Steve Petersen, Author at MarTech Marketing Strategy, Marketing Technology, Marketing Transformation Wed, 06 Jul 2022 17:23:50 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.9.3 Five human issues that can wreck a technology implementation https://martech.org/five-human-issues-that-can-wreck-a-technology-implementation/ Thu, 07 Jul 2022 12:58:00 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=353260 Vendors, stakeholders, users and even you can cause you a lot of problems.

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There’s far more than tech to martech. That may seem counterintuitive, but the longer I work in this field, the more I realize it’s true. Especially when it comes to implementations and integrations. While there’s always the risk of technical problems, people-related issues can wreak as much havoc, if not more. Let’s examine some of those.

1: Time passes slowly

There are times when you’re asked to change something and it gets delayed because other business units need to approve it. For example, if privacy laws are involved. Legal, security and privacy teams may need a vendor to make changes to its product. This can take anywhere from months to more than a year to accomplish.

A lot can change in that time, including the reason for the change. 

  • If it was meant to improve user adoption – especially for an internal tool – users may find workarounds that accomplish what the integration was supposed to do. 
  • The user base and use cases may change to such an extent what you were asked to do isn’t needed. 
  • Turnover on the implementation team may mean no one is on it from when the change was requested. As a result they don’t understand why it was needed or what it is supposed to accomplish. 
  • People may even forget why they wanted the change in the first place. 

These are just a few of the situations that can arise.

2: Who’s project is it, anyway?

The reason for this is a lack of ownership and sponsorship. Implementations and integrations can require plenty of attention, resources and funding. Unless there’s someone senior and committed to the initiative it will likely wither on the vine. 

Employee turnover can also hurt a project, even after it’s up and running. Once the senior person who championed it leaves, the product or integration may be iced either by the staff who implemented it or their replacement. Sometimes the staff was never sold on the product and only selected it because of their former boss. Or the new boss may prefer a competing product. This may be a time to consider the pros and cons of practitioners specializing in specific martech products. It is nice to understand a product intimately, but a narrow focus can blind specialists to other possibilities.

3: User adoption

It doesn’t matter how great a tool or integration is if people don’t use it. A successful project must anticipate and address user and stakeholder resistance (see the change management link above). 

4: The shining

All of us are attracted by new, shiny things – especially if the cool kids are using them. While there is sometimes substance behind the hype, rarely does a product or integration shine on its own. Commitment and orchestration are needed; without them it may be best to leave that shiny thing on the shelf.

5: Relationship trouble

Relationships involving money are every bit as complex as those involving love. You want one thing, they want another. You say they don’t communicate well, they say you don’t ask enough questions. Friction is part of every client-vendor relationship. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s them, maybe both. Sometimes you can get through the rough patches together. Sometimes you have to call in the lawyers.

Here’s a few issues that might crop up on the vendor side. Maybe turnover makes the account team a rotating cast of characters. With each change you have to get to know a new person and they have to get to know a new project. This makes it more likely critical details fall through the cracks. It could be the vendor is taking its product in a different direction than the client needs. Also, and this is a very common one, the account team can’t get client questions, requests and bugs addressed in a reasonable time. That one creates a lot of friction and bad will. No doubt you could add many more things to this list.

On the client side, maybe your team has high turnover, too. Then there’s the fact that getting good customer service requires you to be a good customer. To be clear, that doesn’t mean the vendor can do whatever. However, sometimes the client may have unreasonable expectations. Before going off on the vendor, look at your own actions. Clients need to contribute their fair share to maintaining a productive client-vendor relationship.

Don’t go it alone

This is why it can be helpful to have full-time buyers involved during the procurement process. They, along with the legal team, can spot potential challenges from the get-go. These can be anything from vague or unfavorable terms to problematic pricing to weak service level agreements. Lean on those colleagues. They’ve done this more often than you have.

Implementations and integrations rarely go without a hitch. This is easy to understand, but sometimes hard to apply when multiple stakeholders are clamoring for action NOW. There’s far more than tech when it comes to martech.


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Broaden your marketing ops talent perspective https://martech.org/broaden-your-marketing-ops-talent-perspective/ Fri, 03 Jun 2022 16:11:03 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352725 Marketing operations is more than just marketing automation. Diversify your perspective when looking at candidates' skill sets.

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Recently Demandbase and marketing operations (MOPs) training provider Highway Education released their “The State of Marketing Operations: 2022” report.  It includes insights from various marketing operations luminaries like Darrell Alfsono and Sara McNamara who are certainly aware of the challenges facing professionals in this field.  One of the report’s important takeaways is that marketing operations practitioners are in high demand, and there’s a real need for more formal training opportunities.

As I see it, one way that companies looking for marketing operations talent can better find suitable people to fill operations roles is to broaden their perspective of potential candidates – especially during the tight labor market caused by the “Great Resignation.”  Many people have what I consider a narrow view of who to recruit, and that’s to their detriment.

Marketing automation’s prominence

It is not surprising that many equate marketing operations with marketing automation; marketing automation platforms offer a lot of what marketing departments need in the digital space.  Such platforms are valuable in many situations throughout B2B, B2C, and D2C contexts, and all sorts of teams throughout marketing, sales, and other departments certainly have a need for marketing automation. 

