​How to get the best ROI from your martech investment

Marketers need to be more savvy with their marketing tech spend to remain competitive and relevant. Here, we gather advice on how get a martech ROI

Marketers have been on an aggressive march towards digitisation and are expected to spend $32.4 billion globally on marketing technology by the year 2018, according to IDC. But what many are struggling with is demonstrating martech’s positive ROI.

“With more solutions than ever flooding the marketing technology arena, you can’t blame marketers for being uncertain of the best way to proceed,” says managing director of advertising tech business InSkin Media, Matt Newcomb. “It’s easy to forget these technologies all exist to drive better campaign outcomes, giving marketers more control and more knowledge, not less.”

In a 2014 CMO Council report, less than half of marketers surveyed were found to be producing a positive ROI off the back of the technology they used. Ensighten’s chief strategy officer, Pelin Thorogood, predicts marketers will feel even hotter under the collar in 2016 when it comes to proving martech ROI.

“Something has to give,” she tells CMO. “This is why you’ll see marketers make stronger efforts to eliminate martech redundancies – for example, replacing traditional enterprise analytics with in-house solutions. You’ll also see marketers try to make these technologies work better together to produce better results through the use of a digital data layer, which standardises data definitions across siloed applications, and through the use of the universal customer profile.”

Managing director of programmatic vendor, Rocketfuel, JJ Eastwood, points to the rapid evolution of marketing and advertising industries thanks to changes in consumer behaviour, the explosion of new devices and advancements in marketing technology.

“In this new world of ever-proliferating data, marketers will be forced to move beyond profiles, segments and demographics and break the constraints of planning for channels in a silo,” he says. “This will put an end to data loss, latency and fractured views and ultimately gives marketers a full view of customers.”

For his part, Eastwood sees a growing trend towards unifying data platforms and functionality.

“This year, there will be a growing trend towards integrated DSP [demand-side platforms] and DMPs [data management platforms] that allow savvy marketers to optimise media spend across all addressable channels simultaneously.”

Linking martech investment to long-term strategy

Wherever the pain point might be, David M. Raab, principal of US-based marketing technology consultant, Raab Associates, believes the key to martech ROI is having a strategy. This requires a long-term approach that then guides tactical decisions.

“This gives you a way to assess specific opportunities by asking: Do they support my strategy?” he says. “More specifically, do they support my strategy better than alternative investments?”

Raab, who has more than 30 years’ experience as a marketer, consultant, author and analyst, suggests strategy itself exists at several levels.

“You start with a business strategy, such as excellent service to justify a premium price, then a marketing strategy, such as using highly personalised marketing to attract affluent customers who will pay extra for superior services,” he explains. “Then you look at a martech strategy, such as developing advanced personalisation capabilities for a consistent, coordinated experience across all channels.

“This strategy determines your technical requirements and overall architecture. Only once all that is in place can you start to acquire specific systems to fit into the planned architecture.”

There’s no one-size-fits all solution because strategies will differ, Raab says. As a result, he advises testing capabilities using external services before making a long-term investment in a particular system or platform.

“This might mean using an agency or a ‘software-as-a-service’ platform to try new media or promotion methods without committing to them fully,” he says. “If something works, you can make a larger commitment. This approach lets you try many new things, increasing the odds of success. Of course, whatever you try needs to be consistent with your marketing and business strategies.”

Australian managing director of digital agency, MullenLowe Profero, Dave Bentley, agrees marketers must build a clear vision and strategy for what their brand’s customer experience should be over the next three to five years.

“Take a new perspective and focus on what channels could truly add value for your customers, instead of focusing on what fits with your current marketing strategy,” he says. “Audit existing systems and identify gaps, then research and prototype technology platforms that fill those gaps. Work with agency partners that know how to integrate these technologies and specialise in designing and building customer-centric digital platforms.

“Then test, learn and optimise.”

Bentley says marketers should focus on very deliberate test, learn and optimise programs. At the same time, he recommends being open and flexible, noting test-and-learn may throw up insights that require changes to the strategy.

“There are so many leaps we’re making in digital that could and should add tremendous value to businesses, and in the long run drive significantly better ROI,” he continues. “However, it will take time and concerted effort to work out how best to use new innovations like marketing automation, personalisation engines with a content management system, and proximity-based marketing. Not to mention making the most of well-established platforms like Facebook, which is now a very powerful targeted advertising platform.

“My advice would be to start simple, but have a vision, strategy and roadmap to work towards, aiming to leverage these technologies towards drive stronger business results over time.”

Establish your ‘vital few’

For Oracle Marketing Cloud’s APAC regional director, Will Griffith, martech ROI also comes down to keeping it simple. To do this, he advises establishing your marketing ‘Vital Few’ before considering an investment.

“Work from the top down, define the vision, map the objectives to the vision and list out the goals that will get you there,” he advises. “Be harsh and cut out the non-core to leave yourself with your ‘Vital Few’. When it comes to martech investments, you shouldn’t even look at it if it doesn’t clearly align to one of your Vital Few objectives, goals and vision.

“Also, don’t re-invent the wheel. Find early adopter examples of companies in similar industries to you, understand what martech they are using, do a skills analysis of what you have in your organisation. Then initiate adoption of those marketing technologies being adopted by others and you have the right skillset to run with, and address your low hanging fruit to produce better results.”

Up next: How to integrate technology and blending tech with creativity

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