When I was 17 and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up, chief marketing technology officer was 334th on my list, only 333 spots removed from my top choice, game show host. Nonetheless, I was surprised when, after Sajak, Dawson and Trebek turned down the gig, Right Source Marketing put me in charge of marketing technology a few weeks ago. I’ve never considered myself a techie, but here I sit, with the rise of technology and data having forever shifted the role of the modern marketer. Just when marketing had become cool again, we’ve gone ahead and crashed the technology party – a place that used to be reserved for geeks and nerds.
Why? The reason is simple – the marketing seat at the boardroom table is getting closer and closer to the CEO seat because marketing is no longer viewed as a cost center but rather a revenue driver. As marketers, if we can tie programs to revenue, we can prove ROI. In order to build the ROI case, though, we need technology.
We started with just the corporate website, but our options have expanded with the development of tools like customer relationship management (CRM), email marketing, web analytics, marketing automation, and more. While each company’s marketing technology “stack” is different — in any given day at Right Source, we may work with three different CRMs, four different email solutions, three or four marketing automation platforms and a host of different content management systems (CMS) — here are a few of the essentials every modern marketer needs to consider, as well as a peek at what we use for our own marketing at Right Source.
1. Website Content Management System (CMS)
A CMS is no longer a nice-to-have for most marketers but an essential tool in the arsenal. In an environment where marketing and content are evolving and highly dynamic, relying on IT to carve out time to schedule even the most basic updates is a process that just doesn’t work for marketers or IT. And unlike even six or seven years ago, it is now typically easier to design and launch a website on a CMS than to try to do so without one.
When choosing a CMS, make sure it meets your needs, not just for now but where you see the business going in the future. Also make sure it is well supported, and that you talk to a few users who can give you the real skinny on its strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you consider any unique functionality, and if you have to integrate with other systems like accounting or CRM, determine just how painful (or simple) the integration process might become.
According to the site Built With, WordPress is currently the most popular CMS, and we’ve found that for the majority of our clients, WordPress serves as a great, easy-to-use tool with a deep community of support and plug-ins to extend functionality. For more complex integrations, companies often turn to platforms including Drupal, DotNetNuke, and a bevy of others. With content as a key driver of marketing, an easy-to-use, well-supported CMS is a must have.
What’s in our stack? WordPress – for our site’s needs (and for those of most of our clients). WordPress offers an optimal solution of ease of use, scalability, flexibility and support. It’s a CMS tailor made for the way we market.
If you are among the 88 percent of marketers who plan to maintain or increase their investment in content marketing, then a blog is an absolute must. Once again, WordPress is far and away the most popular and supported self-hosted blogging platform. Many companies choose to host their blogs with services like Blogger. As mentioned in The Corporate Website: Reports of Its Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated, your lack of complete control over your content with these services is why, at a bare minimum, you want to use your own domain. With so many options for quality themes, design and cost-effective hosting, hosting a blog somewhere because it’s free is a scary place to try to cut corners.
What’s in our stack? WordPress – for all of the reasons cited above.
3. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
The thinking used to be that CRM was setup by IT for sales, and that marketing need not worry themselves about it. However, with a drive towards accountable, ROI-focused marketing, that equation has changed. Effective marketers need to know as much as they can about customers in order to find more like them. For modern marketers to understand the activities that drive not just top-of-funnel leads but leads that convert to customers — and the different dollar values those customers represent — it’s critical that marketing is wired into the CRM system (and that everyone actually USES it, but that’s a post for a different day).
Salesforce.com revolutionized the CRM space in 1999 by making it easy to buy CRM with a credit card and little to no IT involvement. Other large players in the space include Microsoft Dynamics CRM (on-premise and cloud), Sugar CRM, Sage CRM, Oracle and countless others. Again, much like with a CMS, it’s critical to look at what your needs are and what systems you want to integrate.
What’s in our stack? Salesforce.com is our CRM, and we find it’s also the most popular with our clients. Salesforce’s AppExchange offers integrations with hundreds of other applications, including all of the most popular marketing automation platforms.
4. Marketing Automation
For many B2B marketers working with long complex sales cycles involving multiple decision makers, one of the critical tools to help you prove your ROI is marketing automation software. Marketing automation, including popular platforms like Eloqua, Marketo, Hubspot and Pardot, is showing the strongest growth in the roughly $4 billion CRM market according to Q2 Insights. And the market has spoken, with recent acquisitions of ExactTarget and Pardot by Salesforce.com, Eloqua by Oracle, the Marketo IPO and the continued capital investment in HubSpot. Sirius Decisions predicts that 50 percent of B2B organizations will use marketing automation by 2015, up from 20 percent in 2012. The same research tells us that businesses that use marketing automation to nurture prospects experience a 451 percent increase in qualified leads. Marketing automation holds so much promise because, when used properly, marketing automation and CRM together can bridge the gap between marketing and sales, helping each run more efficiently and effectively.
While many marketers get sold marketing automation as a magic wand to solve all of their problems, like most other technologies, it’s only as good as what you do with it. Marketing automation success involves the proper marketing planning, IT and sales alignment and a significant amount of content to help generate leads, qualify leads, nurture leads and ultimately close leads.
When choosing a platform, make sure you look at ease of use, the people in your organization who will use it, and how well it integrates with your CRM. Cost is obviously one factor, but make sure to speak to a few customers to understand strengths and weaknesses, what support the provider offers directly and through local partners and the time it takes to launch. The worst thing that can happen is making the software license investment and then letting it sit around for six months while you figure out how to get it up and running. Don’t be afraid to ask an unbiased expert to help you sort through all of the options – we’ve done that for a number of clients and ourselves.
What’s in our stack? Currently, we use Pardot as our marketing automation platform but are hands-on with Marketo, HubSpot and a number of other providers.
5. Web Analytics
In a marketing universe where most everything must be tracked, a web analytics package is key to understanding user behavior, what’s working on your site (and what isn’t), where traffic is coming from and how to optimize/fix all of this. We work with a few enterprises that run tools like Omniture, but far and away we see Google Analytics as the choice for most organizations. Beyond the basics, ensure that you are getting reports configured to your most important metrics (I like to have them emailed so that they also “push” to users), and that you are making heavy use of goal tracking.
What’s in our stack? Google Analytics
The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth
While many will focus on the value of creating a brand – and don’t get me wrong, that’s indeed important – in our Nate Silver world where the C-Suite wants to see numbers justifying everything, the right marketing technology is critical. However, you can’t just license tools and hope that gets you there – you need a plan, and the motivation to roll up your sleeves and relentlessly execute. While there are many other technologies we could have covered, from social media management and listing to email service providers, in our world, these five technologies are typically the most impactful for our clients.
Marketing technology is only as good as the strategy and content you feed it. Get easy-to-digest tips and more detailed content marketing approaches from Right Source and other industry experts in our free content marketing eBook: “How to Grow Your Business with Content Marketing.”
Agree? Disagree? Think we missed some other key tools? Please add your comments below.