This is the second installment of our “Connected Marketing Stack” playbook.
“First master the fundamentals.” – Larry Bird
Elite professional athletes know the importance of mastering the fundamentals. Even the greatest football teams spend the majority of their time practicing blocking, tackling and ball handling way before they start thinking about running trick plays.
Digital marketers, on the other hand, are notorious for their fondness for quick hacks, silver bullets, and shiny objects. One might argue that it’s been a useful evolutionary trait, as it encourages frequent testing and experimentation with all the latest platforms and tools.
But, when it comes to data infrastructure, they need to get a lot more disciplined. Remember, even Facebook changed their motto from “Move fast and break things” to “Move fast with stable infrastructure.” Digital marketers will never be able to move as quickly as they’d like without investing deliberately and methodically into building the proper data foundation.
The hierarchy of marketing data platform needs
When most people think about the digital marketing foundations they think about the central elements of marketing clouds such as Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce. These companies provide a “hub-and-spoke” model with core capabilities such as identity resolution and orchestration at the center feeding email, advertising, CRM, analytics and other applications.
While these services are critically important, marketers too often overlook the basic fundamentals that precede all of this: data connectivity and data control. Without mastery over connectivity and control, they’re like a sports team that hasn’t nailed the fundamentals. They may get lucky and score some quick points, but it’s not sustainable or repeatable.
Where the consequences for sports teams might be an excess number of errors and injuries, lack of fundamentals in marketing data manifests in:
Disjointed customer experiences, particularly multi-screen ones
ROI measurement and attribution challenges
New business initiatives being stalled as engineering cycles get consumed by “whack a mole” integration (and integration maintenance) efforts
Redundant IT investments and projects that run over budget and behind schedule
- Increased risk of a major (perhaps irrecoverable) consumer experience failure, such as a privacy or security breach
Good fundamentals require a dedicated focus
In a world where data is being generated on and off property, and resides in multiple internal and external systems, ensuring clean, connected data can’t be an afterthought. You need a dedicated focus, and that means decoupling data infrastructure from the application of that data.
Confusingly, many vendors working in the upper parts of the pyramid offer capabilities that sound like they could be data connectivity and control solutions for the entire stack. Data management platforms (DMPs), cross-channel campaign management (CCCM) platforms and even the multi-purpose marketing clouds all offer partial solutions with a common thread: their focus is primarily on a subset of data as it relates to their own particular product suites.
While each of these has a lot of relevant data, and an important role to play in marketers’ overall stack, they’re not a complete connectivity solution because brands invariably use multiple clouds, multiple point solutions, and require more from their data – and more diverse types of data – than any one of these solutions was ever intended to support.
What’s more, many marketing platforms and tools built originally for channel-specific purposes are notorious for not being fully open; meaning that it’s not possible to send any and all of the data from them to everywhere you might need that data to go. And even in cases where getting all the data out of them is theoretically possible, the number of pre-configured integrations tends to be limited to a few core use cases, so effectively the challenge is the same as if they data weren’t portable at all (unless you have limitless engineering resources at your disposal).
Foundational capabilities like fine-grained privacy controls and data model flexibility are areas where it helps to have deep technology domain expertise. Not only that, but they also tend to be embedded into architectural choices from a company’s early existence, making it hard for, say, a tag management vendor to “pivot into” being a CDP, or an email provider to “bolt on” cross-channel data management.
The good news is, once you’ve achieved a certain level of mastery over the fundamentals, you can easily start layering in other “skills” (like email and advertising orchestration) and trick plays (like predictive intelligence) that can be real game-changers. Although even then, you should never stop practicing the fundamentals.
David Spitz is CMO of mParticle. Follow him on Twitter (@david_spitz). Ready to master the fundamentals? Check out our five-point checklist for how to connect and coordinate your marketing stack like a boss.