This blog post has been contributed by Kathy Leski, Sr. Global Director, Technology & Production, SGK.
Now more than ever, the integration of marketing ecosystem technologies is vital to maintaining business continuity and marketing resiliency.
The COVID-19 global pandemic has made it painfully clear that the ability to sustain marketing operations while attempting to shift most of your employee base from a physical environment to a remote workforce is a daunting challenge. In the near future, this global event will act as an accelerator for companies to address technology integrations much more critically.
Here are the four most important strategies to consider when evaluating the integration of your marketing technologies.
1. Content Complexity
With many disparate technology systems managing content, the fragmentation of content and data is enormous; don’t underestimate the complexity. Furthermore, marketing technology systems continue to evolve, adding even greater complexity.
Now consider that each system is likely managed by a different group who know only that they must deliver X data to department A and receive Y info from department B. It’s no surprise that these systems don’t talk to one another and have overlaps in the data they store and manage. They were likely purchased and implemented over time in isolation by different groups for different reasons. They were implemented based on a specific feature that was required and added to the marketing ecosystem like a puzzle piece—except the piece doesn’t exactly fit with the puzzle itself.
As a result, companies must invest significant overhead to maintain and sync content not to mention the manual effort required to enter content into each system. Inconsistencies and errors can make their way to your customers in numerous ways and affect your supply chain deliverables, causing delays.
Bottom line? Your content complexity can cost you a lot of money.
2. Know Your Ecosystem
If you don’t have 100% visibility into your entire marketing ecosystem, you’ll need to get it to fully understand the big picture. A business partner that deeply understands the processes, challenges, and regulations associated with your industry can help provide this visibility.
The first step is to capture every system involved in the creation and marketing of a product. Next, it’s important to establish the systems of record for each piece of content and the systems that “manage the milestones” of all or part of the end-to-end process. Finally, your business partner will perform an assessment of the integration potential of each system.
Unfortunately, it’s likely that one or more of your systems lacks an integration layer like an API (Application Programming Interface) to easily allow one system to exchange information with another. Let’s put that aside and discuss in a moment.
Once you gain a full understanding of your ecosystem, including the data that sit behind the scenes (such as supply chain and metadata for search criteria), your business partner can then begin to architect the integrations required to create a seamless workflow.
When you think of your marketing technology systems and the ability to unite them to create a collaborative digital network, think API-first. As mentioned above, an API is the part of an application that receives requests for data and content and sends responses.
It can be as simple as a data field or as complex as sending a command. Not all APIs are the same. A well-written API should be intuitive and not have any surprises. Solutions with strong APIs have a much shorter integration timeline than those without.
Upgrading existing applications with integration through APIs also results in a much shorter testing and validation phase. Without a layer for integration, system upgrades can be very painful from multiple angles. The effort to ensure that one upgrade doesn’t bring down another application is a project unto itself and generally requires months of preparation, developer work, and quality assurance work before you can go “live.” This is critical when considering whether or not to replace outdated technology within your marketing ecosystem.
We can see the consequences of this worldwide today during the COVID-19 pandemic as government and business systems are being brought to their knees because of old technologies and a lack of integration layers.
4. Partner Wisely
This step is critical. Choose a business partner to help you integrate your marketing technologies wisely. A strong partner will understand your business very deeply. Many technology providers understand how to integrate systems and do a fine job in isolation—but “in isolation” will not deliver a seamless experience.
To transform your marketing ecosystem into a collaborative digital network that meets all the needs of all your marketing stakeholders, it is vital to work with a business partner that understands your industry, its challenges and regulations, your processes, your systems, and the overall marketing ecosystem.
By successfully integrating your technology systems to exchange key content, it’s possible for a company to reduce its technology overhead costs by as much as 50%, depending on its current state. This will also set the stage for the delivery of all your marketing content in a consistent format to enable the automation of content creation in all channels.
Simplifying your marketing ecosystem and integrating your technologies will deliver better business outcomes and help you build marketing resiliency that will help keep your business running smoothly and productively even during events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
While there will always be factors outside your control during events like this, there are some that are squarely in your control—such as integrating your marketing technologies to create a collaborative digital ecosystem before the next business-disrupting event.
About Kathy Leski: Kathy has over 25 years of experience in introducing new solutions and directing technology development with specific experience in migration, change management, and implementation of several platforms. Her expertise spans multiple verticals, including CPG, retail, and pharma.