In last week’s blog post, we explained that an Integrated Marketing Cloud (IMC) is an instrumental platform in modern marketing, because it brings together and synchronizes the four core marketing automation functions.
Related Article: THE FOUR ESSENTIAL FUNCTIONS OF A MARKETING CLOUD
All IMCs do have a comprehensive set of services, but the truth is also that most IMCs have functionality gaps (no matter what their marketing material says). Unless you supplement your IMC’s functionality with other marketing applications, you are limiting your ability to engage with customers –in not only the number of channels available but also the sophistication-level of your interactions.
As you probably know, there are thousands of single-function marketing applications available today. In order to help you navigate this jungle of apps, here is a list of the apps that would add the most value to your marketing and sales operations.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Some IMC’s, like Hubspot, have a simple CRM functionality, but most IMCs need to be integrated to your current (assumedly more robust) CRM. This is an absolute must, because marketing automation mandates that marketing and sales work as one seamless team.
Content Management Service (CMS): Marketing clouds usually lack a full-featured CMS. You especially need a CMS if you have many people in multiple locations producing content. CMSs are excellent at managing content production workflows. It is also a good place to store all your content so that it is easy to find and access (and be reused).
Advanced analytics: One of the greatest things about a marketing automation process is its ability to generate a lot of well-structured customer data. This data provides insights for making well-informed marketing and sales decisions. Most IMCs are able to do basic reporting of historical statistics, but if you want to predict customer behaviour, e.g. lead scoring or churn analysis, their functionality is typically insufficient.
More customer engagement channels: When it comes to multi-channel customer engagement, IMCs require a bit of external help. Most IMCs have only one native outbound engagement channel: email. Some also have the ability to send social media messages but not to engage in a two-way dialogue with customers in social media. You might also want to use text messaging or in-app communication with your customers. And, don’t forget snail mail (via push-to-print). A letter that your customer can touch can actually help to differentiate you from your competition. Webinars are another good way to engage with customers
Social media engagement: As we just mentioned, most IMCs can send out social media messages but are not designed for social media engagement: actually talking with customers. Depending on the importance of social media in your customers’ everyday working lives, you may want to supplement your IMC with a purpose-built application like Hootsuite or Sprout.
Advanced surveys: Some IMCs have a simple survey tool, which might or might not meet your needs. There are plenty of excellent, easy-to-use, feasible (or free) survey tools that can be integrated into IMCs with relatively little work (see Surveypal).
Display advertising: Most IMCs don’t have the ability to publish display ads. If web and social media advertising is important for your lead generation, you can integrate a Display Advertising Network into your IMC.
Lead generation using chat(bots): Dialogue is the most natural way of communication. We are used to asking questions and receiving instant answers. If your website gets a lot of visits but potential customers aren’t quite sure how to proceed in their purchase journey, you could add a chatbot to your customer engagement channels.
When you add these missing functionalities, your martech stack begins to look like a complete marketing automation ecosystem that will enable you to deliver a more nuanced and differentiated customer experience.
Graphic 1: Basic marketing automation ecosystem setup
But before creating a more complicated martech stack, carefully weigh the benefits and downsides. Having this complete ecosystem at your disposal is not without risk or additional cost.
It is important to keep in mind that the more complicated the martech ecosystem is the less control you will have over it. Maintaining the multiple application interfaces and the administration of all userids across all applications will take a lot of planning and work. It will require more staff and specialized competencies, and it will cost you more money.
Related article: ON MARTECH MISTAKES: NON-INTEGRATED STACK OF APPLICATIONS
If you have limited resources, weigh these benefits and risks even more carefully. It may turn out that your target is to simply provide a basic but consistent customer journey. In this case, the safest approach is to stick to one “contained” martech environment. In practise this means limiting your functionality ambition level to whatever your Integrated Marketing Cloud can provide.
If you want to move forward and provide your customers a more-sophisticated multi-channel customer experience, we at ID BBN may be your ideal partner. We have designed and successfully implemented dozens of martech ecosystems for the leading B2B companies in Europe.
Again, the best thing about these types of marketing ecosystems is that they will revolutionize B2B marketing and sales simply by generating a lot of well-structured data. This data can be used to prioritize and sort marketing and sales actions. More about that in our next blog post.