The pace of innovation in marketing technology is astounding. The past year has seen the rise of many new and exciting technologies, but perhaps most notably, 2014 was the year of the “marketing cloud.”
Adobe, Salesforce, SAP, IBM and Oracle all have their own take on one-stop enterprise software, promising a complete set of integrated solutions to help marketers maximize and measure impact from a single platform. Gone are the days where marketers must stitch together multiple vendors to address a variety of needs. Whether its analytics or automation, user experience or social media, the marketing cloud can do it all – or can it?
Point solutions, or solutions that address one specific need within an organization, continue to emerge. By marketing technology blogger Chief Martec’s count, there were more than a thousand options available at the beginning of 2014. This is indicative of the fact that the big players aren’t yet living up to the one-size-fits-all promise.
Are marketing-cloud technologies worthy of your hard-earned budget? Are they actually able to solve for all of your needs? In which areas are you better off investing in specialized technology?
While every organization’s needs are unique, we’ve identified five key trends that should be considered when evaluating whether to invest in marketing cloud software in the coming year:
1. Mobile-first marketing
People now use their smartphones all the time, for everything, with average usage clocking in at around 195 minutes per day. Mobile devices create powerful opportunities for marketers in both the business-to-business and business-to-consumer realms to engage with consumers in the moment, and that trend is going to accelerate in 2015 and beyond.
However, this mobile migration doesn’t come without challenges – it will become increasingly hard to track engagement and important data across users and devices (smartphones, tablets and wearables). Marketers should invest in solutions that allows them to deliver valuable experiences across all devices, improve targeting and customization, and enable them to make connections between what happens offline and online.
2. (Valuable) Content is king
Marketing owns more of the sales cycle than ever before. Prospects today prefer to independently research products before they engage with brands. As a result, the ability to educate potential customers will become a top differentiator, regardless of what industry you are in.
Helpful, informative content will continue to grow in importance, which means marketers should seek out platforms that facilitate the creation and delivery of high-quality content at scale. In addition, these solutions should be able to identify trends and themes that are resonating with target audiences.
3. Interconnected tech
While data is abundant, many marketers still struggle with analyzing this data to produce actionable insights. A big part of this struggle derives from the fact that data is dispersed across so many disparate platforms, including marketing automation, CRMs, Google Analytics, etc., and it has become more difficult to merge and analyze this data in meaningful ways.
Marketers need to seek out solutions that bridge the gaps between these separate data sources and provide a unified view. When you can see the big picture that emerges from data, you can answer the big questions that facilitate faster and smarter marketing decisions.
4. Hyper-targeting takeover
There is a gold mine of consumer data out there that enables marketers to target users with relevant, personalized messages. The promise of targeted marketing is nothing new, but 2015 will be the year that marketers get it right.
Marketers will be able to use analytics to highlight target audiences and deliver them the right message, at the right time, and in the right place. Using a combination of internal and external data (from publicly available sources such as social media) marketers will gain a better understanding of who their most promising customers are, and how to engage them most effectively.
This “hyper-targeting” allows marketers to focus their efforts and money on the people who are most likely to convert into customers, as well as tailor the brand’s messaging to those customers throughout the entire sales cycle.
5. Analytics get predictive
2015 will be the year where marketers finally can tie marketing activity directly to revenue. This has always been a challenges for marketers, but data and marketing technologies can paint a clear picture of what is working and what is not.
Based on this information, marketers will know precisely where to increase investments and where to cut. Most importantly, technology will help marketers accurately forecast how those adapted investments will affect the sales pipeline and revenue. However, they need to find solutions that go beyond presenting data in pretty dashboards, and invest in technologies that really take the guesswork out of marketing. This allows them to focus on the activities and initiatives that will have the greatest, positive impact on the organization as a whole.
As marketing technology advances at a blistering rate, marketers need to take stock of their current technology investments and evaluate whether they are working as hoped. Are they making marketing more efficient? Are they helping achieve organizational goals?
The volume of data available will grow exponentially in the coming year and, without the proper foundation to collect, merge and analyze this data, you risk falling behind. Specialized solutions can be great at solving for specific marketing needs, but without integrating them all together, you run the risk of amassing a pile of underused products that eat away at your budget.
Every marketer should evaluate their current marketing technology stack and planned investments, and look at them in the context of the trends discussed above. Consider whether you will be well prepared for the rapidly changing marketplace in 2015.
Another thing to consider is whether a marketing cloud solution will address all of your needs, or if they should be supplemented with specialty vendors. The age of data-driven marketing has arrived. Marketers with the technology infrastructure in place, who are able to efficiently use data to answer the big questions in marketing, will be the ones that win in 2015.