Further, since marketing automation platforms are core tech stack components that integrate with many other systems, it seems logical that marketing automation teams would serve as a core and foundational component of any marketing department’s operations.  In fact, as robust and powerful platforms, they could certainly serve as a backbone system for smaller organizations for most – if not all – marketing initiatives.   

Beyond marketing automation

However, there are plenty of practitioners throughout marketing who develop both the requisite technical skills and business acumen to serve as competent operational practitioners.  I agree with Knak Co-Founder and CEO Pierce Ujjainwalla, who was quoted in the report as saying: “We all have found our way into MOps some random way.” 

So, why is the field so focused on people who have marketing automation experience?

Fixating on marketing automation causes blind spots for the marketing operations field.  I’ve argued that marketing operations teams should pay more attention to websites.  The web channel offers many opportunities for marketing departments, and the acumen needed for operating marketing automation platforms, analytic tools, and related systems actually translates well over to content management systems (CMSs).

Further, by looking beyond email, texts, and messaging to the web channel, operations folks could have a better view of other channels.  With a more consistent focus on a broader perspective, operations folks can more holistically see possibilities to orchestrate multi-channel campaigns.  Wouldn’t that impress marketing leadership and the C-suite?


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Desirable skills come from several backgrounds

Ashley Blanchard, manager, marketing automation and product management at Adobe, is an example of a marketing operations and technology practitioner who came from a web background instead of a marketing automation one.   When I asked Blanchard if I could mention her, she replied: “I think we need more web developers to convert to marketing technology and operations!”

I don’t mean to toot my own horn, but I am also one of those people who doesn’t have a significant background mainly performing in a marketing automation role.  

Blanchard spent a lot of her time developing and maintaining integrations and data flows as a web developer.  I was more of a website administrator who also worked closely with software developers to build custom software ranging from CMS extensions to building systems from scratch.  We – like automation specialists – have learned and operated with project management, fought many figurative fires, negotiated with legal and security, had to comply with a regulatory morass tapestry, managed systems users, configured user permission sets, modified functionality, worked with account teams, and collaborated plenty with IT, creative, and other marketing and sales stakeholders. 

CMSs integrate with many other systems just like automation platforms.  Websites are similarly dependent upon analytics as emails, messaging, paid search, and social media with comparable opportunities for testing and fine tuning.  CMSs and web tactics certainly evolve as much as marketing automation does.  Thus, there are plenty of ways to develop marketing operations and technology acumen.

Further, Blanchard told me that she feels that system ownership (of any type of platform) requires one to develop and use creative problem solving skills.  She adds that this “is the critical skill set anyone in marketing tech needs: how to make a software platform work in an ecosystem to solve complex problems. And there are lots of software platforms being used creatively out there by good candidates.”

As more and more of marketing and sales initiatives grow more digital and technical, specialists from beyond marketing automation develop and use skills that are not only applicable but essential to operations.  Thus, marketing leadership, hiring managers, and recruiters should look beyond automation folks for operations roles.  I argue that people with websites, paid search, social media, and analytics backgrounds offer just as much potential and, perhaps most importantly, a different perspective than automation specialists.

Read next: Marketing operations talent is suffering burnout and turnover

Cast a wide net

Don’t get me wrong.  Marketing automation specialists are a wonderful group of people.  They have certainly earned their growing reputation of serving essential marketing functions, but they’re not the only ones capable of fulfilling the demands placed upon marketing operations teams.  

One way to address the implications of the current tight marketing operations jobs market like top-heavy teams leaving senior practitioners in the weeds, burned out professionals, long hiring processes, and too much turnover is to cast a broader net when recruiting – just keep the compensation packages growing and improving.

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Martech is mainly about relationships https://martech.org/martech-is-mainly-about-relationships/ Fri, 13 May 2022 14:14:37 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=352350 If you though technology and strategy were the hardest parts of marketing tech, think again. Relationships are fundamental.

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My approach to the marketing technology field has been geared toward focusing on human topics like relationships.  Marketing technology, however, is certainly a technical discipline, and my route to this field began by working closely with web developers and designers as well as software programmers.  Further, it obviously involves marketing acumen, which I’ve picked up on the job.  Granted, one can certainly argue that most – if not all – professions are mainly about relationships, but I can certainly speak to martech.

I’ve tried to focus some of my columns on the relationship aspects of our field for a few reasons.  First, there are so many other experts and voices who provide great technical and marketing insights.  There isn’t a shortage of those.  Second, it has provided me with a niche to fill.  Third, my work experience has really impressed upon me that the technical and business aspects of working in this field are the easier (certainly not always easy) parts of the job; relationships, on the other hand, can be much more difficult.

Relationships are important – particularly, as Milton Hwang argues, where marketing operations and tech leaders have become modernizers.  Darrell Alfonso also provides some valuable insights into how practitioners handling the day-to-day and tactical aspects of marketing operations can better understand the leader’s perspective.  Alfonso weaves relationship tips throughout his piece.

