A Stress-Free Approach to Adopting New Marketing Technologies

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The rate of change in marketing technology -- continually accelerated by all the new innovations we see every day -- has created growing demand for tech-savvy marketing professionals who know how to research, select, manage, and integrate a diverse collection of tools. "Prototype marketers" -- what we at PR 20/20 call the hybrid marketers that have a variety of skillsets -- are ideal to manage this rapidly evolving industry of ours. Why? Because they are able to recommend and work with technology and software that drives marketing automation, email, social media, project management, customer relationship management, analytics, and more.

Consider this. The IDC predicts that in 2013, more than half of all new marketing hires will have a technical background. Additionally, Eloqua notes that 75% of marketers say their lack of skills is impacting revenue in some way, and 74% say it’s contributing to misalignment between the marketing and sales teams. And it's even impacting the C-Suite -- according to IBM's CMO Study, 71% of CMOs indicated that they are underprepared to manage the impact of the data explosion.

As modern marketing professionals, we are all responsible for the technology that fuels performance. But how do you stay on top of what’s available and possible, and whether platforms will help achieve key performance indicators? Well, you're about to learn how. This post outlines seven steps you can take to help you more easily weave new technologies into your integrated marketing program.

Your Roadmap for Easier Marketing Technology Adoption

1) Encourage Agility and Experimentation

Before you get started, do what you can to encourage an agile marketing culture that embraces experimentation. If you're in a leadership position, this comes from the top down. In other words, you should actively encourage employees to carve out time in their days to try new things, and never penalize them if the experiment fails. Think about the knowledge you gained by running a quick, agile experiment: You know something worked, and if it didn't, you're closer to understanding why. Plus, when those experiments have great results, you just added more value to your business.

If you're not in a leadership position, you can still perform little experiments on your own time and present the results -- especially the good ones -- to your team to try to show the benefits of trying new things. Hopefully, your entrepreneurial spirit will rub off!

2) Always Be Listening

Changes in marketing technologies have a direct effect on your career, and your company. That means it's up to you to stay on top of new advancements as they come out, and be the one to raise your hand and say there's something new worth looking into. The best way I've found to do this without being totally overwhelmed is setting up an RSS feed that alerts you with relevant technology and industry stories.

For instance, our team here at PR 20/20 follows blogs from Zapier, Salesforce, HubSpot, Yammer, Google Analytics, and more. You’ll also want to stay connected with leading technology industry publications -- I recommend AllThingsD, TechCrunch, GigaOM, and Chief Marketing Technologist for starters, though there are plenty of other fantastic blogs and publications worth considering.

Check your RSS at least once a day; just make it part of your routine, browsing through the stories over your morning coffee. If you don't have time to read the headlines you deem important that very moment, just pop them open in another tab to read over lunch or when you need a break from what you're working on.

3) Carve Out Time to Learn & Research

Now that you have a couple new technologies you've discovered are worth researching, it's time to actually start learning about them. This won't happen by osmosis; you have to carve out time on your calendar to do this research. It might take 20 minutes, it might take a few hours. It just depends how complex the new technology is. Whatever it is you're researching and learning about, you'll know you've done a good job if you can answer the following baseline questions (these are adapted from The Marketing Agency Blueprint):

  • Snapshot: What does the technology do? Include the simple, 1-2 sentence executive summary, with links to additional information.
  • Market: Is the product tested and true; are there competitors or options you should review for due diligence?
  • Use Cases: How is this technology applicable to your team and processes? Detail use cases and benefits.  
  • Technology: Is it interoperable with existing systems and processes? What will adoption take? Consider license costs, setup and integration, education, required training, etc.
  • Actions: What are the next steps, what’s your timeline, and who is responsible? Be specific for progress.

4) Connect to Strategy

It’s easy to get caught up in the latest crazes. Remember your goals, and focus efforts on achieving them. Consider how technologies will fit into new and existing programs, training, and implementation before moving forward with adoption.

In the words of HubSpot’s CTO Dharmesh Shah, “New technologies (mobile devices of all shapes and sizes, and location based services) will continue to grow, but the best marketers will realize it's not about how to jam more ads into new platforms -- it's about how to use the new technologies to enhance your inbound powers of attraction.”

Keep the big picture in mind at all times, and don't work in a silo -- if you need to bring in the knowledge and opinions of different stakeholders, now is the time to do so.

5) Be an Advocate for the Right Technologies

Speaking of timing, now's the time to start advocating for new technologies -- if they are, indeed, the right fit. You've done the research and strategizing, and it becomes critical to gain team buy-in. If you have trial access to a new piece of software, for instance, you should demo the possibilities of that software for your team, and select a group of beta testers to try it out too. Ideally, those beta testers are not the technology-averse members of your team, by the way. Ask for positive and negative feedback from the team, and explore additional use cases to improve current processes and efficiencies.

6) Enable Others to Easily Adopt New Technologies

If you’re committing resources to a new technology, designate a team member to learn it well and help everyone maximize the opportunities it presents. The best purveyors of new software and technologies will provide you with tons of resources to train and onboard efficiently, because it's in their best interest to do so. After all, customer/user retention rates depend on the value and results you gain from those services. So take advantage of these services and content if you want long-term and widespread adoption.

Once you’re committed to a new technology, put in the time to guarantee its full value -- take advantage of training resources, and activate a few beta campaigns for hands-on learning. For example, I know HubSpot runs a training academy, and many software companies have free online training. If your new technology is something free, like a new social network, take advantage of forums and educational material that exists on places like blogs, forums, and in LinkedIn Groups.

7) Measure Impact

The job of a modern marketer is to produce results that impact the bottom line. Define goals for new marketing technologies (e.g. efficiency, productivity, profitability, etc.), establish benchmarks for success, and then monitor performance over time to assess the investment. Learn to use data to power smarter decisions within your organization about future technology adoption.

Marketers are now becoming key IT decision makers in addition to marketing experts -- essentially evolving into tech-savvy hybrid professionals. The prototype marketers of the future are agile with new technologies as they emerge, enabling them to build fully integrated campaigns, envision on a strategic level, and have the capabilities to execute on the tactical level, conducting activities that drive real business results. So ask yourself ... how are you and your marketing team, evolving?

This is a guest post by Jessica Donlon (@jessicadonlon), client services manager at PR 20/20 -- the original HubSpot VAR and inbound marketing agency. Jessica is also a consultant for Marketing Score, a free marketing assessment tool powered by PR 20/20. See the PR 20/20 blog and Marketing Score blog for more content from Jessica and the agency.

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