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The Intersection of Marketing and Tech

Converge Book Review

It’s no surprise that marketing and technology are more integrated in today’s environment than ever before. Innovation happens at a lightning speed so these two departments must work together in the united goal of pleasing customers and addressing prospects.  In Converge, Lord and Velez talk about the convergence of these two fields and encourage people to have a broader view of these fields rather than thinking strictly in terms of in which department they belong.

convergeMarketing has changed significantly over the years with the introduction and use of online channels. It’s no longer about pushing messages out one way through press releases. Instead, marketing has become interactive with customers seeking out conversations. And when customers have something to say, companies need to be prepared to respond to consumer conversations and to do so quickly. Technology comes in to play because this response needs to happen across platforms and on the customer’s platform of choice as well their device of choice – from a desktop computer to a mobile phone. There isn’t just one right way or one right channel for connecting with customers.

Marketing and technology also need to work together because technology is constantly changing in regards to the type devices we use.  A problem can occur when marketers plan their ad spend a year in advance because they may miss out on opportunities in six months that didn’t exist when they were planning their budget. New platforms and new communication methods are constantly released. By holding back some of their budget for the unknown and working closely with the technology team, they will be in a position to respond as new communication channels and devices are on the market. Working with technology, they can integrate their messaging with the channel. (Remember when Google Glass seemed like a foreign concept? There’s more of that to come!)

It’s one thing to be told this integration of marketing and technology is important.  It’s another thing to really see it in action. An example most people are somewhat familiar with is Obama’s strategies to stay in the White House.  His success with digital channels gave him a huge advantage over the Republican candidate in 2008. A problem the campaign had to solve though was the number of disparate databases.  Resolving this problem for 2012 put him ahead of the competition again. Combining all their data, and making it available to everyone involved in the campaign enabled them to have personal touches with their donor base. For example, when a donor hit the maximum amount allowed for campaign donations, they could be asked to volunteer. Tightening their technology also allowed for targeted messaging. Campaign supporters could be effectively targeted with messages about areas matching their specific interests rather than just sending general messages to anyone who considered themselves an Obama supporter.

What about on a smaller scale?  Is this convergence possible for the small business? Moosejaw is an outdoor company that started small in Michigan and expanded modestly to other cities. The plus side of starting out as a smaller player is not having integration problems, such as different databases, mentioned in something large scale like the Obama campaigns. Their strategy was to build one commerce engine to serve customers regardless of whether they purchase online or offline. They also understand that customers will go elsewhere if a store doesn’t provide what they want. For Moosejaw, their sales associates can immediately request the item from the warehouse (to ship for free) if it’s not in stock in the store. Having technology on the floor also enables them to help and market to customers on the spot. Their understanding of convergence has contributed to their success.

Part of this convergence between technology and marketing happens by collecting and using data to make good business decisions as described above.  This comes through different sources of public and internal data. One very basic method of data collection is monitoring the analytics on your company website. There is valuable data there for both departments. However, a challenge for many organizations is the trap of collecting data for the sake of collecting it. Change occurs only when it’s actually used to make decisions about interacting with customers.

Overall, Converge is a very practical book with good case studies of real-life businesses rather than simply presenting a bunch of theory. Readers will see firsthand how these principles are applied, and learn about companies that found success when they took a new perspective of their departments. The authors spend a lot of time on the changing expectations of customers and how that plays a role in how a company operates in today’s culture.

They also stress the importance of having a visionary to connect these two departments. Who is that senior executive that has the authority and interest to keep these marketing and technology teams tightly integrated and can prevent them from working in a silo? For some companies, a new role of a Chief Digital Officer may be the solution to keeping the technology and marketing departments connected. It’s a book I recommend for people in the technology and marketing fields, as well as CEOs who are seeking a broad perspective on how to integrate these functions more closely together.

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