So, you’ve invested in a marketing platform. Now what?

Pardot, Marketo, Adobe Marketing Cloud – whatever your poison, you have picked it. The system integrators are about to kick off, PO raised and it’s all good to go. What could go wrong?

While a quarter of organisations claim that their top marketing challenge is identifying the right technology, the typical approach to platform selection is ‘technology-first’. Impressive demos that push the realms of possibility, a futuristic roadmap of features, the technical patter of the Account Executive – they all contribute to massive expectations of a “silver bullet” solution.

However, outside the hypothetical world of the platform sales cycle, the elements that wrap around the technology are often just as important in driving success. Operating models, processes, cadence, capabilities, ways of working – not the most exciting of topics in comparison to the unlimited possibilities of a new marketing platform. However, getting these people and process elements right will allow you to maximise the value from your investment.

So how should you select your platform? At a very high level, here are some basic steps:

1. Begin with the customer journey for your most valuable segments and understand the moments that matter to your customers
2. Understand the business capabilities needed to create a differentiated experience at those moments
3. Develop the business, technology and data requirements
4. Select a marketing platform that meets those requirements
5. Translate the specifics of the technical requirements into system configuration
6. Invest and kick off with a pilot, or full-roll out, whichever is more appropriate for the scope and scale of your ambition

Notice how we didn’t start at step 4, which is where most organisations begin, often at the behest of platform providers. For the sake of argument, let’s say this has happened.  You are already committed, and perhaps even signed the metaphorical cheque and are sitting there with a platform that is all dressed up with nowhere to go. 

The question now is how quickly can you now design and construct all the capabilities that wrap around the technology to make the most of your investment?  As you would expect we have a simple three step recipe:

Understand marketing’s future purpose

A common pathway is to configure the marketing technology for the way that the organisation operates today. Whilst this will deliver short-term value, as the role of marketing shifts over time, re-configuration to suit new needs is an expensive and inefficient option. Before launching these initial stages, a clear understanding of the role that marketing will play against the future targeted customer journey points must be an objective. Configure the essentials for now, and everything else to support the ‘future’ marketing function and purpose.

Establish organisational capabilities

Marketing technology cannot be a magic fix-all. To maximise the investment, understand the moments that matter along the customer journey, along with the people, process and technology requirements that must be in place to support those moments. The organisational capability and functionality must be defined with one eye on the future, again not being restricted by what is needed or available for today. Throughout this process, some gaps in the current organisational capabilities will surface. Prioritise by impact, look for early value generation and be wary of ‘quick-wins’ that either over promise in the short term or are misaligned to the future vision.

Backfill capabilities fast to capitalise on investment

Given that the investment is underway, time is of the essence. Backfilling organisational capability through a centralised team (if available) or outsourcing will provide leverage quickly. The objective is to have the platform running to its maximum capacity as soon as possible, otherwise risking an expensive piece of kit operating well below potential. Centralising or outsourcing capabilities, even temporarily, also gives space and the opportunity for the function to upskill, recruit or build new processes and ways of working.

If you are fortunate enough to have a blank sheet of paper and have avoided the tech-first option, start with your customer; ensure that the customer and the business dictate the technology requirements. Otherwise, if the paper is not quite so blank; configure for the future, understand the organisational capability gaps and how to close them, and backfill capabilities fast.

Worded by Gabrielle Lukes-Mooney.

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