By now, everyone who has even somewhat engaged with the modern discipline of marketing is undoubtedly aware of the fact that marketing departments are, across all industries and geographies, challenged to be “data-driven,” “customer-centric,” and “omnichannel.” So much so that it’s easy to glaze over when you hear such terms.
Based on our experience, most marketers would say that these reflect their organizations’ key transformation goals and they are making progress towards realizing these ideals (even though they’re not fully there yet). More often than not, the context of thought centers around upcoming priority campaigns, activities, and even technology or hiring initiatives in the works. Rarely, however, are they thinking operationally about how things should function systematically on the “back-end” to enable a truly omnichannel, customer-centric, and data-driven marketing organization.
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. The vision of omnichannel, coordinated, and targeted messaging across the customer experience has been touted as a thing we all need to just do – with very little direction about how organizations can truly actualize this conceptual marketing nirvana.
It’s easy to feel like you’re behind the curve on true omnichannel marketing.
You likely blame this in part on siloed teams, lack of cohesive organizational support, competing high-level priorities, lack of resources, etc. You undoubtedly have those, of course – we haven’t seen any mid-to-large-size companies that have managed to fully escape these sorts of challenges. They are basically part and parcel of all digital-era marketing departments – but these are not your most insurmountable barriers. Instead, the most significant element that will make or break your journey to omnichannel is a largely unsung hero: the “marketing system of record.”
What is a Marketing System of Record and How Does it Work?
The most commonly used term for the class of software created to serve this function within a martech stack has been “Marketing Resource Management” or, to those of us in the know, MRM. This term is not by any means defunct in present times, but other terms have cropped up to describe tools and platforms in this same genre, such as Marketing Work Management.
Regardless of your preferred terminology, these platforms facilitate and track:
Marketing Planning: Trackable and reportable systemization of marketing strategies and plans, ideally in a hierarchical structure, from high-level initiatives down to specific tactical deliverables and activities.
Creative and Channel Execution Workflow: Repeatable and trackable role-based tasks, approvals, and handoffs that represent the work involved with all marketing activities and deliverables.
Marketing Planning, the focus of this article, is the specific capability that enables a software system to serve as a marketing system of record from a data analysis perspective. However, it is important to note that Creative and Channel Execution Workflow is also an effective omnichannel-enabling capability as it aids organizations in the process of developing and executing content from a more channel agnostic (and therefore consistent) methodology, which is a topic that warrants its own article.
How a Marketing System of Record Enables True Data-Driven Omnichannel Marketing
By definition, omnichannel is all about conveying consistent marketing messages across a variety of relevant channel interactions.
Any given campaign or initiative that is (rightfully) focused on strategically orchestrating messaging across channels in a seamless journey cannot be easily measured as a whole without any clear systematic connection across its different elements.
So, for example, let’s consider three potential campaigns with messages that are represented in your channel metrics. One is announcing information about a newly-launch featured product, another is about a limited-time giveaway contest to raise awareness of this product, and a third is a limited-time discount offer. Each of these messages are distributed throughout multiple channels. How do you measure success? How do you compare apples to apples, and understand what message is working and in what channel? Sure, this can be done on a case-by-case basis by individuals who are personally aware of which email, web banner, and social post were the ones with the giveaway message, but this cannot be done systematically at scale.
A marketing system of record is the key to understanding this omnichannel data—what messages fit together, what business goals they are associated to, etc.
Marketers across the organization enter their campaign plans and related deliverables and track them through to execution and close-out. The system of record will automatically assign a unique identifying key to activities/communications at each level and will associate those back to critically-important metadata (e.g. program, business unit, timing, etc) that can be used to understand its purpose, origin, and desired outcome for proper omnichannel measurement.
When properly established within your organization, the Marketing System of Record serves as a critical source of data for all of your communications and plans and operates as a core input for execution as well as for omnichannel analytics.