You’re not alone

How often have you had a straightforward project get held up by bureaucracy or office politics?  Have you ever tried to get a colleague to slow down so that you all could more thoroughly evaluate a need or problem?  Ever been involved in training or providing other enablement to end users?  How about trying to jockey for organizational funding and priority for your project over your colleagues’ projects?  Is it just me or is persuading other people to your position not always easy peasy?  Moving and shaking is fun until the pushback, right?


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Change and project management

There are many tools and strategies out there for addressing the tricky parts of relationships.  For instance, I’ve written about the value of change management and project management methodologies to martech practitioners.  

Change management acknowledges that resistance is inevitable – regardless of whether people perceive that a change is positive, neutral, or negative.  It provides tools and tactics to anticipate, evaluate, and address such resistance.  If that doesn’t involve relationships, I don’t know what does.  Hopefully, when change management is used correctly, no one will need to even fret that resistance is futile as people will feel that their perspective and input are considered.  There’s a reason why the Borg aren’t popular.

Project management on the other hand provides structure to getting stuff done.  It establishes roles and responsibilities along with cadences, ceremonies, definitions, measurement standards, and artifacts to assist a group to collectively work together to accomplish tasks.  The agile philosophy and its accompanying Scrum framework are rather popular, and my fellow contributor Stacey Ackerman has written about how to apply them in martech contexts.  By clearly establishing a framework for action, people are better aware of roles, expectations, and schedules — and that all helps promote healthy relationships among the people involved.

Winning & influencing

I kid you all not.  While I was drafting this column, a senior leader here at my employer Zuora shared his notes regarding Dale Carnegie’s seminal work “How to Win Friends and Influence People.”  He shared them since he believes that its principles are critical to individual and collective success.  Not only is it easier to accomplish things when people choose to get along but typically the results are superior as well.

It is important to note that Carnegie’s principles are related to leadership.  Unlike managing, anyone can participate in leading — no matter how junior or senior they are.  Focusing on establishing and maintaining positive relationships can help junior individuals punch above their weight, but when senior individuals foster healthy relationships, they too can shine as people respect and value positive leaders.  I’ve seen individuals across the seniority spectrum both fail and excel when it comes to relationships, and based upon how my colleagues have responded and reacted, my unscientific and anecdotal sample shows that it is better to strive to be likable.

Carnegie’s philosophy can certainly help martech practitioners excel if they choose to incorporate it into their work.  Working in martech involves changing things and influencing others, and failing to consider the importance of interpersonal relationships will likely hinder a practitioner’s ability to thrive.

I can also personally attest to the senior Zuora leader’s focus on fostering positive relationships and on placing people first; he walks the walk.  He’s proof that being nice can lead to success.  His resume shows that he has advanced and thrived professionally at companies of significant consequence like SAP.  If he can, so can all of you.

The difficult stuff

Don’t get me wrong.  Integrations, RFPs, measuring KPIs, and similar activities are not always easy.  However, relationships are involved in all of them, and if my experience is representative, relationships are the toughest aspects of martech.  Why not try to make this aspect not only more tolerable but enjoyable and effective to boot?


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Who’s a marketer anyway? https://martech.org/whos-a-marketer-anyway/ Thu, 24 Mar 2022 15:12:35 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=350567 When it comes to successful marketing campaigns, creativity and technology go hand in hand.

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In preparation for “The state of marketing operations” panel discussion for MarTech Spring 2022, Kim Davis, Kimi Corrigan, Milton Hwang, and I discussed current trends in the field. One discussion point was whether marketing ops and technology practitioners are marketers or not. When Davis asked me, I said no. However, Corrigan stated that she feels that she is, and Hwang backed her up by further explaining that his academic background is in engineering. My educational background is in international relations and information science, and Hwang took that argument away from me.  

That’s when I started to wonder (again) if we and the public should reconsider how to define marketing.

Madmen vs. the rest of us

To me, the stereotypical marketer or advertiser is one of the “madmen” – and women like the fictional Peggy Olson – who are very creative. While I do have some creativity, this isn’t where I exhibit it. However, those creative geniuses these days need ops and tech folks. So, does that make us any less of a marketer than our creative colleagues?

A challenging categorization detour

A fun example of marketing technology and operations in action is the Clio Grand Award-winning Burger King Whopper Detour campaign from 2019, true to Burger King’s brand of trolling its arch-rival McDonald’s, I’m not privy to the behind the scenes interaction and play-by-play between the folks at Burger King and its advertising agency FCB New York of the Interpublic Group, but it must have been an energizing creative frenzy.

The Whopper Detour campaign launched a major overhaul of Burger King’s mobile app. The gist of it is that when someone downloaded the new app and enabled location services on their phone, they could be in or within 600 feet of one of around 14,000 McDonald’s locations throughout the United States to order a Whopper for $0.01 – yes, a penny – through the app. Then the app would give them directions to the three closest Burger King locations to pick up their burger. I was so intrigued that I decided to do that during lunch on the campaign’s first day; it worked well and was pretty slick. What an interesting way to spend a “working lunch.”

