Marketing teams have been struggling for years to adjust to their changing roles amid digital transformation. This year, they’ve added a global pandemic, layoffs, and budget cuts to the ever-changing marketplace. Whereas just a few months ago, many were arguing whether CMOs are even relevant post-digital transformation, marketing teams are now worried about more pressing issues: how many more people—and how much more money—may be cut from their teams in the coming year. Luckily, there is one aspect of marketing that seems to be doing well even in these highly stressful conditions: martech (the affectionate abbreviation for Marketing Technology).
I’ve written a lot about the importance of the marketing stack in providing personalization and automation that will improve and enhance customer experience. Most recently, we’ve talked about customer data platforms, a growing solution category from a vast number of companies big and small like Oracle, Adobe, Microsoft and SAP to smaller upstarts like Segment and Exponea (to name a few), which help companies create a single, united point of knowledge about each of their customers’ preferences and needs. Now is the time when companies that have already invested in those technologies are singing a loud “Hallelujah!,” and companies that had been waiting for the right time to implement martech solutions are reaching for a final Hail Mary. Why will investment in martech grow, even amidst such huge loss? The following are a few reasons.
Data Matters Now More Than Ever
I’ve been saying it for years, but now more than ever, companies need to use the data that has been collected. Data needs to be stored and mined for insights that can help not only marketers, but other departments as well. A culture of analytics isn’t just about data either. It’s about a fundamental way of running an operation to center itself around data removing bias from decision making. This is where tools are so important. From real-time data streams for e-commerce and/or IoT to greater CX data from customers. Also, as mentioned above, customer data platforms are a great way to handle data from various sources. It’s time to invest in a platform that can help you get the most from your data if you want to find success moving forward. But buyer beware, the right tech with the wrong people and culture, will never yield the optimal results. Even the software companies understand this, which is why analytics software providers like SAS are steadfast in encouraging the “Analytics Culture.”
Automation for Efficiency
It’s estimated that marketing teams will lose $222 billion in budget and 30 percent of their staff by the end of 2021. The bad news: they still need to keep a strong and dynamic presence in the lives of their customers, whether they’re making sales or not. One of the best ways to make the same touchpoints with fewer people and budget is to automate. Even more than big data, marketing teams right now need to survive. They need a way to push out personalized messaging on all relevant channels quickly, and the only way to do that is with the superhuman capabilities that AI and machine learning afford. Now is the time to move beyond traditional RPA on marketing lines and introduce intelligent RPA and hyper-automation to make the absolute most of their marketing dollars.
This is something that is increasingly being built into marketing clouds, CDP and other marketing automation tools. Generic automation won’t work (or work well). However, trying to personalize without the tools to scale will be almost impossible. Finding the balance here is critical and this is where the tech layer and analytics culture must find momentum to deliver on customer expectations.
Future-Proofing is Necessary
While ad spend and budgets will decrease overall, estimates suggest that spend on martech will continue to grow by 3 percent in the coming year. Why? Because companies that didn’t have martech before have now officially learned their lesson about falling behind. No company in today’s pandemic environment is going to be willing to go un-digital with customer sales or communication—ever again. Martech is no longer simply something that increases efficiency or improves insights. In some cases, it is the only way to reach homebound customers and maintain a relationship with them that is meaningful. (Especially when it looks like the economy may shut down all over again.) In fact, even before the pandemic, marketing automation investment was expected to hit $25 billion by 2023, up from $11.4 billion in 2017. I can only anticipate those numbers will be revised upward thanks to COVID-10.
Playing Ostrich is Not a Possibility
In a perfect world, marketing teams could adjust their spending to account for sales. Fewer sales, fewer ads. Sounds simple enough. But in today’s marketplace, ignoring customers is simply no longer acceptable. Customers want a relationship. They want a deeper level of connection. And they want it whether they are currently buying your product or not. Martech is what will allow teams to maintain that constant level of interaction and maintain high levels of customer experience, even in negative sales conditions
Think about some of the marketing efforts you’ve seen in recent months from companies. A lot of what I’ve seen hasn’t been marketing a certain product. Most companies are using the “we’re here for you” messaging which is great, but those campaigns still cost money. Using technologies that can help get the most out of your marketing campaigns makes sense.
ROI has Never Been So Important
In the current economic climate, it’s more important than ever to understand fully how you’re spending your marketing dollars, and whether or not they are effective. Clearly, the effectiveness may no longer be measured in terms of sales, the traditional key indicator. Now performance marketing may be measured in terms of customer satisfaction, lower phone wait times, more engagement on Instagram, etc. SaaS applications can help you determine different metrics for your ROI which can help companies get a solid grasp of how well their marketing stack is working, and where they can afford to cut spending if it isn’t working.
In times like these—which quite frankly, are unprecedented—every single advantage your marketing teams can find to keep data clean, information moving quickly, and customers engaged is considered a huge win. Coronavirus may be wreaking havoc on the global market, but martech is the one thing that can help any marketing department achieve those goals, even now.
Futurum Research provides industry research and analysis. These columns are for educational purposes only and should not be considered in any way investment advice.
The original version of this article was first published on Forbes.