Invest in strategy before technology

It is tempting to invest heavily in technology to solve marketing challenges. But it can backfire if you don’t have control of marketing strategy and alignment first.

There is no doubt that marketing departments around the world are challenged.

With a significant cut in the budget, one has to think differently. It is, therefore, a bit surprising that one of the top priorities is to continue or increase investments in technology to gain more value when, many times, there is no control over the strategy behind the technology.

There are fantastic opportunities for companies to create growth and change through the use of technology. But it requires a sharp marketing strategy and that we change our approach to the use of technology.

Marketing has always been fascinated by new and exciting technologies, but the challenge is to turn them into value. I have also encountered that problem.

Too many “stairs to success”

In my view, the biggest problem is the narrow definition of “digital marketing” and “data-driven marketing”. They have been more about adtech and what we today call performance marketing than strategy. Across industries and between marketers, it has been the big narrative. I’ve been there myself, too.

Of course, good results have been created, especially within b2c, but the fundamental value through change is yet to be seen in all industries. That is why we need to look inward.

It is normal to skew to what others are doing. It creates inspiration and ideas. I have been to countless conferences and heard “The ten most important points for success in the digital age”. It has created many types of “staircase to success” content in the market.

Through my many years in marketing and technology, it is clear that there are no easy solutions to the challenges that companies as a whole and marketing face. And therefore, the marketing strategy must be dusted off and on a journey through the company. This confirms the cases I have looked at in my current and previous work as well as participation in, among other things, the Danish Digital Awards.

Strategy is a worn-out term

Strategy is gradually becoming a worn-out term, and there must be almost a strategy for everything. However, it can quickly become a theoretical discussion, which I will leave to the higher education institutions.

We need to return to a marketing strategy regarding customers, segments, channels and markets. It is precisely the strategic decisions that help to define the purpose of the technology that is to be used to achieve the results.

It sounds so simple, but nonetheless, this is where the outcome of the projects will be best. The clear objectives also create a better framework for the necessary collaboration across the organisation – especially in IT. This is because if long-term sustainable solutions are to be created, a strong and flexible digital architecture will be necessary for the company – and this must be done in collaboration with IT.

This does not mean that the marketing management must be IT experts, but as a team, they must create the right setup to get the most out of the various applications. Unfortunately, it is seen that key decisions are made in IT or “digital teams”, where it is more about the system than what actually needs to be solved.

If marketing is to succeed in getting more out of current solutions, then it requires collaboration across CMO and CIO. The relationship between the two is absolutely central to the digital future – they can become the “digital brain” of the company. The events of the past two years have underlined that marketing and IT must work more closely together to create crucial competitive advantages.

Call your CIO

So the benefits of sharpening strategy and collaboration between technology and marketing are:

  • Better performance: The companies that are at the top of performance within their industry are able to create a strategic direction and have a consistent collaboration across. Some reports show an improvement in profit of 5-7%.
  • Competitive advantage: Most companies have access to the same software and the same digital channels. It will therefore be through strategic selection and their execution that the crucial benefits for the company must be created. This, of course, has an impact on the overall performance, but also on the overall long-term position in a highly competitive market.

And if I look, for example, at the winning cases in Danish Digital Awards over the past number of years, it has been the companies with the above characteristics that have excelled. And if they continue, it is they who will win in the long run.

So the advice is clear: Call your CIO and get the strategy dusted off.

Karsten Stokking

Marketing Strategy Consultant

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