How to Future-Proof your Marketing Technology

MarTech takes time to implement, refine, master and measure. Here are four essentials to future-proofing marketing technology despite inevitable change.

Change is inevitable. Staff come and go. Executives and priorities shift. Market conditions lurch one way or the other, demanding a strategic response.

When we invest money to improve how we do business—with a technology project that may take a few iterations or quarters to implement, refine, master, and measure—how can we make sure it has momentum no matter what?

A strategy for momentum is about continuity. We can take steps to keep moving forward regardless of changing people, priorities, or pressures—and it’s far more than a good intention. There are processes we can enlist and choices we can make to ensure it. When we work to ensure the continuity of a project, we future-proof the investment.

Let’s consider one change-sparking circumstance of many: you’re in the middle of designing and deploying a new lead management system to automate the revenue funnel. Suddenly, a key champion or power user announces they’re leaving the company. Right away, you may have a significant gap in either influence or knowledge. This pivotal figure will be replaced by someone else, but it’s likely to be someone who is unattached, unaware, or contradicting to the original vision. They may not understand the rationale, value, or urgency of the change already in mid-stream.

Before it’s even off the ground, your lead management system, a critical collaboration and need of both sales and marketing, is in peril. It’s a slow-down effect we can chart no matter which key person or people move in or out of a team mid-project:

  • The person who left was a power user → Without their attachment to the system and guidance on it, will we be as adherent — or will our investment drift into obscurity?
  • The person who left was a VP or management stakeholder in charge of a team → We may be left with a fairly proficient team, but we have lost our key project champion. Will the new leadership support the vision? Will the team’s adherence be reason enough for the new leader to continue?
  • The person who left was an expert influencer, such as in Sales or IT, whose backing of the initiative was pivotal → their replacement may be biased towards a different approach or technology.

Or, perhaps the change isn’t that of turnover. Companies can buy or be bought and merge into some other entity, resulting in a collective split in concentration. The market or competitive scene can suddenly intensify or shift, causing collective priorities to redirect.

With all this inevitable change, how can we future-proof marketing transformation both mid-design and into adoption and beyond? How can we build out a process for performance improvement that won’t get interrupted by the natural ebb and flow of company life?

How to future-proof your marketing technology

When it comes to future-proofing marketing technology so it’s adaptable but not held hostage by change, there are four key essentials:

1 | Make impact measurement a key deliverable from the ground up.

First, put the framework in place for the most elemental ingredient to keeping momentum intact despite inevitable change: the math of well-designed KPIs (key performance indicators).

By its nature, marketing technology generates transparency. It is purpose-made to summarize and illustrate improvements in the revenue funnel, so take advantage of that from the get-go. Design reports that can quickly pull up problematic results—dropped leads, missed opportunities, the rate of sales-rejected leads—and contrast them with specific actions either in-design or in-play. If you’re further down the path, make sure those reports include to-the-minute trends.

If any new people, conditions, or priority shifts threaten to divert focus from the initiative, reporting highlighting the impact of the work will make it easier to stay on track. The initiative KPIs should be designed to draw connecting lines between investment and growth—use those lines to prove and protect ongoing budget, energy, and focus.

Just make sure you don’t leave results measurement as an afterthought. Front-load all design with the question: How can we test and prove and test again? How can we be crystal clear on the effect of this new system? The more of a pause we take to custom-design comprehensive validation (which you’ll need anyway, given you’re automating the revenue funnel to some degree), the easier it will be to make the continuing case for the transformation momentum. 

2 | Document like the life (and value) of this project depends on it. Because it does.

When people document projects, they most often think of it as work notes for themselves, to themselves—their perspective is This is my project. But work notes are an insufficient shorthand only decipherable to that individual, and a far cry from training instructions.

A newcomer to the project may be so out-of-context they lack the understanding not only of how to reach out and take that baton, but why they should. To bring new users, domain experts, evangelists and influencers, or executive green-lighters on-board, the incumbent team should approach documentation like a guide for people who know absolutely nothing.

