An interview with German Marketing Association President and co-author of the Marketing Tech Monitor study 2019
While the concept of digital transformation is now familiar to decision-makers, most companies are still hesitant or desperate when it comes to facing the challenge. A sobering conclusion drawn by Ralf Strauss, co-author of the Marketing Tech Monitor study 2019. In our interview, however, he also reveals which paths lead through the labyrinth of applications, agencies, data silos and walled garden solutions – step by step.
The Marketing Tech Monitor study was created in April 2019 by the President of the German Marketing Association, Ralf Strauss, together with Kerstin Clessienne, Director of the Digital CMO Community. A total of 496 digital and online decision-makers from medium to large companies in the DACH region gave information about their status quo as well as future challenges and investments in marketing tech.
Reason enough for us to ask Ralf Strauss for an interview to share his insights on digital transformation.
Digital Transformation is the hottest marketing topic in recent times. Your Marketing Tech study from April 2019 is reporting on the trends among DACH companies. What was your impression? How well are German-speaking marketing departments prepared for these challenges?
They are split into two groups. While two-thirds of the companies are aware of digital transformation, they are still struggling with much more fundamental questions, such as: What will our own marketing look like in the future? What is Marketing Tech and what do I really require? They still haven’t properly introduced a CRM system, or have had bad experiences with marketing tech projects in the past, so they are now at a loss on how to tackle the topic.
The other third of the companies are already developing concrete solution scenarios. They have already dealt with digital transformation in more detail and are thus more savvy, they ask the right and relevant questions.
Marketing tech is an extensive field, to set yourself up it requires substantial investment. Which areas should companies most focus on?
While we do not have a study for that, we have a lot of experience from current projects with our clients in the field. In my opinion, there are three focus points. The first is constructing a solid data platform, to provide a centralized overview of all customer data. Second is the automated delivery of specific campaigns, advertising and ads. And the third is the automation of marketing itself, its planning, budgeting and marketing process management.
The vast majority of companies in the field of ad tech still operate indirectly through agencies, but many decision-makers strive for more independence. How necessary and realistic is that?
It is both necessary and realistic. Many entrepreneurs have completely outsourced ad tech to agencies and see only the final bill. It is understandable that they would rather take the reins back into their own hands. To become more independent is definitely realistic, but it also requires the company to build up the necessary skills in-house.
They need experts on board, who have about three to six years of AdTech experience, and those are still rare. In addition, while many have been calling for new skills, in practice we rarely meet companies that systematically train their own team or have a data driven definition of which skills they want to bring into their company.
Which specific steps could companies take in the right direction?
AdTech encompasses over 8,000 applications – it’s almost impossible to stay on the ball, but you can take a few steps in the right direction. First and foremost, ask yourself: what role should marketing play in your company, what goal do you pursue? And how does the company compare with others? After that, break out, analyze and gradually approach the most important topics. For example, a data platform, or marketing resource management. Focus on the most important points in the process, the rest can still be outsourced to an agency. It is important not to let yourself be overwhelmed by the complexity, and to proceed step by step.
Let’s stay with the issue of independence a bit more. At present, full-stack walled garden platforms such as e.g. by Google, dominate the market. Many marketers want more independence, also with regard to sensitive corporate data. Are there any ways to cut ties?
Most of the companies surveyed in our Marketing Monitor started with the Google solution. That’s understandable, because it’s a kind of carefree “all-in-one package”. But the more savvy you are on the topic, the less dependent you want to be on a large provider. You want to collect your own data and further analyze it, without “big brother” watching. Of course, Google is well suited as an entry point, and there will still be overlaps, but it is also absolutely possible to become independent step by step. Again, the vital question is: How can the skills be built up in your company?
Independence requires a lot of in-house skills – something that many companies are still struggling to find. Which options do you see for companies to bring marketing tech knowledge into the company?
When hiring new employees, we recommend bringing in experienced specialists, ideally someone who has handled such projects several times. There is a lot of hype in this market right now, social media agencies often selling themselves as partners for digital transformation – and projects are blowing up in everyone’s face. If hiring is not an option, you can also work with consulting partners like from our Marketing Tech Lab for project management. They can act as an experienced interface between the company and the implementing agency.
Which steps do you recommend to develop and implement a viable marketing tech strategy?
Start with the question of what role your marketing tech should play. Where does the company want to go, what is the goal? Next, work out which components you need and how your company benchmarks against others, both in the same or in a different segment of the industry. Thus, you slowly put together both the goal and the way to get there. Our Marketing Monitor study describes this so-called transformation map: what small steps are needed to get from A to B?
Functional and communication silos are mentioned again and again in your study as an obstacle to powerful modern marketing. A well-known topic, actually. What new approaches do you recommend to break up these silos?
Our experience shows – the best option is to go with a senior project manager, who knows how to work with different functional areas and IT. The silos between PR, IT, the legal department and others have been established in companies for many years. If you suddenly push on them new collaboration methods such as Scrum, for instance, it won’t work. Project leaders who jump in with their experience and clearly lay out which measures are necessary or which are not, who calms down IT when necessary, does the job better than tools, instruments or workshop concepts. So it’s very much about the people involved. One thing is for certain: a company that saves money on their senior project manager, often spends five times as much to iron out mistakes that have been made.
Thanks a lot for the interview.
Interview with Ralf Strauss: MARMIND® Top Tips
Define your goals – Identify your marketing goals before investing in AdTech. What do you want to achieve?
Setting priorities – The AdTech market is complex – focus on the key areas of customer database, campaign automation and marketing resource management.
Investing in experience – Senior project management helps with prioritizing, breaking up internal departmental silos and thus assist you on your journey to digital transformation.
About Ralf Strauss
Ralf Strauss is the Managing Partner of the CRM, Customer Service and Digitalization specialist, Customer Excellence GmbH, Managing Partner of CMO Academy GmbH, initiator of the CMO Community founded in 2006, initiator of the Digital CMO Community founded in 2015, Managing Partner of the Marketing Tech Lab, President of the German Marketing Association (DMV), Vice Chairman European Marketing Confermentation (EMC) and Professor of Digital Marketing & E-Business at the Hamburg School of Business Administration (HSBA). He is the author of more than 70 specialist publications. His new book Digital Transformation was published in 2019.