Here is a dirty little secret of MarketingTransformation. We’ve been involved in 200+ MarTech projects and asked marketers about their experiences over the past decade. Here is how to align the three Marketing Transformation pillars: Strategy, Team and Technology.
Our research showed that skillfully tweaking three Marketing Transformation pillars, Strategy, Team and Technology, speeds up the Marketing Transformation of your company. Read how to avoid the common pitfalls, how to assess your company MarTech maturity, and how to use the Marketing Transformation Action Plan to up your game!
This is what you should do. Find out what maturity level your pillars have at present, and then level up. In that process, you do two things.
- Always keep the maturity of your Strategy higher than your Team's maturity.
- Always keep the maturity of your Team higher than your Tech’s maturity.
This holds for both Marketing Transformation and Digital Transformation. It starts with Strategy, not with Technology.
To make Marketing Transformation, or Digital Transformation projects successful, increase the maturity of Strategy first, then improve your Team, and then you’ll be able to improve Tech. This way you follow the path of least resistance, i.e. the law of Digital Transformation: Start with Transformation, End with Digital.
The law of Digital Transformation
"Start with Transformation. End with Digital."
Expectations for Digital Transformation are sky high
Digital Transformation and Marketing Transformation aren't impossible without MarTech. New tools offer great ways to increase effectiveness, productivity and transparency. However, the sheer growth of tools is daunting. In Marketing Technology only, the number of tools grew from 350 in 2012 to 7,000 in 2018. That is a twenty-fold increase in just six years!
You are not the first to struggle with finding the right tools, incorporating them and demonstrating the benefits to the team and management. 70% to 84% of digital transformation initiatives are not as successful as hoped for.
Regardless of the number of failed initiatives, the trend of digital transformation cannot be stopped. Everyone is convinced digital transformation is an opportunity that has huge potential.
- 87% say that Digital Transformation is a competitive opportunity.
- 45% of executives expect digital to grow their revenue.
- 81% say digital maturity efforts (that worked out well) have definitely differentiated their company.
So we think it is worthwhile to figure out what the ingredients are for sailing on the Digital Transformation ocean smoothly.
What we learned from 200+ marketing technology projects
Over the last two decades we have been involved in some 200 marketing technology projects, implementing 100+ tools. From these projects we gathered a lot of qualitative data. We observed that some projects worked well, while others were projects from hell.
Looking at the qualitative data we gathered over the years, it became clear that Marketing Transformation projects are built on three pillars: Strategy, Team and Technology. Let’s start with the latter.
Whenever a MarTech project went pear shaped, we often saw software vendors taking the blame. Complaints were usually, ‘not the right features’, ‘wrong technology’, ‘low adoption’ and what have you.
In a brilliant research of Nico Beenker in 2010, called “Lead IT or Lose IT”, we learned that in fact technology was hardly to blame.
Nico Beenker reveals a very common error of judgement by managers. Although problems often arise in the test phase of a project, that does not imply that the software is wrong. The research shows that the criteria for selecting the tool were not clear in the first place. In conclusion, the problems arising in the test phase are the result of poor scope and preparation in earlier phases.
Here’s a rough estimation of where projects failed.
- 10% of the projects got in trouble in the implementation phase.
- 40% of the projects got in trouble in the scoping phase
- 40% of the projects got in trouble in the contract phase
So, if technology isn’t the biggest problem, then what is going wrong in the scoping phase? Bill Gates stated that automation works similar to a magnifying glass.
“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.”
This is where we stumbled upon the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) model by the Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). ‘Maturity’ relates to the degree of formality and optimization of processes. The more mature, the higher the readiness for automation. This explains the dynamics in the scoping phase.
When digging deeper, we learned there was another factor besides Team capability that hampered Tech implementations: lack of a clear plan or strategy.
When redesigning the marketing function for companies, we look for the marketing strategy and corresponding plans to support the marketing execution. In the troublesome projects, we almost always ended up with a heap of presentations and spreadsheets. No one of the marketing crew was able to make sense out of that.
If the goal of the company or team is not clearly defined or shared, then how can the goal of a project contribute to the company goal?
You probably experienced the symptoms of lacking a solid plan yourself: ever changing requirements. This is the direct result of unclear requirements affecting the contract phase.
What we learned from interviewing 200 marketers
Aside of the qualitative data we gathered along the way, was also conducted a quantitative analysis. Based on the qualitative data of the 200+ marketing technology projects in the first decade, we developed an automated MarTech maturity scan for Marketing Transformation projects.
Over time we collected entries from 200+ marketing and sales experts. Responses from 16 industries, 22 countries and 4 continents came in. Every year new respondents are added.
The online survey is simple in its setup. The respondents are asked about their perception of how the strategy, team and technology works for them.
- Regarding Strategy, we cover marketing goals and corresponding marketing materials like, campaigns, collateral & content.
- Regarding Teams, we cover topics like numbers of FTEs, skills,internal roles and external suppliers and processes.
- Regarding Technology, we cover topics like MarTech tools, stacks, which tools support which process, etc.
The Marketing Maturity Model
In order to assess the maturity of strategy, team and technology for marketing, we had a look at the 5 levels of Capability Maturity Model (CMM). These are the five CMM levels.
- Initial (chaotic, ad hoc, individual heroics) - the starting point for use of a new or undocumented repeat process.
- Repeatable - the process is at least documented sufficiently, such that repeating the same steps may be attempted.
- Defined - the process is defined/confirmed as a standard business process.
- Capable - the process is quantitatively managed in accordance with agreed-upon metrics.
