This article is part of our March 2019 series about emerging technology. Click here for more.
When I first started my career, I was always looking for ways to work more efficiently. At the time, my position was focused more on the product than on marketing, but process improvement was still paramount in everything I did. Now, as a CMO, process improvement means better marketing programs, more leads through the funnel, and a faster time to close, which ultimately means more revenue for the business.
In the B2B world, managing this journey is increasingly complex given that customer interactions must ultimately drive actions taken with the account as a whole. This means every action taken by individuals with a brand must ultimately be connected to the accounts for which they work. Making this connection is both critical and, at times, elusive, requiring the right technologies to inform decisions at each step of the process and across the entire organization.
The past 10 years have seen an explosion of new technologies that have enabled CMOs to equip their teams to be more efficient. While the “right” technology varies from company to company, here are a few of my favorites for fellow CMOs to consider.
Emerging Types Of Tech
We’ve been hearing for years about how artificial intelligence (AI) will change the way companies do business. But is it really practical for marketers? Absolutely.
AI can step in where humans don’t have capacity. For example, if leads are falling through the cracks, chatbots, which are growing in sophistication, can respond contextually to leads that haven’t been touched in a certain length of time. The chatbots can adapt to language and other cues to make the conversation as personalized as if a customer were talking with a human. Leads that otherwise may have gone cold with no interaction can, instead, be kept warm.
In addition, machine learning allows the processing of data at a pace that would be impossible with only human intervention. Machine learning allows large batches of data to be processed in near real-time, layering analytics on top so that sales and marketing teams get the most up-to-date information and insights at any given time.
Blockchain is another technology that offers great promise. Still in its infancy for marketers, blockchain, along with more granular first-party data, can more directly connect buyers and sellers. As mentioned above, the challenge in B2B marketing is connecting buyers to the accounts for which they are buying. By using blockchain as a way to uniquely identify an individual using a public key, that key can then be used along with a unique business identifier in order to track potential propsects and their buying behavior. This ultimately allows B2B companies to track people in the context of their businesses so that the actions for that account can easily be traced.
Evolving Uses For Tech
Some technology has been around for years but continues to find new ways to offer value to marketers. One example of this is the evolution of social media stories, which allow marketers to tell stories in the context of a person’s personal feed. While some B2B marketers may question the usefulness of stories, the addition of functionality, like the “swipe up” feature, offers a way to directly capture leads. This is a technology worth testing.
Programmatic, too, is expanding. Notice I didn’t say “programmatic advertising.” That’s because programmatic is really a way of doing business—a delivery mechanism, if you will. With the abundance of data and application of analytics, as well as technologies like machine learning, more and more processes can be automated in a programmatic way.
While not a “technology” in and of itself, I have to mention the foundational elements needed to support any new or emerging technology within your marketing stack. Simply plugging in a new technology isn’t going to offer the ROI you expect unless you’ve carefully planned how it will fit both structurally and organizationally.
The first step is to ensure you have a solid data foundation across the organization. Because the customer journey spans multiple departments, it’s imperative that all departments share a single, real-time view of customer data. It’s also important that marketing works jointly with other organizational partners to ensure the people and processes are in place to support the new technologies.
That brings me to a larger point—and one of the most important ones to consider. As a CMO, your organizational vision needs to be clearly mapped out before you begin applying emerging or existing technologies onto an old framework. Technologies can be a temporary bandage, or they can be essential to your business structure—and that’s a decision the CMO is responsible for making first. Aligning technology to the goals you have in place will give you a clear path to execution and a way to measure success against those goals.