Whether you’re an established company or a startup, marketing technology is a necessary tool. But, because the marketing technology landscape has exploded, it’s hard to know which tools are required and which are a nice-to-have, depending on your company’s maturity and goals.
Scott Brinker, a co-founder and the CTO of ion interactive who writes at Chiefmartec, has been monitoring the marketing technology landscape since 2011. The 2015 edition of his marketing technology landscape supergraphic identified 1,876 suppliers in 43 categories.
The vast number of available marketing technology options is proof that marketing is evolving into a technology-powered discipline. It is now imperative that you have a road map and framework for marketing technology investments.
The Marketing Technology Ecosystem Defined
The term “ecosystem” is typically associated with biology, and in that context it includes all of the living things (plants, animals, and organisms) in a specific area, their nonliving environment (weather, terrain, climate, etc.), and how they interact with each other. In an ecosystem, each organism has its own niche and role to play, and the ecosystems are dependent on their environmental conditions.
In a thriving ecosystem, there is diversity, energy, and balance. Thriving ecosystems are adaptable and resilient enough maintain balance during times of turbulence and disruption. In a thriving ecosystem, all the players are interdependent; they all function to support and sustain the ecosystem. The relationships are primarily symbiotic, which means the organisms live together but their relationships are not necessarily mutually beneficial. When an ecosystem is suffering, the landscape becomes barren, life forms die off, and there is bloodthirsty competition for limited resources.
An ecosystem is an excellent framework to apply to marketing technology. A thriving marketing technology ecosystem enables marketers to understand the market and customer better and to roll out marketing content faster, more efficiently, and more consistently across channels.
You have a vast number of potential marketing technology choices. Think of each potential option as an organism in the system. Accordingly, you must understand how each organism fits in the environment and works and interacts with the other potential “organisms.” Although various plants and animals exist in an ecosystem, the specific types of flora and fauna matter: The wrong plant or animal can damage the ecosystem—even potentially destroy it.
Therefore it’s not a question of whether you have systems for data management, marketing resource management, digital asset management, marketing operations management, marketing experience management, and so forth… A technology ecosystem requires that those various systems must exist; it’s a question of ensuring the ones you choose can support and sustain one another—and, therefore, the larger ecosystem.
Questions to Address to Create and Sustain Your Technology Ecosystem
Whether you are just starting out or you are well on your way to building your marketing technology ecosystem, the following four sets of questions will help make sure it will support your short- and long-term business initiatives.
1. Consider the value-add
If you are creating your ecosystem from scratch, evaluate each potential ecosystem “member” in terms of the value it will add to your organization. Before adding a new platform, determine whether and how it will increase the value of the existing products in your ecosystem. Also, how will the additional “organism” create new sources of value? Consider the answers to these questions:
- What is the potential for new revenues and profits as a result of the addition?
- What are the “second-order effects,” such as the ability to do better up-selling or cross-selling (or both)?
- What additional risk will the addition bring?
2. Prioritize your ‘members’
It’s important to understand the pace of change in your industry. As you add to your marketing technology ecosystem, prioritize your new ecosystem members:
- Will they build upon your strengths or offset a weakness?
- How quickly will its purpose be achieved?
Time and purpose need to be considered together. By understanding the members within this construct, you can build an effective ecosystem.
3. Will you own or share?
It may not be possible for a company to have an end-to-end marketing technology ecosystem. You may be able to save yourself an enormous amount of effort and considerable resources by sharing technology:
- Can you create strategic alliances/partners?
- Can some components be outsourced to suppliers?
As you design and build your ecosystem, give some thought to the criteria for owning vs. sharing the “organism” within your ecosystem.
4. Conduct regular ecosystem audits
Like biological ecosystem members, marketing technology components may go extinct or undergo evolution, so it’s important to implement regular audits to keep abreast of changes. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is each member still in synch with your processes and adding value?
- Are newer, more effective members available?
- Are there new opportunities for cost-sharing, or is it time to own a previously shared member?
Since marketing technology and all that it entails is here to stay, your key challenge now is to enable you and your company to properly use tools to automate/streamline, measure, and enhance your capabilities and serve as a source of competitive advantage.