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The New Rules of MarTech Integration

By Matthew Mobley, EVP & CTO, Merkle

Matthew Mobley, EVP & CTO, Merkle

The only two things in this world that are consistent are death and change. If you are in the world of marketing technology, there is no time to contemplate change, because it is constant and rapid. Evidence of change in MarTech is highly visible and progressive as revealed by Scott Brinker from chiefmartech.com who has been charting marketing technology companies since 2011. In 2011 there were 150 companies, and now, in 2016, there are 3,874 companies named in his marketing technology landscape research. If you don’t follow the MarTech blogs, just look at the trend in CMO budgets. According to the IDC, marketing technology spend as a percentage of marketing spend, will grow to 10 percent by 2025. This is an increase of 10 times what it is today. All of this change is being fueled by some key trends: big data and cloud technology adoption especially in the arena of analytics, increased efforts to unify the consumer experience forcing a tighter coupling of traditional marketing and customer servicing platforms with advertising and digital technology, and people-based marketing emerging as a prominent means for marketing to the individual consumer across all media and channels.

Underpinning all of this change and growth is the need for organizations to integrate these technologies to drive a more unified and consistent message to the consumer across all channels and media. Fifty-two percent of companies polled in the Marketing Technology Strategy Survey by Informatica and Dun & Bradstreet said the complexity of integrating marketing technologies was the most challenging obstacle to success. Integration is where the challenge lies. Integration is where the war is won.

"In the world of marketing technology, there is no time to contemplate change, because it is constant and rapid"

If integration of marketing technologies is the biggest concern, in theory, the CIO would have a role but does the CIO’s organization understand what integration means in the marketing technology world in terms of integration of data, insights, and technology? These are the three key tenets for marketing technology integration:

• Data Democratization: Leveraging data from anywhere to fuel marketing decisions in any channel and media.
• Audience Portability: Being able to communicate to the same group of individuals through any channel or media.
• Integrated Insights: Deploying insights that drive marketing decisions at the point when you have an opportunity to communicate with a consumer.

As a basic example, a marketer specifically targets a group of people within the marketing database that has a high likelihood of purchasing a new product, and then discovers another group, also with a high likelihood of purchasing a different product. The goal is that whenever the organization communicates with either group, they want to present messaging associated with the appropriate product. This may be through email, the website, the call center, and through digital media. In order to deliver on this example, the integrated marketing technology platform would need to be aligned to the core tenets through a set of capabilities to identify an individual from either group and leverage data about that group to decide what message to present. In email settings this can be relatively straightforward. In a real-time setting it is more complicated. If you add personalization and real-time, dynamic decisioning to the mix, it becomes highly complex. Decisioning in real time is where marketing is today.

Beyond the basics of technology integration, there are three key areas to master specific to marketing technology integration: identity management, the marketing data fabric, and decision management.

Identity Management

First and foremost is the concept of identity management. The definition of identity management is different in the marketing realm. In the CIO’s world it is a means to secure systems and prevent fraud, and in the CMO’s world it is a means to identify a specific person no matter what channel and media they are engaging with. Today, people can be identified by a series of identity signals: names and address, social handles, cookies, device identifiers, and email addresses. Some of these may not resolve completely to a specific named person, but they can resolve to a unique entity with whom you are communicating. The identity management capability allows us to construct a web, or graph, of associations that can be traversed to identify someone so that we can commutate personalized messages to that person.

Data Fabric

Next is the importance of the marketing data fabric. This fabric stretches across a series of data stores: the data lake where data scientists explore the data to derive new insights, the marketing data warehouse where marketers are defining audiences of customers and prospects, and the digital data stores ranging from data management platforms (DMPs) to other real-time data repositories. This data fabric is unified by the identity graph that allows data to be associated to any event in any channel or media in which the event occurs. This capability is comprised of both mechanisms to distribute and collect data. In this capability there is a tight coupling of traditional ETL and services architectures with digital components like web analytics and tag management solutions. The challenge with the marketing data fabric is understanding all the players and developing a strategy that encompasses them.

Decision Management

The final key area is decision management. Like the data fabric area, there is a multitude of decision components ranging from web personalization to product recommenders. In this area there is a two- tiered system: channel and media based decision engines and the decision engine that guides those decision engines. These engines are where insights are integrated. In the past, the web site personalization engine would make a series of decisions on how to tailor the site and the call center decision engine would make a series of decisions that would guide the agent’s script. The issue was that these decisions may be completely different. This has given rise to a centralized decision engine to rule all others. More robust engines, like those that had been used in instances of case management and underwriting are now controlling the key marketing decisions around offer and message. This leaves the channel decision engines with the purpose of controlling content. In turn these centralized engines ensure consistency in the marketing decision process. Overall, while traditional technology integration is still key, marketing technology requires mastering an additional set of items.

Some would argue that these key integration areas are merely slight adaptations to past challenges, but I would argue those are the first people to fail. The unique circumstances that arise today in technological integrations that are aligned with the business strategy of the CMO, are that the integration challenges have moved beyond anything we have seen outside of the MarTech realm. The good news is that this is more collectively recognized, although there is still a specialized group driving innovation and change. In the end, to prepare an organization to be part of the larger marketing technology world, its strategy must adhere to the principles of data democratization, audience portability, and integrated insight. A future-leaning organization must adopt an integration that is powered by identity, data fabric, and decision management to move forward with competitive advantage. 

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