Customer Understanding Provides Fuel For Your Marketing Stack

tonyblankemeyerData-Driven Thinking” is written by members of the media community and contains fresh ideas on the digital revolution in media.

Today’s column is written by Tony Blankemeyer, startup liaison at 84.51°.

With marketing technology tools launching each day can feel overwhelming, especially for novice digital marketers. It’s easy to get caught up in the “new shiny thing” rather than take a strategic approach to the bigger picture.

To avoid this, I find that diagramming the needs of a mar tech “stack” can help drive strategic decisions. One of my favorite ways to map out and organize these tools is by function, in relation to the customer journey. That includes awareness drivers, evaluation and nurturing efforts, converting, repeat or loyalty loop.

Each step on the path to purchase, along with the following actions, represent opportunities to create a better connection with customers. With the array of features and capabilities and broad scale of prices, the decision on the tools to enable that connection should not be overlooked.

Whether they are just starting up or part of an enterprise business, the level of complexity of an organization’s marketing stack can vary greatly. As mar tech expert Scott Brinker separates things, there is an operations side of the marketing stack and an experiences side. The operations side emphasizes asset or project management (Basecamp), performance and analytics (Google Analytics). The experiences side encapsulates channels, including apps (Tapjoy), email (Sailthru), display (MediaMath), search (MOZ) and video (Brightcove).

The vast majority of companies within the mar tech space start with a specific stage of the customer journey they are trying to improve. For example, Optimizely focuses on content optimization via testing. As companies like Optimizely get traction, they often begin branching out, as in the case of Hubspot, which started with a focus on inbound content creation with a content management system before adding social and more robust CRM capabilities.

Some companies, such as or Oracle, take a “one-stop-shop” approach with their marketing clouds. This “full-stack” solution promises the tightest tracking of a customer’s journey from action to action through channel to channel, with close integrations between their various owned components.

Working in the background is a connective tissue often referred to as the “middleware” or “data layer,” which may be the fastest growing. These tools leverage business and customer data to improve activities on both the operations and experiences sides. These systems tie together data, such as customer profiles, web analytics, purchase details, social media data and customer feedback responses, and even store data or geospatial information can be pulled in, matched and interpreted. Think of the intelligence gained from these tools as the fuel that keeps marketing engines running.

It should seem so obvious that putting the customer at the center of marketing will drive success, but this is often a challenge, due to availability or access to the right data. Solutions, such as tag managers (Ensighten), cloud integrators (Zapier) and data management platforms (Xaxis), assist with the collection and management of data that is used to enrich the information on your customers.

Investing in resources to expand a company’s knowledge about their customers, understanding who they are and what motivations drive them, empowers marketers to improve the quality of each engagement. Examples include tailored emails that are based on actions taken on a brand’s website or personalized offers triggered by previous store purchases, the customer’s location and the time of day. By connecting with customers the way they want to be communicated with and providing them with contextually relevant messages, brands will improve the relationship with their customers and ultimately develop loyalty.

There are endless combinations of solutions to fit the needs of every organization and make customers’ lives easier. Have you diagrammed all of the components of your marketing stack? What are the core elements needed to deliver on your mission for your customers?

Recognize how all of the parts work together and determine if you need to make an adjustment. Most importantly, cultivate and activate your customer data assets to propel you far past your objectives.

Follow Tony Blankemeyer (@tblanx), 84.51° (@8451group) and AdExchanger (@adexchanger).

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