- Efficient - process management includes deliberate process optimization/improvement.
We tailored the five levels to the marketing reality. This is what the maturity levels looks like when applied to marketing strategy, teams and technology. Download here.
The data collected through the ongoing maturity scan serves as a benchmark for participating companies. They can discover where they are now, plan where they want to go, and keep track of how far they still need to go to reach their destination.
Here are the numbers we found.
The overall maturity level of marketing departments across the globe is 2.89. Zooming in on that same blue and green globe, we see some interesting differences between the continents.
- Europe - 2,86
- North America - 3,01
- Rest of World - 3,00
We can take the overall maturity level one level deeper. Let’s take a look at the maturity of Strategy, Team and Technology by industry.
- For 13 out of 13 industries the maturity of Strategy is higher than Technology.
- For 12 out of 13 industries the maturity of Strategy is higher than, or equal to, Teams.
- For 9 out of 13 industries the maturity of Teams is higher than, or equal to, Technology.
Especially the first observation underpins the secret of Marketing Transformation: Stack follows Strategy.
When applying these rules to technology implementation or Martech projects we can draw some fundamental conclusions, establish best practice rules and prescribe critical maturity steps.
In summary: the Strategy, the Team and the Technology
A lack of a clear plan leads to confused teams, and therewith Marketing Transformation projects turn out cumbersome at best.
To make your Marketing Transformation projects succeed, it is paramount that you prepare your Strategy and Team first… and then you can attempt to improve your Technology maturity.
This discovery has lead us to draw up a martech law:
The law of Marketing Technology
"Stack follows Strategy"
Rule #1: Strategy maturity > Tech maturity
To make your marketing transformation successful, you need to address the differences in maturity. Don’t start with Digital, but transform your strategy first. Here is how you can draft and share your strategy.
Rule #2: Avoid big gaps between the three pillars
For smooth sailing make sure that the maturity of one pillar is not too different from the others. Make sure that each pillar is at most one maturity level higher or lower than the next one.
Discover how mature you are today
All good, but how to apply this to your company? How can you make these improvement steps happen? How can you tell where you are and where to go? Here are two tools you can start using today.
You and your team can quickly measure maturity of your technology stack. Check your technology stack maturity with the MarTech Benchmark (free) and receive the results instantly.
1. Check the maturity of your Strategy, Team and Technology with the marketing maturity scan to see in detail where you are right now (free for one person). If your team takes this survey, you will get 45 pages of insightful graphs in a pdf.
2. Read below how you can learn how to quickly read the signs at your office floor. Yes, there are some simple rules of thumb which enable you to guess in what maturity your marketing department is.
To learn how to read the signs, we created three extrapolated scenarios. Very occasionally, we see these extreme scenarios in real life. But remember, according to our research these scenarios are not examples for success (!). The three scenarios really help to explain the dynamics at play.
Ready for a set of x-ray goggles? Here we go.
Scenario #1 - management is most mature
Strategy is ahead of the rest.
Management is not happy with the team, because they lack (insights on) results.
- Focus on reporting.
- Teams lacking insights fuel micro management to figure out where we stand.
- Team typically in a scared / paralyzed state / no ownership.
- Strong focus on enterprise tools. Top down implementations.
Scenario #2 - Team is most mature
Team is ahead of the rest.
For the lack of clarity provided by Management, the teams do what they think is best for the company.
- Typically tasks driven due to the lack of clear objectives.
- Teams are not aligned.
- Team members are not aligned.
- Many feature requests
- Changing requirements from management harm the teams progress.
- No plan set by management
- No priorities set by management
- No sign offs by management
Scenario #3 - Technology is most mature
Technology is ahead of the rest.
For the lack of clarity provided by Management, the team's requirements are constantly changing. It’s unclear when success is achieved. Often the launch of software is perceived as success, not the adoption of it, let alone the benefits yielded from the new software.
- Long implementations and Turn Around Times
- Implementations “go wrong” in test phase - Lead IT or Lose IT.
- Poor adoption
- No sign off (due to lack of clarity)
Boost your Marketing Transformation project by moving up on the ladder of maturity without making the gaps too big between the three pillars.
Here are the four steps to get from level 1 to level 5 maturity.
- List it
- Consolidate it
- Streamline it
- Optimize it
The Marketing Transformation action plan
1. List it!
Strategy: List your marketing output, what does your company produce in terms of marketing materials, half product, end products, CCC
Team: List your suppliers, agencies, job titles, teams, etc.
Tech: List your tools by function and workflow in the company. Create MarTech Canvas
2. Consolidate it!
Strategy: Deduplicate your output, marketing materials, half product, end products, CCC. in the company.
Team: Deduplicate your suppliers, agencies, job titles, teams, etc. in the company.
Tech: Deduplicate systems doing the same function in the company. Design MarTech Canvas.
3. Streamline it!
Strategy: Agree on reporting standards and KPIs to be suggested and delivered by team and tech. Create a goal tree.
Team: Agree on standards, like ISO, approvals, Microsoft/Apple standards, Agile versus PRINCE2, Define acceptance criteria for people to make their own decisions.
Tech: Agree on who decides to purchase new tools. Integrate the tools according to the way you work (frame). Use MarTech Stacks.
4. Optimize it!
Strategy: Adjust goal and targets constantly based on market data. Use Agile Strategy Process.
Team: Use agile and iterative approach to constantly sync with the market needs.
Tech: Provide relevant data internally (to optimize operations and results) and distribute relevant content to customers. Use AI.