Watch the panel on March 29: Register free for MarTech here

In addition to ensuring the technical aspects worked (like how and who dealt with geofencing all those McDonald’s locations?), the campaign was a full-fledged multimedia endeavor with video, print and digital collateral, social media, and earned media exposure. Apparently, the new app was downloaded around 1.5 million times in nine days, placing the app at the very top of both Android and iOS download charts and leading to the highest number of store visits in years. It was clearly a successful campaign.


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Envelope-pushers and realists

So, who were the marketers involved in this? The creative types with cheeky ideas fit this label. However, where did the martech and ops practitioners fit in? I’m sure that some of the tech and ops folks were able to inform creative folks of what was possible. It seems very likely that some of the more ambitious and engaging campaign aspects were thought up and pitched by the tech and ops practitioners. Thus, that makes a great argument for them to claim the marketer title.

No- to low-code tech changes everything

This is one of the reasons why I think that marketing tech and operations practitioners are in high demand right now. Company leaders see clever and creative campaigns like the Whopper Detour pulled off and wonder how they can do similar things. They know what’s possible and are also running into issues of not having the proper tech, quality data, internal acumen and some process/tech debt. 

With a lot more of this orchestration occurring with no- to low-code tools, CMOs can more easily keep the required folks within their own departments while relying less on other departments like IT. That’s when the ops and tech folks come in.

Therefore, with all the possibilities and channels that modern technology avails marketers, it takes more than coming up with creative mottos, impressive imagery and psychological mojo. Thus, almost everyone involved can play a crucial role in pulling off a campaign. Given this, I guess I feel more of a marketer now than I did during that discussion.  

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How to establish a new martech role https://martech.org/how-to-establish-a-new-martech-role/ Wed, 02 Mar 2022 20:20:55 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=349487 Getting colleagues familiar with your new martech position is no easy task.

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Although I’ve spent most of my career in roles and functions adjacent to marketing technology, I’ve only been truly dedicated to martech during the past few years. I formally entered the martech space when I was asked to create a new role at my previous employer, Western Governors University (WGU). 

It took a while for my former boss and me to flesh out a job description and select a job title. That required researching various job postings to see what other companies were doing regarding what we had envisioned for my role. A few years later, I moved to my current gig at Zuora.  

Thankfully, my WGU job title — marketing technology manager — and description matched up with what Zuora was thinking. Nevertheless, persistent confusion about what “marketing technology” and “marketing operations” mean hints at some need to standardize martech role terminology.

At both WGU and Zuora, I’ve had to originate my martech maestro/orchestrator role. In addition to figuring out my duties and the associated skills, I’ve also had to help my colleagues become familiar with the new position. There are certainly some valid questions: What’s a marketing technology manager? What do they do? How do I interact with them?

This is no easy task. It requires support and help.

Job title and description

At the time, it seemed like a great opportunity to select my job title and create my own job description at WGU, but it was challenging.  

That’s why I feel that martech job descriptions are still too nebulous given the growing maturity of the field. When considering what the employee and their employer want to accomplish with the new role, using Scott Brinker’s marketing operations job type framework is helpful – especially when considering if it’ll fulfill a T-shaped (jack of all trades) or I-shaped (specialist) function.

Read next: A closer look at MarTech role types and T/I-shaped individuals

Leadership backing

Perhaps a big key to success is leadership backing for the new role. Leaders should also assist in educating others about it.  

For instance, when a marketer is looking for a new technical tool, they should consult with the marketing technology manager, so they should be referred to the marketing technology manager. That referral educates and enforces the importance of the new martech practitioner.

That’s a great time to start showing the role’s value to their work. If the requester doesn’t have a solution identified yet, offering them a directory site like G2, Gartner Digital Markets, CabinetM or TrustRadius is a great way to show them that a marketing technology manager can quickly find viable options.

The position is typically created after a marketing department has matured somewhat. In that case, the broader organization has likely also matured to establish some bureaucracy — for better or worse. 

Instead of simply picking a solution, appeasing Legal, and arranging payment, the marketer now faces numerous processes like IT security reviews, privacy evaluations, multi-step procurement processes, and stakeholder buy-in; buying and renewing technology is a lot more complicated than in the past. These are tasks that a marketing technology manager could take off of the marketer’s plate to focus on what they’re assigned and paid to do.


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RACI is a useful tool

A useful tool for establishing a new position and educating others about it is a RACI chart. RACI stands for: Responsible, Accountable, Consulted and Informed. It usually lists different generic duties and tasks in the rows and different generic roles (martech manager, stakeholder, IT, etc.) in each column. In the cell that associates a duty or task with a role, one of the letters from the RACI acronym is listed to show what is expected of that role at that time.

While one can introduce complexity into the RACI framework, its beauty is tied to the fact that it is pretty easy to get an operational grasp of the concept. Thus, creating or interpreting a RACI chart doesn’t take a lot of effort.  

When creating a RACI chart for a martech role, it helps to group tasks under general categories — buying new tech, retiring tech, renewing contracts, researching solutions, etc. Not only does this help make the chart digestible, but it also helps people place tasks into context better.  

