marketing tech investments will come outside of IT, Gartner predicts.

What is marketing spending its tech dollars on? The list is long, including social media applications, marketing analytics (Web, social, and dashboards), content management, campaign management, search-engine optimisation, and collaboration tools. In the next year, the top areas for digital marketing investment will be social media, mobile applications, customer relationship management (CRM), customer analytics, content management, collaboration tools, and predictive analytics. These technologies break down into three broad buckets:

  • Marketing automation. This includes content management and social media monitoring, as well as the automation, aggregation, and analysis of social data, not to mention established technologies such as sales-force automation and CRM. The goal of this category is to increase the effectiveness of the marketing processes themselves.

  • Social technology and mobile technology. Both technologies produce fundamentally different interactions with and among customers. How marketers can take advantage of them is unclear. At one end is the monitoring of people's new behaviours -- what they comment on in social media and how they shop or look up information when not at a desk, for example. At the other is using these new conduits to customers to serve them actively, such as tapping into location data to provide localised recommendations (geotargeting and hyperlocal).

  • Analytics for real-time business intelligence. Historically, companies have used BI to assess the past, then rollout changes based on that assessment. But in a fast-moving world that insight often comes too late. Also, it's typically based on data collected for very specific purposes, so the insights that can be gleaned from it tend to be limited to those original purposes. But new, often cloud-based technologies, collectively called big data, are providing ways to analyse information very quickly (even in real time), from multiple sources. Companies can adjust their operations and marketing more quickly -- and even more targeted to specific types of customers.

What's pushing marketing as the new technology lead

Today, marketers must lead with data and insight, and that is completely technology-driven, says Liz Miller, vice president of marketing programs and operations at the CMO Council. It's the same reason that 20 years ago, IT was closely aligned to the CFO, who at the time was challenged with creating financial systems that were transparent, consistent, analysable and scalable in a globalising world. In a world where customers are increasingly found in digital venues such as social media, websites, and apps, marketers are focused on how customers interact with companies, what companies can learn from those interactions through analytics, how businesses can better integrate and participate in those digital contexts, and how businesses can innovate the customer experience to add more value and thus increase sales and lower turnover.

Accomplishing these four goals means using technology across the board, both within the company and to interact through customer touchpoints. The technologies need to work together or at least let the information flow across the technology mix, whether owned by marketing or IT (it's usually a mix).

How one marketing chief's tech strategy works

At four-year-old data-storage startup Actifio, the marketing technology investment, which is all all cloud-based, is two to three times that of internal IT spending. The company's investment in marketing tech is all about increasing both sales and employee productivity.

As part of that effort, Actifio uses Jive social networking software to create a living knowledge management system across its employees, which helps the sales- and support-heavy company better serve customers. "We all know what each of us know," says chief markerting officer Mike Troiano.

As its other core marketing tech, Actifio uses Cisco Systems' WebEx service for conferencing and Salesforce.com for its sales-force automation and CRM.

Actifio has also invested in HubSpot for inbound marketing, primarily for lead management automation, or collecting data about potential customers then segmenting them for targeted communication, personalisation, relationship building, and inquiry and sales management. With some lightweight scripting, HubSpot connects the company's blog to the Salesforce.com CRM software; this way, potential customers who come to the blog are linked to the CRM system for sales and marketers to use. As a result, Troiano saw its Web leads rise from one to two per month to 60 per month.

Still, despite realising productivity gains his marketing technology investments, Troiano says data integration and unified user experience are both lacking across the pieces he's assembled. This year, he hopes to improve integration for the reporting and tracking function across products to better monitor the customer journey at all touchpoints, so he can measure what and who works effectively.

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