January 12, 2015

Marketing Technology Losses

A lot has been done over the last decade to empower Marketers to be self-governing marketing automation shops…but at what cost?  As marketing technologies have shifted from a primarily IT run venture to a more heavily weighted Marketing ownership, there have been a few things left behind in its wake.  Two prime examples of this are: the importance of data modeling and the flexibility/use of Application Programing Interfaces (APIs).Database table

Data Modeling

Historically, within marketing, data modeling was a skill primarily practiced by those focused on data warehousing.  However, with the onset of more sophisticated marketing technologies there’s a need for more people, from across the organization, to play the part of a data modeler.  Further compounding the situation, there are variables like unstructured databases (ex. Hadoop) and/or dealing with individuals who are narrowly focused on their specific projects tasks, rather than seeing the greater enterprise marketing landscape; it’s not hard to see why data modeling – as a marketing tool – is fading fast.

When done right, data modeling is part science and part art.  It requires knowledge of the customer data as well as its intended usage.  A simple example of this is: the manner in which a reporting data mart gets structured is typically different from the way a marketing data mart is put together.

Marketers need to recognize their limitations around traditional IT skills like data modeling, and address them head on through things like: education, partnerships, and sometimes even more technology.

APIs

As previously mentioned, marketing tools are evolving into robust marketing suites where there’s a fair amount of integration already in place (within the suite itself).  Although regardless of the marketing platform you use, there will eventually need to be some integration into other enterprise marketing systems.  These types of integration requirements are only going to grow in our age of real-time, social, and 1:1 marketing in which there’s a genuine need for data unification, enrichment, and personalization.

So why is it that APIs are rarely talked about when dealing with Marketing Technology today?

  1. I don’t think many non-IT folks really know what an API is or does,
  2. And if they do, there are many misconceptions about how hard it is to use an API

APIs allow people access to their software system’s data without having to ‘hack’ the software.  They effectively create a bridge that allows data to cleanly go in, and/or out, of your marketing system.  The perceived problem is that APIs require some amount of “coding” and that scares off many non-IT people.  Why should we let a little coding prevent us from doing creative things like: bringing in external offer data, pushing contact history data to an external data platform, and sharing marketing process flow data in real-time to third party vendors to interface with the system without being full users?

Fortunately, technology companies have recognized from within the benefits of integration with other systems and they are enhancing their API capabilities…as well as documentation (woo hoo!).

Marketers need to be more intellectually curious about what the IT groups did, and did better, when they owned the technology and begin adopting those lost best practices.  As we all know, there’s no time to re-invent the wheel in this fasted paced marketing world.