For instance, the same task may exist in different categories, but the RACI distribution may differ. When it comes to finding a new solution, a stakeholder will likely kick off the process while the marketing technology manager may kick off a renewal or optimization process.

Challenging but doable

It is challenging starting work in a new position, and there’s more complexity when originating that role at the organization. However, it is best not to proceed alone. Some frameworks can help guide job description drafting. Leadership should help and advocate for the new role. Further, tools like the RACI framework can help simplify a seemingly daunting process.  

Given all of this, take input from the community instead of reinventing the wheel, which is unnecessary and can cause further confusion amongst practitioners.

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Marketing operations and technology shouldn’t ignore the web https://martech.org/marketing-ops-and-tech-folks-should-focus-more-on-web/ Mon, 07 Feb 2022 19:49:41 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=348342 While talking about marketing automation. CRMs and CDPs, don't forget the web channel, especially as a space for experimentation.

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During the past few years, after I transitioned formally and more fully to the marketing operations and technology space, I’ve continued to feel a bit of a misfit. At least through my anecdotal observations, most folks in this community have specialized in marketing automation and adjacent subspecialties, and there is nothing wrong with this. However, as a person who gained experience working mainly with content management systems (CMSs), and administering similar systems like form builders and community platforms, those are the people to whom I can more closely relate.

Recently Darrell Alfonso, a marketing operations thought leader and MarTech contributor, asked on LinkedIn what people think is the most underrated platform or system in martech. While he had a limited number of slots for a LinkedIn post-poll, he didn’t mention web systems. Although I began drafting this column before he posted that poll, I feel that the community doesn’t focus on web systems as much as it should.

While the marketing operations and technology community doesn’t ignore web systems, it could benefit from focusing on them more.  Such systems aren’t just for the creative folks with copywriting, wordsmithing, and video-making skills.  They are integral parts of martech stacks that, with vision, commitment and orchestration, can empower bold strategies using components throughout the stack for impactful and effective multi-channel campaigns.

Websites are far more than just places to host content, solicit personal information, and collect data.  In many cases, they’re prominent parts of customer journeys.  For instance, when systems like DAMs, CDPs, and DSPs are properly set up, customers can see consistent messaging and imagery across channels.  When the customer is on a sporting goods e-commerce site, their site behavior can indicate their propensity to buy (specific sport or activity, cold vs. hot weather, male vs. female, apparel vs. equipment, etc.). Orchestration ensures that the online ads, the emails, paid social media posts, and the imagery and messaging they encounter during website visits and return visits, can all focus on what they expressed interest while surfing (get it?) through the site.

More control than other settings

Notably, marketing teams have far more control over setting up and presenting websites than they do over other channels. Ad networks (both digital and analog), social media networks, trade shows, and other channels place significant constraints on how organizations can present themselves. 

Granted, browser and device providers, in addition to regulators, do place constraints on websites, but marketers have far more leeway than in many other channels.  So, why not take advantage of this?


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The power of experimentation

Insights from one channel can certainly apply to other channels.  Since there is this considerable leeway in using the web channel, it makes a great place to try things out.  For instance, testing – user, A/B, and multivariate – is not only an excellent way to conduct conversion rate optimization, it is a good place to test hypotheses that can help guide tactics for multiple channels.

Such hypotheses can involve messaging and imagery.  Different testing tactics can help identify important insights.  For instance, user testing can help marketers get into the head of customers; this tactic can include interviews and having testers speak their thoughts aloud while their sessions are recorded.  While it’s impractical to conduct user testing at a large enough scale to quickly draw actionable conclusions, it can help generate experimentation ideas for A/B and multivariate tests.  It is easier to present and examine how large groups react to various possibilities for content, UI elements and site flow via such tests. In turn, the data from these experiments can apply across multiple channels, not just the web.

A multi-channel view

In addition to testing, the community can consider how well the web channel can fit within multi-channel orchestration. For instance, if marketers notice that a certain audience segment responds well to some targeting, there are a variety of tactics to consider.

These can range from imagery that better reflects the segment (having people in images and videos who look like the segment members), to special deals or pricing and terms (organizational partners, public servants, and campaigns). With some orchestration using systems like analytics, CRMs, CDPs, DSPs, and DAMs, the web aspects of the customer journey can match the experience with the other channels.

Read next: Does your organization need a headless or hybrid CMS?

Don’t forget the web

The marketing operations and technology community does an excellent job talking about marketing automation, analytics, online marketing, and CDPs. Still, there’s a lot of value in considering these channels in concert with the web channel. Marketing operations and technology span the entire customer journey, and leaving the web portions mainly to our creative colleagues doesn’t serve anyone well. And remember, our creative colleagues are valuable collaborators in our more traditional channels. So, the aim is to partner, not commandeer.

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Not all B2B and B2C categorizations are alike https://martech.org/not-all-b2b-and-b2c-categorizations-are-alike/ Wed, 05 Jan 2022 17:44:29 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=345423 From a marketing and marketing operations perspective, the harder you look at the B2C/B2B distinction the fuzzier it seems.