Regardless of varying aptitude, not every person and certainly not every system is plug-and-play. In marketing operations, all contributors need to understand the most minute tactics as well as the highest-level why-we’re-doing-this.

The creation of a central process document is a recommended best practice, and may include:

  • A clear picture of the problem being fixed—with challenges, analysis, and the strategy of why this project is important
  • Visual diagrams that explain the new process flow and rationale for the flow
  • The criteria for measurement and reporting
  • An outline of the requirements and contributions of each team member
  • A map of intersecting dependencies with other existing systems or workflows
  • Technical specifications
  • The training and adoption plan

Documentation should be accessible and comprehensive but easy-to-scan, usable not only as a one-time information load, but as a day-to-day reference. Ideally, the process doc should support everyone through the implementation, and should serve as a central repository for learning and insight in the long-term.

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3 | No matter how settled your team feels right now, have an onboarding plan to make new people—staff or executives—rapidly proficient in vision/rationale and system use.

Turnover is inevitable. Teams are fluid. Significant departures—say, a new executive in marketing or sales, or when a company is bought or sold—can trigger losses and setbacks. When a key champion exits, it may feel like they take their clarity of vision (and your ability to evangelize it) with them. Any ambitious strategy may encompass 2-5 years of challenges, conditions, and goals. When a champion or key influencer disappears, we rightfully worry about the project’s ability to protect its own momentum. Instead of focusing on the crisis of losing mission-critical executives or staff, focus on managing the gain.

Onboarding is a proactive insurance that ensures quick familiarity for new team members. Some companies assume internal system experts can lead training, but these valuable folks are often at-capacity managing the system. Not only will they be too busy to create and deliver the onboarding curriculum to future-proof—they won’t know how.

Just because a staff member is system-proficient doesn’t mean they’re business-proficient—and that’s the focus we need for on-boarding training. Curriculum should lead with the business case for why the company implemented this technology, what’s at stake, and what is the shared potential.

This kind of training, as led by multiple champions, should be designed and delivered either by someone who owns System Adoption as a mandate—singularly, in many cases—or by learning experts. It should go far beyond ‘showing’ functionality, demo-style, and into the practical design of sales and marketing success on a daily basis.

4 | Protect continuity by having a constant, steady hand to drive it.

In IT, any primary system has a designated, full-time owner. Secondary, less mission-critical systems can be outsourced or troubleshot on an ad-hoc basis. Marketers could take a page from IT’s book on this—is lead management, attribution reporting, and revenue funnel data mission-critical? We’d say yes, but in most organizations, the task of running the system is assigned to a role (such as Marketing Operations Manager or a Marketing Manager), and as we’ve explored, many factors—such as turnover—influence that role.

So far, we’ve covered three essentials to future-proof marketing technology: comprehensive and custom reporting design, documentation, and proactive onboarding. All three require specific expertise and a pretty singular focus beyond tacking on another bullet point to an existing job description.

The fourth essential is an avenue to get it all done in a bubble of sorts, distinct from any people, priority, or knowledge shifts that will undoubtedly occur within your organization over time. Choose a managed services consultancy that specializes in delivering technology, adoption, and continuity for demonstrable ROI for the long-term. Imagine a dedicated team who can:

  • Implement and scale technology for the long-term
  • Set the stage for adoption and change management for the long-term
  • Preserve knowledge, iteration, and momentum with continuity for the long-term

Long-term future-proofing is an investment protection that almost has to be out of house. Think of it as a lock-box in a bank, within which is the lineage of your challenges, strategic road-map, processes, customizations, best practices, training curriculum, and the rationale of your original design and subsequent iterations. With a team of highly experienced people to safeguard, facilitate, and bring continuity, your team stays focused on using the system optimally to meet objectives, while dedicated experts future-proof your marketing technology, protecting and proactively growing your investment.

No matter which essentials you act on and how, prepare for change. Be imaginative in how you meet it. If you’re well-prepared, you’ll stay on track with the words of Douglas Adams in mind: don’t panic. With continuity, you’ve got momentum no matter what.

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