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CMO Insights: What role does software & technology play in marketing?

One positive outcome from the pandemic has been the acceleration and adoption of digital business transformation from companies across all sectors.

This has caused a ripple effect up and down the business supply chain and channel ecosystem, causing rapid innovation demand.

Software startups and SaaS companies can’t hire engineers, developers, and data scientists fast enough to keep up with all the demand, which is also a key driver in innovation.

This has become a marketer's dream come true. With the rise of automation, AI/ML, natural language processing, and computer vision, marketers now have access to software that can help them manage unstructured data, automate marketing tasks, manage large datasets, understand audiences' sentiment and emotions, and further understand the shopper journey.

According to this recent CMO Survey Report, 61% of marketers have made significant investments in marketing technology, systems, and platforms in 2021. Twenty-five percent have made specific investments in machine learning and automation technology.

In the same report, marketers were asked to rank order the factors that influence future organic revenue growth, and the results might surprise you. Talent, collaboration, and operations were at the top of the list, followed by data and technology:

  • 41% of marketers believe that having the right talent is most important

  • 17% of marketers believe that stakeholder alignment is most important

  • 17% of marketers believe that having the right operating model is most important

  • 11% of marketers believe that having the right data is most important

  • 11% of marketers believe that having the right technology is most important

In a different report published by HubSpot, marketers will be allocating 26% of their budget to software. The report doesn’t specify what kind of software, but it’s safe to assume it falls somewhere within the Martech stack.

There are several ways to categorize marketing technology and software. I like to keep things simple, so I classify them within three main buckets: automation, insights, and operational.

The Role of Marketing Automation

Marketing automation software is typically aligned with demand generation or lead-gen activities. It’s meant to automate mundane and repetitive tasks so that marketers can focus on more strategic initiatives.

These tasks can include serving up dynamic landing pages, email marketing campaigns, and even posting on social media channels. Marketing technology providers like HubSpot, Salesforce, and Adobe are the leading players in the automation space.

The Role of Audience Insights

Audience and customer insights software can be broken down in hundreds of different ways. Traditional web analytics can provide different levels of audience data and help marketers understand basic demographics, interests, how users get to the website, and what content they prefer. There are two leading players in the web analytics space–Google and Adobe. Smaller companies are starting to innovate and offer new integrations and customized data.

Audience analytics platforms can segment social audiences based on affinity groups, bio keywords, or conversational patterns. Audience segmentation can play a critical role in how marketers align their messaging and creative activations to be as relevant as possible. Audience intelligence platforms like Audiense, Brandwatch and Helixa are market leaders when it comes to innovation but there are also several smaller platforms.

Lastly, we can't forget the traditional social listening platforms that have been around since the beginning of the internet. These tools allow marketers to "listen" to anything discussed on social media. Forrester is starting to classify this space as consumer intelligence, which I don't necessarily agree with because it doesn't align with B2B or healthcare audiences. Social listening vendors like Brandwatch, Synthesio, Netbase, and Pulsar Platform are the top players in the space.

The Role of Operations & Governance

Operations & governance software enables marketers to scale their marketing programs efficiently while maintaining varying degrees of governance. Software providers like Sprinklr and Khoros (formerly Spredfast) used to be referred to as “social media management” platforms because they made it easy to manage everything from access to the platforms, publishing to all social channels, aggregate analytics, managing social customer care, content and editorial workflows and escalation procedures when managing a crisis.