Marketers – You have too many choices

I have a little secret for everyone in the world of marketing: You have too many choices.

There are way too many technology platforms in existence today. Too many ‘tools’ and too many products.  You have too many choices when it comes to getting your work done. Let’s take a quick second to glance at Scott Brinker’s MarTech 5000 landscape:

Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2018)

I’m sorry, but that’s just too many choices; especially when put in the hands of people that don’t really understand the long-term implications of multiple technology platforms.

Sure, there may be a formal selection process (in my experience, there’s not…or at least it isn’t followed) and  rarely is there a strategic vision when it comes to MarTech. There’s a bunch of tactical ‘needs’ for why a particular type of platform is needed/wanted and even a hand-wave toward ‘strategy’ but rarely is there an in-depth review of how a new platform will make things better for the marketing team and the organization as a whole and (ahem…most importantly) help reach the strategic objective of the organization.

Too many choices can be a real problem.  Need an ‘optimization’ platform for A/B testing (or other optimization issues)?  I’m sure you can find 30 or 40 vendors out there selling some version of a platform that will do what you need it to do.  Do you take the time to run a thorough selection process or do you find the first one that fits your ‘right now’ need and your budget and push ‘buy’?  Based on my experience, people do the latter and pick the first one they find that does what they need to do.  They find a solution to the problem they have today with very little to no thought put into how that platform will integrate into their broader organization’s ecosystem and/or whether the solution will solve their problem tomorrow.

Don’t get me wrong. Personally, I love the possibilities that these choices offer an organization, but only if proper governance is used when selecting and implementing these choices.  Based on my conversations with clients and marketing /  IT professionals over the last few years, there’s very little of this happening.

Over the last 3 years about half the projects I been asked to be a part of are projects to help simplify the  ecosystem within an organization.  I’ve seen companies with over 100 platforms being used within the marketing team with very few of those systems able to talk to each other — and the lives of the marketing team had become a living hell because they had too many systems, too little control of their data and too little insight into what they are able to do, how to do things and who to go to for help.

What’s the solution?

There’s not an ‘easy’ answer.

It will take hard work, focus and a real drive toward reducing the complexity within your marketing organization.  Think of it as putting your team on a diet – a MarTech diet.  When you ‘need’ (by the way – its rarely a ‘need’ and usually a ‘want’ in these cases) some new function that you just can’t live without – check your existing platforms before going out to buy some new tool. If you are absolutely sure you don’t have the functionality in your existing platforms, take a look at what you’re trying to do and think about if its an absolute need and not just a ‘want’.  More importantly, think about the long term vision / strategy of the organization – how does ‘MarTech Platform X’ get you there?  If you can’t easily answer the question, it might be best to try to find a way to do what you need to do with your existing ecosystem.


What is the cost of bad data?

Cost of Bad DataHow much is bad data costing you? It could be very little – or it could be a great deal. In this article I give an example of what the cost of bad data really is.

A few days ago, I received a nice, well designed sales/marketing piece in the mail yesterday. In it, a local window company warned me of the dangers of old windows and the costs associated with them (higher energy costs, etc etc). Note: This was the third such piece I’ve received from this company in about 3 months.

It was a well thought out piece of sales/marketing material. If I had been thinking about new windows, I most likely would be given them a call.

However…my house is less than a year old. So is every other house in the neighborhood of about a thousand homes that are all less than 5 years old. Talking to my neighbors, everyone got a similar sales pitch. I’m not a window salesperson, but I wouldn’t think we are the target market for these types of pitches.

That said, the neighborhood directly beside us is a 20+ year old neighborhood that would be ideal for the pitch. I hope this window company pitched them as well as they pitched me (and I’m assuming they did).

What I suspect happened is this window company bought a ‘targeted’ list from a list broker that promised ‘accurate and up to date’ listings of homeowners in a zip code. Sure, the list is accurate (I am a homeowner) but its not really targeted correctly.

The cost of bad data

I won’t get into the joys of buying lists like this because we all know some mistakes are made. There will always be bad data regardless of what your data management practices are but a good data governance/management process will help eliminate as much bad data as possible.

