For brand marketers, few industry developments hold more promise than the coming convergence of the advertising and marketing technology stacks. In addition to creating major organizational efficiencies, this combination will allow brands to use their owned marketing data to deliver hyper-relevant messaging to their customers across paid advertising channels. When you consider these benefits, it’s no surprise that – according to a recent study conducted by Forrester Research, commissioned by LiveIntent – 93% of B2C brands are at least discussing AdTech/MarTech integration.
But for all this excitement, only about a third of the survey respondents said they have already taken action to execute such a convergence themselves. Though every firm faces its own set of challenges, one thing I’ve noticed throughout my career is that companies frequently move too quickly when attempting to create large-scale organizational change. While technology is certainly pivotal to the AdTech/MarTech convergence, you won’t succeed unless you have first established a robust set of processes to govern how your people will carry out this shift. After all, how can you possibly combine AdTech and MarTech when the human beings responsible for operating these tools are not yet on the same page?
Here are five ways brands can begin the AdTech/MarTech convergence by focusing on their people. By homing in on these five key tasks, you’ll be able to create an organizational structure that allows your team to flourish while integrating your AdTech and MarTech systems.
1. Unite the corporate clans.
Just as Braveheart’s William Wallace needed to unite the various clans of Scotland before he could defeat the English, the MarTech/AdTech convergence works best when a company’s advertising and marketing teams are brought together to fight for a common cause.
Too often, these departments are separated into silos, which causes distrust and prevents employees from sharing best practices. By fostering a collaborative environment, companies can lay the groundwork for a much smoother integration of the marketing and advertising technology stacks. More than anything else, the key is to get everyone into the same room for a transparent discussion about how each side can contribute to the company’s high-level goals of retaining existing customers and converting new ones. Only then will your employees be able to leave their egos at the door and really think about the best ways to reach your audience – without worrying about whose territory belongs to whom.
As an added bonus, these discussion sessions almost always make both departments better at what they do. While your marketing team might not have known what your advertising employees did all day before the meetings started, they’ll likely leave with a few ideas about how advertising tactics can be applied in the marketing realm.
2. Give your orchestra a conductor.
One of the biggest challenges of a MarTech/AdTech convergence is that it creates lots of new tasks without necessarily assigning responsibility for them. As a result, things that need to get done frequently do not, with everyone assuming it was someone else’s job to complete the assignment.
The best way to combat these responsibility gaps is to appoint a project manager to run point for your MarTech/AdTech integration. Just as an orchestra conductor makes sure everyone hits the right notes at the right moment, your project manager will be able to swiftly delegate key tasks to your team and create clearly defined roles for each member. Crucially, appointing a project manager also creates a level of accountability by giving employees an authority figure they must answer to.
In fact, appointing a project manager is a good idea for any big shift your company might attempt to make. According to a recent Project Management Institute report, organizations that place a high priority on project management say that 71% of projects meet their original goals and business intent, compared to just 52% of projects at organizations that give project management a lower priority.
3. Build momentum with short-term wins.
On any long project, it can be difficult for employees to see that they’re making progress and even harder for them to see the light at the end of the tunnel. That’s why it’s so important to set up easily achievable short-term goals alongside the long-term objectives you hope to hit.
Every time your team hits a short-term goal, your employees build up a new muscle memory that gets them in the right frame of mind to achieve more success on a much bigger scale. Small wins engage your team, foster camaraderie and give people something to celebrate. Trust me, it’s a huge help when you want your team to see the forest through the trees during a potentially grinding process.
4. Give your star employees room to grow.
A nice thing about major organizational shifts is that they frequently provide a great opportunity for your high-performers to show what they’re made of. Since these projects require cross-functional teams, you can stock them with some of the best people from each department, providing insight into which of these problem-solvers are ready for a bigger management opportunity.
Of course, you’ll have to make sure that their old teams are prepared to function in their absence. If you have an employee spending 50% of their time on the MarTech/AdTech convergence task force, you’ll need to make sure other people are assigned to help pick up the slack with their old duties. The key here is to make sure you’re very specific in telling employees which tasks they need to pick up. Accountability works a lot better when it’s black and white than when it’s in shades of gray.
5. Be transparent.
As marketers, we spend so much time thinking about our target customers that we often forget to communicate with the most important audiences of all: our employees, peers and managers. To effectively manage a major organizational transition, you’re going to need to give your team members the same painstaking attention you give your target audiences. After all, change can be scary to people, and if they feel out of the loop, there’s a good chance they’ll disengage.
One way to keep everyone onboard with your project is to give frequent updates that place the latest happenings within the broader context of your MarTech/AdTech convergence. For instance, you can call a meeting where you walk your team through which parts of the project you’ve completed, what things you’ve learned from completing them and which steps still need to be tackled. Giving people this framework allows them to connect with the project, as well as to understand why they’re doing all the new things you’re asking them to do. Hopefully, they’ll find your long-term strategy fascinating and choose to dig in even more.
Along the way, you’ll want to check in with your employees to make sure they’re happy with your communication style. There have been plenty of times in my career when I thought I was overcommunicating with my team, but in fact, they wanted to hear more from me. Another thing to keep in mind is that not everyone likes to receive information the same way. Experiment with email, in-person meetings, video and other methods to create a “multi-channel” internal communications strategy.
While implementing all these processes may sound overwhelming, I can tell you from first-hand experience that bringing together different technology departments is entirely doable.
About ten years ago, I was working at a small data company in the offline predictive analytics and data management industry at a time when offline data, segmentation, predictive analytics, algorithms and machine learning were largely the domain of database marketers and CRM teams.
Though many of my colleagues were excited about the potential future of online customer acquisition, real-time segmentation and bridging the gap between offline data and online data, the data management industry and the respective companies all slowly realized the opportunity. The most aggressive shifted employees to exciting new roles and opportunities that drove further growth, while the least aggressive continued with business as usual and missed the outsized opportunities created by companies like LiveRamp, DataLogix, BlueKai AddThis and others. More than anything else, the most successful firms were the ones who saw this convergence and opportunity as something to be seized – one that would allow them to leverage their offline expertise with new technologies, faster and at a fraction of the cost.
I believe that we can achieve the same sort of transformation here in the advertising and marketing space. It is going to take some hard work, some strategic thinking and a willingness to embrace change.
Kick-start your AdTech/MarTech convergence. Download the Forrester study below.