For over a decade now the marketing landscape has been all about integration. Integration has become the minimum requirement – marketing’s price of admission – in our connected world. The success of marketing integration largely relates to how well and how seamlessly you reach your audiences across multiple touchpoints. Fortunately, in today’s landscape, it’s easier than ever to create content, connect it across multiple platforms, experiment and test and track.

Today we will talk about the what’s and why’s, and also the how’s of marketing in a connected world.

First, the what. You simply cannot market effectively today if your marketing systems and tools aren’t talking to each other. Speaking as a marketing firm, we are always amazed by how often we come across companies who do not have their CRM system talking to their CMS and the like.

The Marketing Stack

This is often called your marketing stack. What is it exactly? The marketing stack is what makes up your marketing building blocks. Those things that are in place before a campaign is even a twinkle in your marketing director’s eye and the tagline and concept have even reached your creative director or designer. The stack is the set of platforms and tools that you use as a marketer today to do a multitude of marketing actions that reach out to and maintain a wealth of information on your customers.

Taking Stock

When we start working with a partner on a project that involves digital components like email and landing pages we first ask about the platforms and tools our client is using. Taking stock of exactly what you have first, ensures we can build out a campaign that can be effectively deployed- across your systems, and most importantly, all talking to each other. In fact, we think it is so important we actually have a person on staff whose specialty is just this. (shout out to Nick Loeser!). Nick knows and has worked with many of the common customer relationship management tools, email service providers and marketing automation tools on the market today. He understands their high points and limitations. And he makes sure the people we are talking to are feeding back to the stack with insight and information to keep the campaign humming. Otherwise, garbage in, garbage out, as they say.

The CRM

Most companies we work with do have a CRM system that manages their database by updating and categorizing their contacts, and logging activities with those contacts. (We are especially fond of Salesforce because of its open API and ability to easily integrate with other systems).

The CMS

When it comes to your online presence the CMS is your content management system running websites, microsites are landing pages. This is the tool we most commonly find our clients are not as skilled at. Understanding how to make your “collection point” (your page) talk to your CRM (your database) is critical to ensure the information about your lead is being accurately transferred, categorized and cleaned. (Yes, data cleaning can happen at this level when the people you are reaching out to from your database have the option of updating their info on your data collection page). Your ESP (email service provider) is also a very important tool for reaching your prospects and customers and cleaning your data. Some have marketing automation built in while others are still batch and blast.

Connecting A to B to C

Having all three; your CRM, CMS and ESP, by themselves is pretty good but having them connected is even better to make sure the flow of information is going from point A to B to C and leveraging it in the best point possible. Consider, for instance, a landing page that feeds from your CMS to your CRM and then maybe back over to your email platform.

Workflow & Reporting As Part of System Design- ie. who needs what information

Another thing to consider is your workflow. Think about where your information is stored, who is cleaning it and making sure that it’s reciprocated in route. Workflow takes on considerable importance in reporting and determining who needs the information from your campaigns. Perhaps it is reporting up to the C-suite or down to the sales team, or both. Thinking through in advance what will be most useful for sales calls and meetings needs to be part of the overall workflow design of your marketing stack and each individual campaign. Another thing to consider is the scalability of your marketing stack into the future. Maybe you aren’t automating marketing now, but would like to be in the future, for example.

The How and Why So how about the how and why of marketing in this connected world?

A Whiteboard Exercise to Ensure You Are Creating the RIGHT Content- By Channel, By Audience

Creating content is first and foremost. Create useful content for every channel, for every audience. This is a great whiteboard activity. Make a list of your target audiences vertically on the left hand side, and then list your channels in a row across. Think through the strategy for each channel and audience considering what you know about your target audience that is useful in serving them. Knowing enough about what your customer wants and needs is critical to ensuring your connection to them is meaningful.

Create Value with Your Content

When it comes to your marketing stack and your CRM talking to your landing pages, social campaigns and email, the data part is easy. It’s the intelligent and proactive use of the information that is the hard part. Use the information you know about your target audience to work on a content calendar. Create it in Excel and share it with your colleagues and those responsible for creating and deploying content. This may seems like a simple, and obvious task but the fact is most marketers are just creating content without a plan. Another tip: when thinking through your content strategy think of what is helpful and useful to the audience rather than your sales message. Be a resource. When you’re actually creating valuable content targeted to the viewer you want, they will exchange their attention and consideration of your brand in return for an education.

Improving the Customer Journey

Winning brands commit to providing quality of information in the way in which a user wants to experience it. The importance of User Experience (UX) in a digital realm has opened marketers’ eyes to the power of the customer’s experience (creating the rise in Customer Experience professionals and practices). Customer Experience boils down to tracking and improving all touch points with your audience. By mapping and understanding the customer’s journey with your brand, you can then improve it before and after the sale. This makes creating repeat buyers and referral sources that much more efficient.

A connected world for marketers means the ability to target and communicate better with audiences every day. Using all of your marketing resources, tools and platforms in unison by sharing and exchanging information makes a huge difference when pushing out content. Doing so drives thoughtful campaigns that bring a lead along and cultivates them. Keep your platforms integrated, functioning efficiently (with metrics to prove it) and deliver content that is useful, helpful, targeted by audience and channel, and easy to access.