Of course, in this example we’re talking about a small business. What do they know about data management? Probably nothing…and most likely they don’t need to know too much but they do need to understand how much bad data is costing them.

Let’s look at the costs for this window company.

I went out to one of those list websites and built a demographic to buy lists of homeowners in my zip code. The price was about $3,000 for about 18K addresses. Next, I found a direct mailing cost estimator website that helped me estimate the cost to mail out the material that I had received from the window company. The mailing cost was about $10,000 (which seems high to me…but what do I know about mailings?). This sounds about right considering it would cost about $8500 to send out 18,000 letters with standard postage.

I’m going to assume this company got a deal for their mailings and paid $20,000 for the 3 mailing campaigns that I received a letter. With the price of the list, that brings us to $23K total cost, or about $1.28 per letter sent. That doesn’t seem like a lot of money to spend on sales/marketing until you realize how much of that money was wasted on homes that don’t need the service.

We have roughly 1,000 homes in our neighborhood. A random sampling of the homeowners tells me 90% of them received more than one mailing from this window company. This gives us 900 homes. I’ll assume each home only received 2 mailings, which brings a cost to this window company of about $2,300 ($1.28 x 900 x 2).

That’s $2,300 spent trying to sell windows to homes that don’t need it. That’s 10% of the budget.

So…for this small company trying to sell windows, 10% of their budget was wasted on marketing their services to homes that didn’t need their services. That’s a big number, even for a small company.

Of course, some of you may argue that these costs aren’t all wasted because some of the marketing material might have made it into the hands of friends / family or a homeowner may remember this window company in future years – and you are probably right. But…is the possibility of maybe potentially getting work in the future worth spending 10% of your marketing budget?

To me it is, especially since that 10% could have been redirected to a higher potential marketing opportunity.

The cost of bad data is high regardless of what the number actually shows. If you spend $1 because bad data ‘tricked’ you into doing so, that cost is wasted.

The real question is – what are you doing to understand how good or bad your data is?

What digital projects should you be chasing?

Chasing Digital ProjectsI was talking to a CMO today about their current and future plans for digital projects. We were talking about data analytics, customer experience, technology, social media and other topics when the CMO asked what the ‘next’ project or technology that she and her team should be chasing.

She asked:

We’ve talked about all data, social, digital transformation, the cloud and everything else…but what should I really be focused on? What projects should my team be chasing for the future?

I couldn’t give exact types of projects that her team should be focused on, but I did share my thoughts on the only area that I think make sense for marketing teams to focus on.

That’s right…just one area.  If you are going to chase digital, you should chase it in this one area.

The only area marketing teams should be focused on (and chasing) is in improving the experience for your customers. That might be SEO projects, data analytics or a new application, but by focusing on the customer experience, the marketing team is focused on one of the most important aspects of a business. Customer experience is the key to driving engagement and growth for a business and has been called ‘the next competitive battleground.’

If a project doesn’t touch the customer experience, there needs to be a very thorough discussion of whether that project is worth taking time and money away from your customer facing digital projects.  There are times when marketing teams need to take on non-customer facing projects, but you shouldn’t be out there looking for those projects or chasing those technologies. Let those technologies and projects come to you.

Chase the projects that are focused on improving the customer experience.

Whether that is engaging your clients better, improve customer service or eliminating a pain point for clients, those projects will improve your customer experience.

Beyond the customer experience, there are other projects that CMO’s can focus on and chase, but I’d argue that anytime you are working on these types of projects, you are not directly improving the customer experience.    There are always going to be knew digital projects and new technologies, but for the CMO and the marketing team, the customer experience should top of mind and a major filter for all new projects and technologies.

Finally, when a new technology or buzzword comes along, take a step back from all the buzz and ask yourself and your team(s) how that technology or approach will improve the customer experience and build competitive advantage for your organization. If that new tech or buzzword doesn’t drive customer experience, you probably shouldn’t chase it.

