Transforming Your Marketing Practice? Think Like a Developer. Be a Full Stack Marketer.

by Darren Oddie
MarTech Practice Partner
@DarrenOddie

CMOs are operating in an increasingly complex environment fraught with uncertainties. Social and mobile technologies are driving new behaviours and expectations from empowered customers. New disruptive competitors across all industries are emerging, powered by social, mobile, analytics and cloud technologies along with aggressive growth mind-sets. Conversely, incumbent marketers (and their companies) are evolving much more slowly than their customers and competitors, despite exponential growth in marketing technologies.

This quote from a recent Harvard Business Review article sums up the challenge:

The top marketing job in the company is a minefield where many talented executives fail.

As all industries are confronting digital transformation, so too must this rapidly changing environment galvanise all marketers to transform their practice. The new marketing operating model must embrace marketing technology to reach as many customers as possible, while continuing to adhere to long-established marketing principles. In deliberately oversimplified terms, marketing deals with creating value and satisfaction for customers across all experiences. This applies throughout the customer engagement funnel, from awareness all the way through to retention.

Now these principles can easily be lost as we throw MarTech into the mix. Take every channel of interaction and you will find a tool catered to it: for B2C you will need acquisition, conversion, activation, engagement, social, retention etc.; for this you will need CRM, CMS, optimisation software, social management tools, data/analytics, etc.

So how can marketers expect to manage all levels of the funnel while embracing the technology driving their ROMI? Think like a developer. Be a full stack marketer.

But first, a word on customers

Any starting point for marketing transformation ought to consider enterprise objectives. I would assume that for many incumbent organisations and their brands, their value model requires driving revenue growth while reducing costs and enhancing customer experiences. Some marketers may consider this to be unachievable across mutually exclusive parameters. However, it is feasible with the right strategy and operating model.

Strategically, if marketers are tasked to create value and satisfaction for customers, then they must always be customer-first. Not mobile-first, product-first, channel-first, innovation-first, nor any other “first.” This holds true even if the organisation is structured by product or channel. Marketers are responsible for orchestrating an inside-out perspective (people, processes and technologies) to align to and deliver an outside-in need (uncovering customer-first insights that can be commercialised) that goes beyond customer expectations.

Once the strategy is clear, the new marketing operating model demands adaptive agility at scale. This necessitates moving away from command and control within the company and with customers. It introduces new ways of thinking, learning and working to design and operate relevant brand experiences, business models, innovations and data-driven practices. Think of it as a startup mentality and ways of working that have been adapted to work in an incumbent enterprise, without any compromise. Scaled agile marketing can be based on proven frameworks for developing and delivering enterprise-class software and systems in the shortest sustainable lead time.

Both strategically and operationally, commercially-astute marketers will create a marketing organisation that focuses on metrics that matter to the customer and to the company, which ensures they won’t be marginalised in the organisation.

Every marketer needs to consider the holistic brand experience: one not only experienced by customers, but also by employees, partners, and anyone else who encounters it. Throughout the brand experience, we can identify the moments that matter and provide rational and emotional engagement to drive measurable brand preference. A practical way of doing this is to use customer journey maps and overlay the marketing funnel for identifying the ‘interventions’ that drive commercial and customer value.

Wherever the customer is, employees need to be able to understand the customer’s context to personalise any interaction. This must work both proactively and reactively. Long gone are the days when a company can view their website as a destination, or solely use mass communications for one-way broadcast messaging. The new norm needs to accommodate “IWWIWWIWI” customers.

So why think like a developer?

In my opinion, technology practices have evolved far more rapidly than marketing practices over the past few years. My guess is that you’re far more likely to hear marketers describe themselves as innovators or digital marketers rather than ‘full stack marketers’ and ‘scaled agile marketers.’ Software engineers are less likely to use the words ‘innovator’ and ‘digital’ and much more likely to use terms like ‘lifelong learner,’ ‘architect,’ ‘full stack,’ ‘scaled agile’ or some deeply specialised focus in AI, data science, deep learning, etc. when talking about what they do in their role.

All CMOs should find value in asking their CIOs to share stories about their digital transformation technology experiences: introducing decoupled architecture, DevOps, Scaled Agile, microservices, continuous delivery/integration/deployment, open source — and the list goes on…

Mastering the MarTech stack

In the context of MarTech, the ‘stack’ means putting together the technology that allows you to run your practice. There will always be a number of technologies to build your stack, as no one technology can deliver everything. As a marketer, you need to design the right stack and make the relevant technology choices. The wrong stack won’t cater to your organisation’s needs, meaning you can’t market to your customers in the way you want.

Technology is now more important to marketing than it is to any other enterprise division. If marketers don’t understand how to strategically and conceptually architect their MarTech stack and how to best deploy it from a resource and run perspective, then I doubt that they are future-proofed in their role, and their teams are probably under-skilled to compete or exceed customer expectations.

Startups have specialised in this area to deliver growth hacking to cash-strapped organisations that need a scalable MarTech stack, now! For example, at TransferGo, a highly successful digital remittance startup, we put the following stack into place: webflow.io and Unbounce as content management systems and conversion optimisers; ActiveCampaign for marketing automation; Mixpanel for product analytics; Adroll for remarketing; MS Bing Adwords; Google Adwords; InVision for design prototyping; and RJMetrics for business intelligence. All marketing activities were aligned to technology sprints and managed in JIRA and Confluence. It’s amazing what you can get for one very low monthly cost! We tested/trialed other tools, but focused mainly on the ones above. TransferGo saw an acquisition of 50K customers in 6 months and 90% retention in the early days, and is now at over 250K and still high growth.

Enterprises tend to focus on Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, but the rest of the stack can be complicated, as the CIO wants enterprise tools while the CMO wants tools that can be switched on immediately and easy to use. CMOs must make the right ‘stack’ decisions so that their organisations can grow at the right ROMI.

Why MarTech matters

CMOs need to be technologically savvy to operationalise their strategies. Gaining MarTech proficiency will enable them to organise their teams to focus on human-centric activities (e.g. customer-first insight, creativity and innovation), while automating equally important, but repetitive, activities (e.g. campaign management, analytics, customer service).

In adopting a rapid, experiment-oriented, data-driven, fail-fast/learn-faster approach, CMOs should use technology to innovate marketing at scale. Full stack marketers and highly specialised technical or creative marketers are needed throughout the marketing value chain to accelerate outcomes that shape customers’ brand experiences today, tomorrow and in the future.

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