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I recently jumped from a B2C marketing department at Western Governors University (WGU) in the online higher education sector to a B2B marketing department at Zuora that provides subscription management software in the SaaS space. This change has made me think about the value of the B2B and B2C categories.

Perhaps it is more helpful to consider the differences between industries instead of differences between B2B and B2C. For instance, there are definitely differences between the online higher education and SaaS sectors, and that’s where I’m noticing the source of most of the differences in my current situation.

While I believe that the B2B and B2C categories have utility, I’m not sure how useful they are for my experience as a martech maestro. It is very likely, however, that they have significant utility for other marketing operations and technology practitioners.

Not such a clean-cut distinction

There are many ways to distinguish B2B from B2C. For instance, B2B might imply that more than one person is involved in decision-making, while in the B2C context it may only involve one person. However, to state the obvious, that’s not always the case.

An SEO tool that costs only a hundred or so dollars a month is a B2B situation that really doesn’t require many people. Someone as junior as an intern can select it and simply ask a superior who can quickly approve. They then can pay for it using a corporate card without much fuss. Not all B2B products are really so expensive or complicated that they require many stakeholders to evaluate and approve over a long period of time.

WGU provides low-cost bachelor’s and master’s degrees with flexibility. With the exception of the group that tries to strike and sustain partnerships with businesses and organizations to help incentivize their employees to pursue a WGU degree with a discount as a perk, WGU’s marketing efforts are mainly B2C.

Despite the great value, a prospective student likely needs to consult with a partner or employer to discuss finances — let alone make arrangements for lifestyle factors like childcare, as a student has to commit significant amounts of time over several years. Thus college degree programs and other high ticket items (some electronics, automobiles, travel, real estate, etc.) can require significant input and agreement from several different people, and that can take plenty of time.


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Similarities between B2B and B2C

Further, B2B and B2C marketing share plenty of common aspects.  

Most marketing departments need websites, analytics, marketing automation, CRMs, and many other major types of systems. Data hygiene is certainly important in both contexts, too.  Additionally, marketing involves persuasion, segmentation, targeting, research, creativity, and many other tactics regardless of the context.  

B2B marketers use firmographics and technographics for their ICP/TAM models, while B2C marketers use demographics and consumer research for their personas and lookalike modeling.  Heck, one could argue that technographics apply to B2C; an iPhone case maker certainly doesn’t want to expend money and effort marketing to Android phone owners.

Besides, both B2B and B2C marketers themselves deal with plenty of B2B marketers as they research, procure and use various stack components.

The maestro perspective

Martech maestros keep a strategic view over the entire tech stack. Thus, they’re generalists, in a sense, when it comes to individual components and they help orchestrate the bigger picture. I argue that this is a benefit since a maestro can help a component-owner or power-user see a broader perspective than they get from working in the weeds with the component. The maestro can help identify and test assumptions and see how the component fits with the department and organization’s broader stack.

Therefore, while maestros should have a good idea of how various types of systems function (CMS, CRM, DAM, etc.), they will likely have to continually deal with all sorts of situations as stacks have a lot of components. That means that there is always something new to learn. Whether they’re assisting with a B2B ABM platform or a B2C-focused CDP, they should employ similar strategies and frameworks to help the stakeholders make more deliberate decisions, interact with other stakeholders and ensure favorable ROI.


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Why we should care

As business professionals, we use broad categorizations and labels to help us better understand what we do and what others do. When we use B2B and B2C in marketing, we need to remember that these two broad categories aren’t as clear-cut as they may appear.  Thus, we may make inaccurate assumptions and decisions regarding a situation or interact amongst ourselves.  

For instance, when we discuss different case studies and tactics, we sometimes discount the value of listening and considering insights than the other context. While insights may not translate from a B2B situation to a B2C one (or vice versa), the different categorizations may not be the driving force in that disconnect. Something else might be the culprit. Further, a B2B insight may apply to a B2C situation. Finally, B2C insights don’t universally apply to all B2C situations, and vice versa.

Conclusion

The B2B and B2C categorizations certainly offer value. But do they provide significant value in the context of marketing operations and technology? At least when it comes to maestros and overall stack orchestration, they don’t seem to offer much value — at least not from my perspective.

I’m interested to hear what you all think. For instance, should we indicate which type of marketing we work in? I’m going back and forth on how to represent this, for instance, on my LinkedIn profile.

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Finding tech solutions for departments outside marketing https://martech.org/finding-tech-solutions-for-departments-outside-marketing/ Wed, 01 Dec 2021 16:15:29 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=343537 What happens when other departments piggyback on the marketing tech stack and marketing decides to make a change?

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Believe it or not, but sometimes marketing technology management requires a practitioner to serve another department.  There are probably plenty of reasons why this may occur.

One main reason is when other teams piggyback off one of marketing’s services.  This makes sense since it is inefficient (and likely expensive) for departments to use their own services when other departments currently have suitable options.  Having more than one department use the same service certainly has its advantages.

Practitioners ultimately serve the entire organization

However, what happens if a department uses a service that marketing owns but plans to churn?  This certainly is an important thing to consider when another department is using a marketing tech service.  For instance, it may have a use case that doesn’t justify investing in a service for itself but can justify if it uses a service already in use by another department.