Links for Oct 13 2013

  • “It Won’t Work. We Tried That”

    Quote: Bottom line: bad marketing science is dangerous. And we should demand that it at least get itself a half-decent disguise – with data and control groups and stuff – before we accept it as real science. “We tried that,” just doesn’t cut it.

  • Napoleon’s Fatal Mistake

    Quote: He did not like to delegate, and therefore the men he promoted under his command tended to be those who carried out his orders with precision, rather than men with their own minds. The weakness was central to the failure of the empire, for Bonaparte used his marshals and generals not only to command distant armies, which he could not supervise in detail, but to govern provinces and kingdoms, run embassies, put down rebellions, and deal with all of the crises that, from time to time, swept across territories of nearly eighty million souls.

  • Agile Development: The Next Phase — CIO Dashboard

    Quote: CIOs are under tremendous pressure to pick up the pace of change. Quote: Their current IT systems and work styles are holding them back and slowing them down. More pliable, organic models and mindsets are called for in today’s dynamic environment. CIOs shouldn’t think of themselves as keepers and protectors of solid structures. Rather, they are orchestrators of alive, bustling environments with the ability to grow from marketplace blows.

  • Employee Turnover is a Useless Metric

    Quote: You know where turnover absolutely IS a cost and indicator of problems? In machines. When cogs break, the line is shut down while we replace them, and that costs the business money and productivity. Got cogs breaking on a regular basis? Something is definitely wrong. That shouldn’t be happening. But employees are not cogs, and organizations are not machines (as much as we want them to be). If you’re a leader in a human organization, there are plenty of things that need your attention before you look at turnover rates. If you pay attention to those things, and focus on learning and systems thinking and growing a strong culture, I’m betting you’ll be fine without measuring employee turnover at all.

  • How to Use the Four Ms of Influence Marketing for Better ROI – Danny Brown

    Quote: Influence marketing as defined today needs to change. Public scores and amplified messages may present one way to look at influence; but without action being taken that goes beyond blog posts and social shares, and into what drives a customer to make a purchase, is it really influence or simply a hit and hope tactic?

  • Better medicine, brought to you by big data — Tech News and Analysis

    Quote: Slowly but surely, health care is becoming a killer app for big data. Whether it’s Hadoop, machine learning or natural-language processing, folks in the worlds of medicine and hospital administration understand that data is the key to helping them take their fields to the next level.

  • The cloud’s heavy hitters talk about the death of the CIO | VentureBeat

    Quote: “The CIO that doesn’t embrace change … they’re dead,” said Mac Devine, IBM’s cloud CTO. “The ones that do, they’re successful.”

Links for June 30 2013

  • Oh I See (CIO Inverted): Flexible or efficient ?

    Quote: Can organizations and CIOs create a balance between the efficiency and flexibility agenda ? Is such a position desirable and achievable ? Can IT help the cause ? I asked these questions to a few learned CIOs; everyone nodded unanimously to the fact that cost containment drives every few years has taken away a lot of energy. The yo-yo keeps them and their business folks running to stay in the same place. Discretionary budgets not being available now, the tussle for flexibility is an uphill journey.

  • Why Marketers Get Social Media Wrong

    Quote: The social brand is one that nurtures relationships with its current customers, develops new ones with prospective customers and is glad for conversions whenever they may occur.

  • How Facebook matured its data structure and stepped into the graph world — Tech News and Analysis

    Quote: Facebook has shifted away from a relational database model to one more supportive of a graph that needs to stay consistent and support tons of reads. Its TAO data store does all this and more.

  • Cargo Cult Requirements

    Quote: When developers are following the rituals of good software engineering practices, it does not cause them to create good products. It only causes them to create products effectively. There’s no correlation that assures that they are being asked to build the right product. The developers have no power to make planes drop cargo. Like the Melanesians, they can only march in formation. Without the right requirements, the product will fail.

