With over 8,000 vendors in the MarTech space these days, many organizations are hustling to differentiate their customer experience through effortless personalized communications and loyalty programs at scale. The first step is identifying the right technology partner to get you there, the second is making sure there is a team behind the tools driving towards the outcomes or all ambitions will fall flat.
Drawing on the triumphs and pitfalls of hundreds of clients in the retail, travel, hospitality, and financial services industry space, there is absolutely a formula to getting this right and I’ll share it with you below.
1. Define the objective for the team
Identify what your business is solving for and what you want to achieve at a macro organizational level, cascaded down to the marketing level. A north star for a marketing team is the business and company strategy. Spending time in this area first is critical to a successful marketing strategy, which moves the top-line revenue and market share needle instead of focusing purely on performance metrics to justify its existence. Every business is different and their ability to achieve their outcomes comes down to their readiness to adopt technology, approach to data acquisition, ownership and governance, process, and workflow efficiencies to turn insights into actions and talent access to get there.
2. Choose a technology vendor to scale with you
A technology choice isn’t one which should be made lightly and rarely does a one-size-fits-all approach succeed. Many CMOs are most comfortable working with vendors they’ve worked with before, but the reality is by introducing technology platforms that worked at one organization without understanding the problem statement and readiness of another is fraught with danger. Square peg, round hole.
Ensuring IT is aligned early will help smooth this process and raise any technology or data residency considerations early as well as their availability to partner with you on rollout. With so many to choose from, it can be difficult to move past the slideware into the technology partner who will help co-create a phased launch plan with you. This plan should help you gain value from your investment quickly and iterate over time to scale to achieve the outcomes you are seeking. You also want to partner with one who is investing in the future of that technology and who will grow and adapt to consumers with you. In a capitalist market, leaders don’t sit still. Seasoned vendors will be able to tell you what is feasible, challenge your vision and crawl, walk, and run with you.
3. The different roles on a martech team
Ok, so here we are. We know the objective and vision, we’ve chosen the tech, now, how do we drive this thing?
Every organization is different and has a level of genius within them. That might be a strategy that blows the competition out of the water, it might be a kick-butt email marketing coordinator, it might be that the data lake IT took 5 years to set up is finally doing its thing and generating interesting insights for the customer intelligence team. It might be that you have a new leader who has a sweeping look at the talent within the team and realizes, “we ain’t got it.”
Understanding and being honest about readiness from a talent perspective is the key to getting results fast or floundering with a technology you’ve only half-invested in. You need petrol (well, okay, or gas, or electric current) to power a car. The machinery is just a pretty asset without it. Here are the ingredients that make up that fuel source.
Who owns and manages the pivoting of a marketing strategy towards your organizational goals? This could be your overall marketing communications strategy, your digital strategy, your loyalty strategy, or your data strategy — or it could be all of the above. Strategy shouldn’t be set-and-forget nor an extensive piece of work carried out every two years. Strategy should live and breathe and be open to adjustment to the market conditions and business environment.
The strategy owner should be challenging the organization to pivot to be opportunistic or to respond to the ever-changing consumer. This role should also declare the success metrics — more than just open and click rates — taking this wider to truly evaluate channels and strategies that connect with the top line. Being clear about the appropriate evaluation and measurement metrics early on ensures marketers aren’t distracted by noise and tactical markers without understanding the broader goals are met.
- This role can be held internally with roles such as: Head of Marketing, Loyalty Program Director, VP of Loyalty, Senior Marketing Manager, Customer CRM.
- It can be outsourced to a strategic or creative services agency or to a vendor if specializing in the technology capabilities to achieve. It can be a once-off body of work, but without someone driving it, it will likely age and collect dust. We would recommend it is an ongoing engagement for currency and to ensure adoption and rollout of the defined strategy.
A data intelligence strategy should be considered top-down and tested bottoms up to ensure data integrity across the organization. Data-informed decisions are only as effective as the quality of the data. Data insights need to be turned into action fast. Poor data quality or governance due to loosely held data integrity practices across the organization leaves a marketer frustrated and plans unstuck. Clear data ponds of quality, actionable data are far more valuable than murky data lakes full of quantity and irrelevancy. Clear data ownership within an organization is key to driving the effective capture, progressive profiling, usage, reporting, and insights of data.