At such a time, a marketing technology manager will need to take the lead to ensure that the other department can transition off of the service if marketing doesn’t renew.  Depending upon the situation, the martech manager may need to take the lead or simply serve as the motivator to the stakeholder from the other department.  The crucial thing is to make sure that the other department understands that marketing strives to operate as a team player that aims to help the entire organization.

Maintain positive relationships

One important tactic to consider in such a situation is to find out if another department has a comparable service that can sufficiently replace the outgoing service.  This is why it is important for martech practitioners to establish and maintain broad networks (beyond those essential to their duties and responsibilities) within their organization.  That way it is easier to ask questions regarding what’s happening in other parts of the org chart, which can help provide leads for potential new solutions for non-marketing stakeholders.

Further, this is also a good time to point out that this is why it is important for martech practitioners to have positive relationships with finance, legal, procurement, and IT.  These departments tend to deal with all departments throughout an organization on a regular basis.  Thus, they should have a good idea of products and services in use throughout the organization to facilitate identifying suitable service replacement candidates.

What is and isn’t marketing tech 

Such situations help validate the importance of considering the definition of what actually counts as marketing tech. I’ve argued that martech stacks should have components that aren’t martech.  Martech practitioners limit themselves to pure martech at their peril.  Beyond the fact that marketers regularly use and depend upon technology regardless of its classification, having a broader view helps the practitioner facilitate piggybacking departments migrate to other solutions — regardless if they’re project management tools, collaboration suites, or CRMs.  

I haven’t experienced this yet, but it is entirely possible that marketing may churn on a product while there isn’t an existing suitable option within the organization for the other department using the product in question.  At such a point, a martech practitioner can help assess if investing in a solution is worth it for the other department.  If the answer is no, easy.  If the answer is less clear, then it’s time to exercise some creativity.  Are there other tools or services that are cheaper — albeit less robust — that the other department could pursue?  Are there other tactics that could benefit and yield results with the funds and attention devoted to the former use?

Regardless, the practitioner needs to openly communicate this task with their chain of command.  As nice as it is to help other departments, a practitioner’s superiors may have more important priorities at the moment.

Conclusion

This all further strengthens the proposition that martech is an art, not a science.  There are rarely clear cut answers.  Further, the specialty is far more than technical; an organizational behavior perspective is also prominent in a practitioner’s work.  

Finally, the influence of the marketing tech stack extends beyond marketing within an organization.  Understanding that fact is crucial.

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How to think about budgeting for the marketing tech stack https://martech.org/the-marketing-technology-budget-challenge/ Mon, 01 Nov 2021 16:00:18 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=341368 In situations when budgeting is rather strict, it is important to think with the future in mind at things you might need tomorrow as well as today.

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Budgeting is never easy; nothing is ever certain — especially when forecasting.  

That definitely applies to martech budgeting.  There are many things that make budgeting difficult.  Pricing models change for products and services.  Most major vendors reserve the right to increase costs by at least a few percentage points at renewal time.  It’s hard to determine what needs will come up, even in the near future.  In some cases, services and tools have variable costs (number of contacts in a database, for example) that are hard to project.  There are many other factors.

Organizational type

Those aren’t the only type of factors; the type of organization is also crucial.  During my career, I’ve worked for small private businesses, government agencies, non-profit organizations, and a publicly-traded company.  Budgeting requirements vary between each type of organization.  For instance, due to transparency requirements, publicly traded companies need to have budgets nailed down much more so than other organizations (or at least that’s how it seems to me; financial folks, chime in if I’m mistaken).  At some types of organizations, if extra budget appears, it’s not that difficult to devote funds to other line items while in other situations there’s more required.

In situations when budgeting is rather strict, it is important to think with the future in mind. Marketers should think ahead to what they and their fellow marketers will potentially need in the next year or so.  While they may not know specifics yet, if budget hasn’t been set aside for such needs, acquiring new tech at the desired time will likely prove difficult.

Ballpark estimates

Such considerations contribute to a rather interesting martech budgeting challenge when having to provide a ballpark budget estimate for a line item that isn’t determined yet.  For instance, a team may know that it’ll need a certain type of platform or service several months in the future, but it needs to budget for it soon due to fiscal year budgeting cycles.  How does a team figure out a decent ballpark budget for an item that it hasn’t already had a chance to sufficiently vet — let alone document requirements for? 

One strategy is to identify three or so vendors and ask for ballpark quotes during budget planning season.  Sales development representatives (SDR) aren’t usually thrilled about providing a quote without a chance to walk you through a dog and pony show — especially when they have little idea of the probability of winning the business.  However, this is likely a hurdle worth jumping over.

Sales incentives

Another type of complicating factor is the various motivations of B2B sales teams and the incentives they can offer.  Their professional lives revolve around quarters and fiscal years; they have to hit sales targets that are tied to bonuses and their overall job security.  That’s why they sometimes dial up the pressure by offering significant discounts that are contingent upon closing deals by specific deadlines.  Such timelines may not align with when funds are available. 

