Marketing is an industry at the forefront of the digital transformation journey. If you take a look at the marketing technology landscape at the end of 2012, and look at it now, what you’re seeing is a tenfold increase in marketing tech vendors in around three and a half years, and the rate is growing exponentially.

So what lessons can we learn? How does this make people in marketing feel? Is it scary because of the potential expense and business case preparation? Not to mention the complex challenges associated with managing the implementation of these systems? Or is it an exciting opportunity to use technology to compete and create more engaging experiences than any of your competitors?

In many cases, there’s an equal measure of trepidation and excitement for the future. The chances are, to some degree, most are already on the journey. It’s no secret the marketing landscape is changing rapidly and with it a requirement to think in a new way. According to recent research from executive search firm Russell Reynolds, the first half of 2016 saw the highest turnover of CMOs since 2012, thanks to the rapidly evolving skill set necessary to be successful in this new data led era.

Yet whilst organisations like the BITC are talking about a more inclusive approach to digital transformation, I’d argue that if you don’t bring people along for the journey, in many cases, it’s impossible to achieve real results.  

The world of marketing tech is a great indicator here. According to a report conducted last year by Oracle Marketing Cloud, a whopping 92% of participants did not feel that their marketing technology investments had been well-implemented and as such they weren’t getting the ROI they expected.

Buying the tech will only get you so far. Marketing technology vendors promise out-of the-box solutions that will transform your business overnight. But simply building a tool will not solve the problems: only people can solve problems. The better your people understand the tools, the better equipped you are for success.

That's why an effective change management strategy is just as important as your choice of technology. Whilst partners can certainly help, the leadership needed to bring this change management strategy about can only come from within the organisation.

Change is, at its core, a people process, and people are hardwired to resist adopting new mind-sets, practices, and behaviours. To achieve and sustain the transformational change that marketing technology brings about, companies must commit significant resources to ensuring they embed new processes and behaviours at every level.

Here are five practical tips learnt from the marketing technology field that will not just provide a more inclusive approach to digital transformation, but also help achieve that return on investment.

1. Don’t underestimate the degree of organisational and operational change needed. Are your individuals and teams knowledgeable and empowered enough to be truly agile? Ensure everyone involved has KPIs that are oriented around serving customers and getting ROI from the investment.

2. Ensure there is an emotional case for change. Many leaders are great at building the rational case for change, but they are less adept at appealing to people’s emotional core. Yet the employees’ emotions are where the momentum for real transformation ultimately lies. Communication is key here: try creating an on-going email campaign, videos and e-learning modules that help highlight the benefits to all levels.

3. Budget properly. If you’ve got a million to invest in marketing technology, spend half of this on training your team properly and on partnerships that put experienced experts in both technology and process alongside your team after go-live. Set sensible targets around when ROI will kick in; it won’t happen instantly.

4. Iterate. Aim to implement a significantly less sophisticated product at the start and build up. You learned to drive in the family run-around, not an F1 sports car. Phased releases of software that limit the complexity your team needs to manage will lead to a deeper adoption more quickly. Make sure you’re working with a technology partner who is comfortable with an agile methodology that facilitates this.

5. Incentivise your people to “own” and accelerate the change. Give them a safe environment to push the new technology to its limits and fail fast. It takes innovation, curiosity and a lot of trial and error to maximise the value of any new marketing technology.

As the digital landscape continues to grow it’s tempting to think the new shiny product on the market will be the key that will unlock your competitive advantage. Whilst this can be the case, it’s worth remembering that the machinery will never live up to its potential without the right people operating it. As such, we all need to take advantage of this period of change as an opportunity to break down traditional structures within their business, focus on retraining our people and attain the organisational agility needed to stay ahead of their competitors.


By Tariq Khan, programme consultant at Navigate Unlimited

GDPR Summit Series is a global series of GDPR events which will help marketers to prepare to meet the requirements of the GDPR ahead of May 2018 and beyond. Further information and conference details are available at

comments powered by Disqus