  • Innovate on Purpose: The innovation box

    Quote: What does it take to get a team to think outside the box? More transition time, to help the team make the transition from the old box to the new box. More training, new tools and new facilitation to help the team become proficient at the new work. More time and commitment to taking on new perspectives. A commitment to shift not only a small team, but the rest of the organization, to new perspectives and a new “box”, or a new method to commercialize the ideas the old organization will simply reject. Until and unless executives are willing to countenance these investments, asking for ideas “outside the box”  is a cynical exercise at best.

  • Ambition can be poison by David of 37signals

    Quote: Over-dosing on ambition isn’t just an occupational hazard of sports. It goes for all walks of life. I’ve met many extremely accomplished people who’ve had the grave misfortune of reaching one too many of their goals, only to be saddled with an impossibly high baseline for success. It’s devoured their intrinsic motivation, leaving nothing but an increasingly impossible search for another fix of blow-it-out-the-park success. When that doesn’t happen, the withdrawal is a bitch.

  • How Are SMB’s Using the Digital Space?

    Quote: So we come to the million dollar question that is asked by SMB’s and consultants alike all the time: What is considered a strong basic platform, how much should it cost (reasonably) and what kind of ongoing commitments are required to build success?

  • How a Scientist Gets Things Wrong

    Quote: “More than 20 percent of Einstein’s original papers contain mistakes of some sort,” Livio writes. “In several cases, even though he made mistakes along the way, the final result is still correct. This is often the hallmark of great theorists: They are guided by intuition more than by formalism.”

Links for April 21 2013

  • The Three Elements of Successful Data Visualizations – Jim Stikeleather – Harvard Business Review

    Quote: Storytelling helps the viewer gain insight from the data. Information visualization is a process that transforms data and knowledge into a form that relies on the human visual system to perceive its embedded information. The goal is to enable the viewer to observe, understand and make sense of the information. The difference between information visualization and traditional storytelling in film, theater or television is that the information and story conveyed in information visualization environments are much more complicated. Design techniques that prioritize particular interpretations in visualizations that "tell a story" can significantly affect end-user interpretation.

  • 4 Principles Of Marketing As A Science

    Quote: Scientific marketers are usually interested in science more broadly. They’re curious and open to new learning. As they read about new findings, theories, and frameworks from other disciplines, they consider how they may be applicable to their own work and are eager to try such cross-pollination — which is another excellent source of hypotheses for marketing experimentation.

  • Understanding Customers Is Everyone’s Job – Brad Power – Harvard Business Review

    Quote: …translating customer data into insights is hard. But turning these insights into new customer experiences and revenue is even harder. An even bigger challenge is getting all the functions of the organization to work together to create the most value from detailed customer insights.

  • The Duality of Technology – or why business and technology leaders look at the same thing and see it so differently

    Quote: The business wants the wave form of technology, active, low impact, dynamic — something that gives the operations, products and services a healthly glow from a good tan. Alternatively IT organizations concentrate on the particle form of technology, the apps, data, communications, infrastructure, elements etc. The things that are complex, high impact, stable — things that add weight and reality to the cost of doing business. The problem is you cannot one or the other, you need both, even if you are buying cloud services all you are doing is seeking the wave by outsourcing the particles.

  • Employee Engagement isn’t about Efficiency – Symbolist

    Quote: Employee engagement is an effectiveness play not an efficiency play.

  • The Rise of the Digital CMO – Jake Sorofman – Harvard Business Review

    Quote: Digital CMOs also think beyond digital marketing. They look for opportunities to create digital experiences and revenue streams enabled by the nexus of forces, which is Gartner’s description of the convergence and mutual reinforcement of social, mobile, cloud and rich information. The collision of these factors unlocks opportunities to reach and engage with consumers across the physical and virtual worlds, drawing them closer with targeted, contextually relevant experiences and offers. Further, it can allow brands to redefine how value is created and delivered — the way Apple has with music, Amazon has with IT infrastructure, and Netflix has with movies.

  • Why good storytelling helps you design great products — Tech News and Analysis

    Quote: It’s not uncommon for designers to confuse a beautiful looking product with one that works beautifully. A great technique for creating smarter, better products is to approach them using story-centered design.

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