That’s when creativity is required along with cooperation from other departments like legal and finance on both ends and procurement on the client’s side.  Is it possible to execute a contract to meet a deadline for discounts while at the same time delaying payment and/or implementation until a later quarter or the next fiscal year?  This is a perfect example of when martech management is far more than technical.

The importance of thinking ahead

As I’ve argued in the past, there are some functions like procurement that martech practitioners hopefully don’t have to perform, but that doesn’t relieve them of having to consider the needs of their corporate partners.  Budgeting is one of those things.  Our friends (or perhaps — but hopefully not — frenemies) can’t time travel nor wave a wand to create cash on demand. 

Thus, it’s important to think ahead and collaborate with them to avoid hurdles.  Understanding the various budgetary and fiscal hoops that are present is essential to working effectively in martech management.  

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Marketing ops shouldn’t perform procurement https://martech.org/marketing-ops-shouldnt-perform-procurement/ Thu, 30 Sep 2021 17:26:13 +0000 https://martech.org/?p=337655 Marketing operations should absolutely be involved in the procurement of marketing tech. But it shouldn't be running the buying process.

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Throughout my career, I’ve seen many professionals try to function as a buyer.  While I acknowledge that in small business settings, or times when getting things done quickly is paramount, evading procurement (if it exists) is sometimes necessary.  However, in settings where there is a formal procurement team, failing to use their services has many drawbacks.  

Let me be clear.  Marketing ops should actively participate in the procurement process when acquiring technology for marketing, but it’s not ideal when they run the show.  Don’t worry.  Procurement will allow marketing to make the final decision.

Duties and performance

First off, are marketing ops professionals formally assigned and measured by performing procurement duties?  If not and they’re doing them, they need to get them formally added to their job description and performance rubrics.  Let the professional buyers on the procurement team do what they’re paid to do and what their performance is measured by.  Besides, how do you feel when someone else does your job?

While many marketing ops professionals are expected to participate in procurement activities, it is not their job to run the process.  That’s not what they do best.  If a marketing operations professional is really drawn to the procurement process, maybe they should consider a career shift.

Being slowed down

Some operations experts have observed that marketing stakeholders can view marketing ops as the people who slow things down.  However, there’s a good argument that marketing ops professionals offer a wider perspective and help stakeholders better flesh out their ideas, which is crucial.  So, if people are afraid that procurement will similarly slow them down, perhaps there’s a good reason for that.

Regarding the fear of slowing things down, remember that RFI or RFP processes aren’t always warranted.  Buyers are aware that sometimes their colleagues have a good feel for a vendor sector, and that means a thorough research process isn’t needed.  Procurement professionals are like marketing ops folks; they don’t intend to slow things down for no reason.

Bad cop

Product owners and users should avoid the bad cop label.  During the negotiation phase, things can get tense.  If the primary users are involved, the vendor may get frustrated with them.  While they are legally and ethically obligated to deliver the work contractually agreed to, they don’t have to do extra nice things like overlooking when a client has an overage of a pricing factor. 

So, perhaps marketers should rethink that aggressive push for cutthroat pricing.  Granted, making a buyer the bad cop won’t necessarily prevent vendor resentment toward the primary product owner and team, but it can certainly help mitigate against it.

More than just price

When procurement considers a deal, it involves far more than pricing and features.  They’ll look at the overall value.  Buyers, for instance, are a lot more equipped to determine the stability of a company.  A great product at a great price is only wonderful if the company is healthy, and buyers can help assess that.  

Additionally, a buyer will more likely see different aspects of a proposal, contract, or sales order that may not work out well in the long run for the organization.  Such a consideration could be organizational commitments to certain supply chain requirements — like ensuring that any foreign supplier (whether direct to the organization or one of its suppliers) meets certain labor conditions.  Further, the broader organization may have standards and practices that marketing ops staffers may not fully understand.

Negotiation skills

Marketers don’t negotiate as much as buyers.  I’ve seen multiple times when marketers interact with a sales team while unknowingly revealing more than they should, and that decreases the leverage the organization has in a way that favors the vendor.  A full-time buyer should have a better ability to assess a situation and maintain more leverage to use when negotiating with a vendor.

Read more on marketing ops from Steve Petersen 

The bigger picture

If a large organization has a procurement team in place, they very likely need to participate in a purchase or renewal process anyway.  Keeping them out of the loop most of the time doesn’t help anyone.  It’s inevitable.

Procurement serves the entire organization, and while individual buyers likely work with specific departments, the procurement team has a bigger picture view of the needs of the broader organization.  If, for example, marketing is looking for a project management solution, procurement will likely know if another department already uses one.  While that doesn’t mean that marketing has to adopt that solution, it certainly helps to know that during a research or discovery process.

Conclusion: Focus on making magic

Marketing ops professionals make magic happen between marketing strategy and systems.  Let them focus on that, and let their colleagues — like the buyers in procurement — do what they do, so that everyone can focus not only on their actual jobs, but also on what they’re most likely to succeed at doing. 

Leveraging those who specialize in other functions may require coordination and time, but in many cases this can yield better results.

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