Whilst Chief Data Officers aren’t common vernacular just yet, a common language, design, and responsibility of ownership of data in an organization should be. It’s rarely successful if siloed into one team, rather, a collective department ethos and alignment, set from the highest levels about the importance of currency of data towards the objectives and strategy of the organization and programs.
- Internal role: Data Architect, Customer Data Officer, Data Analyst, Business Intelligence Executive, Manager of Customer Engagement.
- Outsourcing it: Data Architect, Solutions Architect, or data segmentation becomes part of a campaign execution workflow from a full-service team solving for the execution mentioned below.
Content needs to be on-brand and easily created to allow brands to swiftly move with the market and respond to insights from their actionable data. If you are deploying campaigns in email and your technology doesn’t have an in-built best of breed Content Management System, make sure this person knows how to hard code for email, not just for the web! If SMS or Push messaging, they better be a wordsmith… or shall we say, character-smith! If in loyalty, understanding what drives consumer behavior is a big plus. The content owner should also be prepared to test and create multiple versions so you can optimize on the go based on the performance intelligence your data intelligence or execution team are deducing.
- Internal roles: Graphic Designer, Art Director, Copywriter, Content Creator, Coder, Web Designer.
- Outsource it: a Creative Services team can do the work for you, either project by project or as an extension of your everyday team.
The person that gets it done from brief to execution (and often measurement and reporting!). This role is critically important and can sometimes also be a hybrid and dabble in some of the other roles listed here too, dependent on the maturity of the organization. It’s worthwhile highlighting one caveat here, whilst a jack-of-all generalist can work 80% of the time for a lean organization, 20% of the time, you may benefit from investing in a specialist overlay. This is particularly helpful if that area is a critical component attached to the ability to shape or execute the strategy, or to elevate that generalist to a more critical role for the team. Being realistic about the limitations and bandwidth of a generalist role is very important for their success. This person has attention to detail and works well under pressure and can reprioritize on the fly. They understand the technology and campaign components like a sommelier knows their wine cellar or…. to stick with the car analogies, like the lifetime mechanic knows their way under the bonnet and identifies the piston flaw just by the sound of the engine starter.
- Internal roles: Marketing Executive, Manager of Loyalty, Campaign Specialist .
- Outsourcing it: Campaign Manager, Deployment Specialist, Campaign Quality Engineer.
Who is the ringmaster at your circus? Do you have a Marketing Program Manager keeping all the balls in the air and the team on track towards the goal? This role manages Marketing Program evolution over time including technology projects, program adoption, evolution, and overhaul, and works alongside other departments for any multi-faceted digital or omnichannel campaigns. They also take charge of reconciling conflicting priorities and change management. Sometimes this role is a Manager role, but in high scale and mature organizations, this is an individual contributor role getting things done and busting down silos.
- Internal roles: Program Manager, Project Manager, Marketing Manager, Marketing Operations Lead .
- Outsourcing it: Program Manager, Program Director, Program Coordinator.
The Cheetah Digital recipe
The recipe for the success of this team comes from just the right measure and match of genius across these functions and even specialist functions adjacent to them, depending on the strategy and path to get there. At Cheetah Digital, we enable the savviest of self-service clients on our technology to become power users seamlessly dancing the piano keys to the finest Beethoven concerto of marketing technology execution. We also augment teams.
What does that mean you say? Well, for those organizations who realize their readiness to execute is hampered by a particular role or function, members of our professional services organization can augment their team in a programmatic engagement. An augmented team, in the right places, ensures an organization can realize their vision faster and drive outcomes and value from their technology investment swiftly.
Alternatively, hand over the keys to us. We execute for our full-service clients across all of these roles and functions and overlay our specialist services roles (such as a Loyalty Strategist, Deliverability Consultant, Program Manager, Support Specialist) where needed to hit outcomes at the top line, fast and effectively. To all of our clients, we serve at your pleasure!
The marketing problem-solver.
Caitlin is the VP of Client Success & Services, APAC at Cheetah Digital. She is passionate about making our clients wildly successful through both their technology investment across the Cheetah Engagement Suite and the teams that drive it across 13 countries. Caitlin has had a rich history at Cheetah Digital for more than a decade across Asia Pacific supporting hundreds of organizations across a plethora of industries including retail, FMCG, travel and hospitality, financial services, non-profit, online, government, telecommunication, media and entertainment, and the membership organization space. She has a background in data quality, marketing communications consulting, general management, and holds a Master's degree in Communication. Caitlin, originally from Melbourne Australia, calls Hong Kong home with her husband and two children.