Digital Marketing Stack: Half or Full?

The digital marketing technology stack is like a stack of pancakes. Too little and you might not be satisfied. Too much and you have buyer's remorse. How do you get it just right?

What is the digital marketing technology stack? The answer will differ depending on who you ask. Some will define it as marketing automation, a digital marketing hub, sales automation, content management, ecommerce or some combination of each. The digital marketing stack is a subset of the marketing technology stack.

The digital marketing hub (DMH) is defined by Gartner's as, provides marketers and applications with standardized access to audience data, content, workflow triggers and operational analytics to automate execution and optimization of multi-channel campaigns, conversations, experiences and data collection across online and offline channels. DMHs are focused on the top of the funnel.

"Advanced" digital businesses though are looking to manage and optimize the entire customer journey and experience, looking beyond what a DMH offers. Their collection of capabilities are able to create awareness (lead) top of the funnel, support consideration (opportunity) middle of the funnel, support transaction (conversion) and support service (repurchase/advocacy) bottom of the funnel.

The digitally advanced business would have what I call a "funnel technology stack" that would include robust DMH tightly integrated with sales automation and experience. These businesses would have the features found in their stacks fully implemented. The digital "emerging" business on the other hand might not have a DMH, not have all the features enabled, or they might not have tight integration with their sales automation, experience and or ecommerce platforms.

Below are the four leading DHM providers according to Garner's 2017 Magic Quadrant. They basically offer the same features; the big difference is CMS integration.
  • Adobe Marketing Cloud – analytics [Omniture], audience manager [DMP to build customer profiles], campaign [cross-channel management], experience manager [CMS for building websites, mobile apps, & forms, and manage digital assets], media optimizer [programmatic ad buying], primetime [multiscreen TV platform], social [listening, analytics, publishing & engaging], target [a/b testing, predictive insights, personalization].
  • Oracle Marketing Cloud – marketing automation [Eloqua], cross-channel orchestration [Responsys], content marketing [plan, produce, publish, promote, prove], social marketing SRM [listening, analytics, publishing & engaging], data management platform DMP [BlueKai], testing & optimization [Maxymiser] a/b testing, predictive insights, personalization. No integrated CMS.
  • SalesForce Marketing Cloud [formerly ExactTarget] – channels (studios) [email, mobile, social, adv, web], platform (builders) [journey, personalization, audience, content (CMS), analytics, marketing cloud connect], DMP/Krux link/data science.
  • Marketo – marketing automation [cross-channel campaigns], acct-based marketing, email, mobile, social, digital ads, web, marketing analytics, predictive content. No integrated CMS.

In addition to experience & operational applications and backbone platforms, a digital architecture is going include middleware and a supporting premise and or cloud-based infrastructure. You can learn more about the digital architecture here Digital Architecture to User Experience. Leaders might also want to consider applications to support communities & reviews, SEO, loyalty/rewards, mobile optimization, retargeting, webinars, and lead scoring & nurturing to name a few.

Customer needs, competitive digital gap analysis, business drivers and digital maturity should guide your digital stack design and implementation plan. Top focus for marketers in 2017 according to an Adobe study include: whole customer focus, content marketing, digital foundation, campaign orchestration, predictive marketing, connected experience, relevant creative and journey management. Sales is focused on prioritizing and scoring leads, nurturing opportunities, inside sales and account-based marketing (ABM). Service cares about customer success, great experience, fast response, personalized offers and community.

So how do you handle these needs? What should the digital technology stack include, a DMH, a CRM platform, a CMS platform, or a combination of these and other capabilities? For many a full stack of technology can be overwhelming. Features end up not being fully utilized. You might end up paying for capabilities where you are not getting value for the expense. You could ease your way into a full technology stack one piece at a time to better ensure optimized use. The down side of piecemeal is not necessarily supporting full funnel needs as quickly as a full stack solution.

In either case a change management plan is needed to ensure that the business understands what the technology/vendor can do, and second, so that technology/vendor understands the needs of the business today and in the future. A change management framework should include: defining measurable stakeholder goals; creating business cases which are continuously updated; monitoring assumptions, risks, dependencies, costs, return on investment, and cultural issues; creating communications that informs various stakeholders of reasons for the technology and the benefits of successful implementation; and devising an effective education, training and/or skills upgrading scheme for the organization.

Overall this is complex effort with many moving parts. In my experience you need to be thinking about the following for the highest chance of success.
  • A funnel technology "full stack" is needed to support the entire customer journey and experience.
  • Digitally advanced businesses are using full funnel stacks including integrated DMHs, CRM and CMS platforms. Plus other features.
  • The amount of technology associated with a full funnel stack can be overwhelming, thereby reducing adoption. Smaller stacks can be challenging too.
  • Businesses starting out or growing their digital capabilities can piecemeal a digital stack "half stack" to support adoption and success. But it is even more critical to have the right architecture for this approach.
  • A solid change management plan can help to roll-out the technology at the right pace, ensuring processes are configured appropriately and that skills are in place to operate and configure the technology.

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