Martech Stacks and The Customer

Eric V. Holtzclaw, Chief Strategist, PossibleNOW

In the older days of marketing, several CMOs invested in tools designed to help better manage their campaigns and audiences. These marketers sought to organize, analyze and improve performance, and thus created the first marketing technology stacks- integrated systems that brought order, unlocked targeted campaigns, and personalized messages for better results.

Considering how far the marketing industry has come in the past few years, the changes have been particularly rapid.  In 2011, there were approximately 150 companies offering marketing technology, and now more than 6,800 technology-based tools including digital advertising, content marketing, marketing automation, social media, data analytics and many more are available.

Somewhere along the way, marketers became stack managers: shadow IT experts who spend more time on technology implementation than messaging, creative development or customer research. For some, the job is now “nothing but the stack.”

Marketers today face unprecedented pressure to build and manage stacks. Technology and software companies are desperate to control as much of the stack as possible. Internal technology teams are desperate to maintain their seat at the table. And all too often, customers and prospects suffer as a result.

In part, this is due to fierce competition among a few major software players vying for ultimate control. As a result, there is little incentive to build in a way that enables sharing and communication with competitive or ancillary products.

This problem is most apparent in the collection and distribution of customer and prospect consent and preferences – likes, dislikes, topics of interest and so on. Almost all of these marketing technology systems and frameworks that comprise the almighty stack collect and store preferences. However, their functionality is limited, and few of them are designed to communicate with other technologies or contribute to a holistic customer record.

As a result, customer consent and preferences stored in a sales CRM system never migrate to customer support, marketing or third-party providers. For example, explicit permission to contact a cell phone – absolutely vital for compliance purposes – lives inside an ESP that can’t interface with the marketing automation solution.

When asked, many enterprise clients often guess that their customer preference information flows through four to six separate, disconnected technologies. Through subsequent analysis, an average of 12-14 distinct systems are revealed- more than double their estimate, as well as clear evidence of deep compliance and customer experience challenges.

All of this makes sense considering each system is better at one thing than another.

If an organization is using Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics or SAP, they want to track their customers from a “sales” perspective – the classic customer relationship management (CRM) solution.  These platforms are geared to enable sales organizations with the information they need to do their job – understand the customer across the lifecycle and achieve insight into what the customer has bought – or could buy – from the company.

Preference and compliance requires maintaining history – the ability to look back over time as the customer changes from one preference choice to another. With the forward-looking bias of these platforms, use of a CRM-oriented system can leave you with an incomplete picture of the customer and lacking the information you need to answer a compliance inquiry. 

If an organizations implements an outbound email service provider like IBM Watson Marketing, Oracle Responsys or Oracle Eloqua, the primary goal is to send communications to the customer to move them further along in the buyer journey, based on scoring, behavior or company objectives. While these systems extensively cover email as the primary form of communication, the customer is likely engaging with the company across multiple channels.

Customers expect that when they provide a preference across one channel, the result is shared across the organization. Frustrations exist when the customer feels like they aren’t heard. Preferences shared to one system should easily propagate across all of your outbound communication platforms with a clear understanding of the source of the change.

If the organization is counting on the customer identity access management system like SAP or LoginRadius to solve the problem, they need to look only to their primary purpose to understand why they fall short.  These systems are built to provide the customer with easy access across the enterprise and to more deeply understand them (from third party sources, for example). The power in an effective preference management implementation is found in an ongoing conversation with the customer as their desires change for how and what they receive in communications across all of the company’s channels.

A complete picture of your customer requires more than just the information you’ve collected from them to date. It also requires that they have seamless access to update their profile data and their preferences as their situation changes. It is not a “point in time” collection. It is a combination of a technology approach with a built-in process that considers the customer and their ability to participate in the preference conversation in an ongoing fashion.

What is the biggest problem marketers are facing today with these technological systems?

None of them are built with direct customer interaction in mind for the management, maintenance and collection of preference data or to provide compliance support across the enterprise.

Enterprises are always hopeful to find one system that can solve all the needs of the marketing stack, but often forget it is called a “stack” for a reason. Each component solves for a specialized and specific marketing problem. It’s important to consider the original heritage of any system a business might be considering.


About the Author: Eric V. Holtzclaw is Chief Strategist of PossibleNOW. He’s a researcher, writer, serial entrepreneur and challenger-of-conventional wisdom. Check out his book with Wiley Publishing on consumer behavior – Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior. Eric helps strategically guide companies with the implementation of enterprise-wide consent and preference management solutions.

About PossibleNOW: PossibleNOW leverages powerful technology and industry-leading expertise to enable companies to listen to customers, remember what they like and dislike and respond in useful, personalized ways. Its enterprise consent and preference management platform, MyPreferences®, collects customer and prospect preferences, stores them safely and makes them available to any other system or application in the enterprise. PossibleNOW strategic services experts identify opportunities, plan technology deployments, design preference collection interfaces and position clients for a win. MyPreferences is purpose-built to help large, complex organizations gain control over communications, mitigate compliance risk and reduce marketing expenses while improving customer experience and loyalty. For more information, call (800) 585-4888, email info(at)possiblenow(dot)com or visit http://www.possiblenow.com.

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