The future marketers want is less technical, but requires the right tech

Marketers are continually challenged. They have to understand and work with more and more technology to help them do their job, while at the same time strive to find creative and innovative approaches to building experiences that customers appreciate. These two things seem at odds much of the time, and if you ask marketers, the technology often wins out.

I spoke with Jordan Kretchmer, Senior Director of Product Management at Adobe and former CEO of Livefyre, to understand the trends affecting marketers today and what the future could look like – if the technology evolves.

The challenges affecting marketing performance

Kretchmer works with customers and teams in the Experience Cloud to provide tools that increase the efficiency and output of a marketing organization. He’s been up close to the challenges global organizations face, and it’s obvious things need to change. Kretchmer said customers are struggling. The amount of content they need to develop and the variations of that content to support different channels and personalization is not only overwhelming; it’s complex. This is true even more small-to-mid-sized organizations.

In his discussions with over 25 Adobe customers, several trends have emerged in terms of how marketers operate. It’s interesting that as much as things have changed, marketing operations haven’t changed as much. Marketing should be about being creative and innovative, delivering experiences no one else does, or at least does as well. But creativity is often stifled due to the complexity of the technology that supports current experiences.

Most of the time, according to Kretchmer, marketers are mired in the tactical work required to use technology. That technology is often channel specific or siloed in such as way that the marketer can’t look across the organization and get a holistic view of what’s happening in marketing. The technology is also complex – they are working with complex statistics, algorithms, and structures that help them deliver their strategies. But marketers want to “level up” and get to a more channel agnostic view of their marketing operations.

One thing that needs to change – and Kretchmer thinks it will – is that all this complex technology and work will push into the IT world and marketers will have more time to focus on the creative aspects of their work.

Another area that is changing for marketing is that it’s becoming less about a regional view of marketing. It doesn’t matter if a customer is in Japan, the UK or the United States – the Internet has level-set consumers views. What works in one region could also work in another. The problem is, in global organizations that view across the organization, particularly in marketing, doesn’t exist. Kretchmer believes organizations want to know what’s working in other regions – the insights and the content, the audiences – these things may help them with their programs.

It’s not just about a better understanding of what’s working across regions though. Marketers also want a better understanding of what’s working across channels. Kretchmer argues that a piece of content that works well on the website could also work for social marketers. Likewise, a piece of content or a marketing campaign that works for one product line could also work for another. Marketers want and need, a way to connect audiences, content, and insights across channels, product lines and regions. And that means they need new tools that let them work as marketers, not engineers.

Future marketing tools support the bigger picture

One such tool Kretchmer describes as a case in point is for visual journey mapping. Let’s assume you are planning a campaign for the launch of a new device. You have hundreds or thousands of pieces of content developed across regions to support the launch. Journey mapping lets you set triggers around what piece of content goes to what person, when, on what device and in what format. It connects locations, channels and user personas, tracking a consumer’s activity across the entire customer journey.

Now, what if that journey mapping was a part of the overall marketing operations calendar? Today, there is no way to manage or see an executive view of what’s happening across the organization, which means marketers don’t have a clear view they can report on. Some of the tools they use today, such as Excel, iCal, Google Calendar, are not cross-organization, not cross product line, and often not cross-channel.

There’s a huge opportunity here for a marketing software provider, and Adobe is keen to attack these opportunities. At the recent Adobe Summit, teams created “sneaks” – four-minute demos of technology that could be developed by Adobe in the future – solutions that improve the way marketers work. A sneak called the “Master Plan” won the top sneak at the event and for a good reason.

Here’s how Adobe describes Master Plan:

With a centralized calendar and cross-channel composer, campaign managers can view and plan all channel activities across previously siloed teams and disparate channel solutions, tapping the power of Adobe Sensei to help free up time orchestration and coordination efforts to focus on other demands.

Kretchmer outlined it like this – a collaborative brief describes a campaign, or product launch or some other activity. The brief contains all your audience data and is shared amongst your team to define and improve. The solution takes the brief and automatically sets up a content matrix, and pulls in the content that’s going to go live on every channel. It then sets up a templated calendar. You drag and drop activities onto the calendar. Now, what if you could drag and drop a journey onto the calendar to run for a defined period, outlining everything that needs to happen across channels? Everyone in the organization can have access to see what’s happening. With the right permissions, a person could drag and drop a journey from one region into their region and calendar and edit it.

I watched the demo of Master Plan, and it does look like a tool most marketers would love to have. It’s not identical to what Kretchmer described, but you can start to see the possibilities.

One snag – it doesn’t exist. Adobe is probably working on it now – I couldn’t get Kretchmer to spill, but he did acknowledge they were working on something. It may not all come out at once, but we will see technology like this in the not too distant future. And maybe not just from Adobe.

The beauty of a solution like Master Plan is that it’s used across regions, across BUs and works for all channels – it’s a common toolset that will enable marketers to have that top-level view of what’s happening. It’s a tool that can work for every marketer in any organization or industry. It’s a tool that has been needed for a long time – so why now? Why are we suddenly ready to build something like this?

Kretchmer said it has to do with the dispersion of data. Data silos are still predominant in enterprise organizations today. Legacy systems for email, CRM, and others are built and implemented on top of legacy infrastructures that don’t lend themselves well to integration or real-time data.

My take

Of course, this is the digital transformation story that we talk about all the time and that many companies are just getting started on. But it is happening, and Kretchmer said that companies are paying a lot of money to figure out how to get off legacy infrastructure and transition to newer approaches for tools and systems that do work better together.

As this transformation happens, we now see the ability to create new marketing solutions like Adobe’s futuristic Master Plan. Kretchmer thinks Adobe is primed to lead this new world for marketing and they do have many of the core pieces required to make it happen, including the AI and the creative through Creative Cloud. But they won’t be the only ones.

There will be others right behind them, possibly right beside them with some of the elements required, particularly around the journey management component. Sailtru has a Lifecycle Optimizer which supports the creation of journeys in a drag and drop interface. I saw a demo of it, and I liked the ability to create a series of journeys to which a person enters (even more than one at a time) through an identified event.

The calendaring is more elusive, particularly the way Kretchmer describes it, although there are pieces of it in social media tools like Co-Schedule and others.

The point is, marketing tech vendors are thinking about these capabilities. There is an understanding that it can’t be complex to use and that there need to be some elements of augmented intelligence and machine learning to move things forward faster. So we are getting there. Slowly.

Image credit – Marketing Strategy © patpitchaya –


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