The fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed in a thousand years: Deliver messages that matter to audiences you understand. In 2020, that remains our primary job, but the challenge is the increasing pace of innovation, competitive pressure, customer expectation, and channel diffusion, says Ian Lowe, VP Marketing, at Crownpeak

What changes have you seen in marketing technologies over the last decade? What does the modern CMO look like?

The explosion of martech in the last decade has created tension for the modern marketer. It’s not a surprise that with the massive volume of potential technological solutions across all parts of the marketing ecosystem – including demand, content, brand, digital, communications, partner management, and product marketing –we’re also seeing increasing challenges in demonstrating an actual return on technical investment. Too many marketing departments are buying technology as a substitute for strategy rather than the implementation of their strategy.

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For the modern CMO, we see an increasing weight put on their operational skillset – can they create systems and processes that generate higher results and demonstrate higher value through real business measures? Just as we saw the CMO role move from a primarily brand focus to a mainly demand one, we are now witnessing more operational responsibility added to the role. This pairs well with the increasing trend to link marketing efforts to sales. Creating well-functioning operations that yield results across awareness, demand, new business and renewals require a solid understanding of process and people from across the organization, and the ability to orchestrate them in a unified play to grow the company.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities for marketers in 2020?

The fundamentals of marketing haven’t changed in a thousand years: Deliver messages that matter to audiences you understand. In 2020, that remains our primary job, but the challenge is the increasing pace of innovation, competitive pressure, customer expectation, and channel diffusion. The most successful marketers are those that can adapt and pivot the fastest solutions to the changing needs of the market and their customers. Therefore, the most significant opportunity will be to re-organize marketing teams and tech stacks to increase agility and decrease time to market.

There is an urgent need for CMOs to connect the dots between their efforts and the business outcomes. What should be done to solve this?

First, marketing needs to speak the language of the business. In my space, that means talking sales-side measures like pipeline, won deals and bookings. A business lives and dies on the sales-side measures, and therefore these must be key in the measurement and success metrics for marketing. Far too frequently, I find marketing departments that have no business-tied goals. If this is where you find yourself, begin by identifying the moment that marketing outputs turn into sales inputs. This could be MQLs to SQLs for B2B, cart adds to purchases for B2C or even web searches to telephone calls for a more offline business. Then, build the infrastructure to track each side of this transition. When you can demonstrate what you created and match it with what the business needed, you’re on your way to higher accountability and more trust and support for your marketing efforts, which is likely to result in increased budgets and higher growth.

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How well are companies utilizing data strategies and marketing technology stacks to better equip and up-skill modern marketing teams? What are the keys to success in the implementation of digital technologies?

Generally, this is a mismatch between vendor promises and a company’s ability to adapt the full set of technology capabilities. The most critical thing that a marketing organization can do is to clarify their strategy before investing in technology. Again and again, I see the need to improve speed as the biggest stumbling block. Faster decisions, faster access to data, faster ability to deliver marketing. Usually, organizations get so hung up on creating significant transformations that they lose sight of the tremendous value of incremental change.

The other factor is ensuring that you evaluate all the costs of a new technology investment. You need to look at the license, infrastructure, maintenance, upgrade, and specialist labor costs when considering how much a new tech will set you back. We regularly see organizations burning $1 million or more per year on just infrastructure and maintenance of legacy technologies like on-premises software. There’s a reason why software-as-a-service (SaaS) is disrupting every tech industry – the TCO attached to SaaS is a highly credible benefit.

Marketing technology is booming: what are some of the factors that contribute to escalating costs, failure rates, risks, and unmet expectations? What can businesses do to face these challenges?

We’ve gone through a decade of organizations trying to achieve digital transformation by buying huge tech stacks and undergoing multi-year projects. The results have been underwhelming, difficult to demonstrate ROI, and leave organizations with massive infrastructures that slow them down rather than improve outcomes. This happens because big, multi-year projects are always more complicated, more expensive, and more likely to slip than smaller undertakings.

Businesses need to adopt a policy of focusing on agility. Organizations should prioritize tools that enable them to deliver the next piece of their strategy fast and efficiently. By moving quickly, they will earn more confidence and more budgets for more substantial changes. And, critically, they will have the ROI results in hand to justify the ongoing investment.

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Organizations should also look for technology that takes advantage of their current capabilities or skills, or that are easy to find in the labor market. If a new technology requires highly specialized users or a complete rebuild of your processes, you’re much less likely to find cost-effective success.

What effects have data privacy regulations had on the industry?

We’re seeing a three-part wave of increasing pressure for privacy. First, governments are passing privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA. Second, huge marketing budgets are being applied using privacy as a competitive advantage by companies like Apple. Third, through breaches and scandals (such as Cambridge Analytica), there’s increasing consumer awareness of the value of their private data. Together, these forces are creating an environment where privacy is not only a regulatory requirement but a catalyst for consumer trust in brands and a competitive advantage for businesses

As marketers, we build our digital engines around tooling that requires the data of our visitors to operate. How much value of your marketing automation system is lost if 20%, 30%, or 40% of users are opting out of cookies? To drive this home, about 23% of US web visitors are currently using some ad and cookie blocking tool.

In response, marketers need to consider privacy to be part of their customer experience toolset or Privacy UX. Think of earning consent and opt-in as the funnel before the funnel, and create compelling experiences that encourage users to share data because of honest value exchange. Those who fail to adapt to this new age of Privacy UX will find all their marketing efforts impacted by lower and lower cookie consent rates.

With 20 years of marketing and technology experience – the last 10 years in the web content management space – Ian is an operational, growth-focussed executive with a proven track record of using data, technology and processes to achieve business results. As part of his role at Crownpeak – a global leader in privacy and digital governance management – Ian has a particular focus on the importance of delivering a superior customer experience.