The Ironic Role of Content in Marketing Technology Investment Decisions
As a marketing leader, I am tasked with making recommendations and decisions that may impact my organization for many months or even years to come. I don’t take those decisions lightly, and even struggle at times with the plethora of content technology options available. I come from a technology background—having served in roles ranging from technical support manager (the front lines) to database software developer (the back end). My prior experience may afford me a perspective that not all marketers have; in fact, more of us with traditional IT skill sets are making the leap from “pure IT” to marketing roles, helping to bridge the gap between the once very distinct disciplines.Marketing and information technology have come together in many respects and have given us “martech,” or marketing technology, as its own field. But is this new field helping organizations make better decisions? How are martech decisions made when compared to a typical B2B or even B2C decision-making cycle?
I’ve participated in marketing technology projects that involved hundreds of thousands of dollars or more, all dedicated to guiding a brand’s audience into a decision path that results in a sale. What we martech decision makers have in common with just about everyone else in the world is that ultimately, we’re consumers. Content marketing can be effective for tech decision makers in the B2B marketing world as well. Perhaps the role content plays in the content technology decision-making process isn’t so ironic after all, but as in other fields, it’s only part of the path to a decision.
Whether you’re tasked with making the decisions or vetting the technologies and providing recommendations, I have a few key takeaways I’d like to pass along. Because if you’re like me, you may have found yourself feeling overwhelmed with tech choices when building your marketing stack.
Encourage the “Techies” to Participate in Content Technology Decisions
Unless your organization actually has a C-level role of Director or VP of Marketing Technology, chances are your IT teams are the resident tech gurus inside your organization. Your IT teams can be a tremendous resource to assist in making what have become martech decisions because IT teams and the CIO were traditionally the ones tasked with making very similar decisions. CMOs who are considering any technology investment without consulting the CIO are likely making a large misstep (and sometimes, vice versa). Take the example of a brand that’s in the process of choosing a new content management system (CMS) platform for its website. There are a million questions that go into making this decision, many of which overlap between IT and marketing. Here are a few:
What hosting platform is required for the preferred CMS?
What resources are required to provide backup services?
How will disaster recovery (DR) be handled?
Is PCI compliance required for credit card transactions?
What about anti-virus and anti-malware protection?
If a CMO decides without consulting IT, these types of functionalities may turn into unnecessary hidden (to marketing) costs that could have easily been avoided with IT’s input.
Until the technology skills gap closes, IT is your best resource for tech infrastructure planning. Marketing has long played the role of a consumer in technology planning efforts—we were asked what we wanted and needed and IT teams largely decided how to deliver on those needs. Now that marketing is becoming more of a solution provider, sound decisions need to be made on how those solutions are delivered.
Marketers, don’t go it alone—make sure you pull in your trusted IT resources when being asked to make large technology decisions by involving them early in the selection process. Engaging with IT even as early as the RFP process and in the definition of the requirements for the project wouldn’t be considered “too soon” in most cases.
Trust Is Important When Choices Are Plentiful and Information Is Complex
I participated in an interesting philosophical discussion recently about what it meant to be “retail” in a digital space. A user experience (UX) designer and a marketing manager said that retail meant transactional to them, which I agreed was definitely a component. But was retail more than just a swipe or purchase?
My definition started out a bit enigmatic, but then I was able to boil it down to something very simple. I defined retail as being about choice, and choice comes down to trust. In any retail scenario, people ultimately have choices, and in order to win their business, they have to trust what they are receiving from you is the best option for them. Trust is tantamount to a consumer, perhaps especially in B2B, where we have to trust the decisions we make are solid because of the far-reaching impact and enormous financial consequences those choices will have on the future of the organizations we serve.
Content helps to build trust in B2B and B2C consumers alike, albeit in different ways. As a marketer, I sometimes forget that I am also someone’s target market. I have information needs and use that information, my judgment, and a process to come to a decision. I need to know, through empirical evidence contained in white papers and case studies, through others’ experience by way of testimonials, and though my gut instincts, that I’m making the right decisions. Even as a marketer, content is hugely important in helping me to make decisions as well—because I’m someone’s customer, too.
Content’s Role in Technology Decisions
Martech and content technology decision paths are long, but they’re not unlike many other purchase cycles. According to Google’s Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT), the average customer consults more than ten pieces of online content before making a decision.
I’d say that’s definitely true for me, personally—from SME Twitter feeds and blog posts, tech provider white papers and case studies, webinars, and videos, I absorb as much expert research and opinion as I can before making a decision or recommendation—and I know I’m not alone. According to one survey by Walker Sands, CMOs and senior leadership are clearly part of the martech decision process, but only account for around one-third of the decisions made. The remaining two-thirds include specialists, managers, and even entry-level employees leading the process, and that majority relies largely on content when shaping its decision. Content, and therefore, content marketing, helps to shape my opinion on the types of solutions that will fit my organization’s needs, perhaps even more than vendor or peer recommendation.
The Role of the Analyst in Martech: Cleanup
Analysts and consultants play a large role in filling the gaps that remain or that simply can’t be filled by content and secondary research. Analysts often play the cleanup role for many CMO’s decisions. CMOs and marketing leaders may shape their initial opinions based on a peer recommendation, but the final decision often relies heavily on solid research and analysis.
Analysts will likely remain best suited in helping a brand drill down into the details of a solution’s implementation, total cost of ownership (TCO), and other factors that may be more challenged to uncover, but greatly impact a decision.
There are very few industries (if any) that can ignore content marketing these days, and it’s not all that ironic that those of us producing content marketing campaigns are also the targets of someone else’s campaign. Consumers make decisions that they perceive to be the best for them with the information they have at hand. Content marketing is that information.
What to learn more about making sound content marketing technology decisions? Check out our story: Feeling Overwhelmed? How to Pick the Right Marketing Technology.