Over the last decade, marketing has become increasingly dependent on technology—requiring new skills and processes and creating new challenges.
As A/E/C marketers look to empower their efforts with technology solutions, the challenge of keeping up with all the available tools—and deciding which ones to use—can be overwhelming. But fear not! This article is intended to help marketers navigate the complex world of marketing technology.
What exactly is Marketing Technology?
MarTech Today defines Marketing Technology (a.k.a. MarTech) as “the blending of marketing and technology. Major initiatives, efforts and tools that harness technology to achieve marketing goals and objectives.” And MarTech is loaded with benefits for marketers: it empowers them to better listen to and engage their target audiences; it helps to amplify their reach; it allows them to build smarter and more effective campaigns; and it ultimately helps them to better measure the success of their efforts and the contribution to the bottom line.
Every aspect of marketing — from brand, experience design and demand generation, to content marketing, analytics and measurement — is affected by technology. – Gartner Research
MarTech’s Growth Has Been Explosive
Back in 2011, when Scott Brinker, editor of ChiefMarTec.com, began tracking the growth of MarTech with his Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, there were only around 150 solutions on the market. Fast forward to 2018 and the landscape has seen a 4,453% increase in solutions now available to marketers. Today there are nearly 7,000 marketing software vendors, which include tools for website content management, CRM, email marketing, social media management, content marketing, SEO and collaboration among many others.
The Current MarTech Landscape (And What’s Relevant for A/E/C Firms)
While there are thousands of tools available, not all of them are relevant for A/E/C marketers. In fact, many of the offerings that appear on the supergraphic are not applicable at all. So which tools are helpful to the A/E/C industry and which ones aren’t? Here’s a rundown of five relevant categories of MarTech and some of the key tools to consider:
Advertising & Promotion
While advertising is not as primary in the A/E/C industry as it may be in others, there is still a need to get your firm’s message out into the marketplace. Some of the options in this category are not relevant (e.g. mobile advertising and display/programmatic advertising), while others are certainly worth considering, specifically, paid search, social media advertising and digital PR.
- On the paid search side, there is Google AdWords, as well as pay-per-click (PPC) offerings from Yahoo and Bing. While not likely a large part of the A/E/C marketing budget, PPC can be helpful for boosting thought leadership pieces and increasing traffic for hard(er) to rank pages like office locations.
- Similarly, most of the dominant social platforms have “pay for play” social media advertising offerings for promoting posts and extending the reach of social updates. LinkedIn is arguably the best option for A/E/C marketers as it allows them to reach an exclusively business audience and narrow the focus to users’ specific locations, industries, job titles, etc.
- Lastly, there are several solutions for digital PR, including Cision and Meltwater that provide a way to better reach the right influencers and tell a firm’s story. Firms serious about influencer relations may want to consider leveraging a PR solution to increase their reach.
Content & Experience
Content and experience are two of the most important words in a modern marketer’s lexicon. And it’s in this category that A/E/C marketers will likely find the most comprehensive and practical tools for their marketing efforts.
- Video marketing platforms such as Vimeo and Wistia allow marketers to easily embed HD quality videos on their website and track in-depth analytics that aren’t available elsewhere.
- Interactive content platforms such as Qzzr and Ion Interactive enable marketers to create online surveys, interactive assessments and quizzes to engage their audiences.
- Most firms are already using Email marketing tools such as MailChimp, Emma and Campaign Monitor to run their email marketing campaigns, but some may want to consider graduating to a more comprehensive marketing automation solution (see below).
- Marketing automation solutions such as HubSpot, Act-On and Marketo offer a much more comprehensive online marketing solution for firms that have/are investing heavily in their websites and content marketing. Email marketing, social publishing, lead capture forms, and website visitor tracking are just a few of the features available from a solid marketing automation platform.
- Content marketing should be a foundational component of an A/E/C firm’s thought leadership and overall marketing initiatives. Fortunately, there are a slew of content marketing tools such as Kapost, Contently and NewsCred to assist marketers with creating and managing advanced content marketing programs.
- There are a number of useful tools related to optimization, personalization and testing of a firm’s website and digital assets. Siteimprove is a platform that helps marketers optimize their website, while tools such as Optimizely help marketers deliver targeted content and experiences. Conversion optimization and testing platforms such as Unbounce can help marketers drive more results from their web efforts.
- Arguably THE most critical technology for the modern marketer is a Content Management System (CMS) for their firm’s website. In order to keep your firm’s website fresh and updated, a CMS is a must-have and platforms such as WordPress, Drupal and ExpressionEngine are some of the most popular out there.
- Lastly, there are also a number of tools to help marketers with their Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts. These include the free Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) and Yoast SEO for WordPress, as well as paid solutions such as Moz and SEMrush.
Social & Relationships
Engaging target audiences and deepening relationships with clients and prospects is a cornerstone objective for marketing and business development. And while marketers may not need or want to use call center tracking, loyalty marketing or a live chat feature on their website, there are several other social and relationship tools that are must-haves.
- Events, meetings and webinars tools such as GoToMeeting/GoToWebinar, On24 and Eventbrite empower marketers to produce webinars, online meetings and in-person client events.
- Managing social media has become a staple of modern marketing duties. Social media marketing and monitoring tools such as Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Oktopost and Buffer enable marketers to manage their accounts in one place, publish content, listen and respond to their audiences and track their success.
- Account-based marketing (ABM) is another emerging trend for A/E/C firms that brings a laser- targeted, client-specific approach to marketing and business development. For A/E/C firms implementing ABM programs, there are a number of tools such as Engagio, Demandbase and Radius that assist marketers in the process.
- Live chat is (slowly) emerging as a viable client service and business development option for A/E/C firms. Platforms such as Olark, LiveChat, and Zendesk Chat makes it easy for firms to talk to people who are browsing their website so they can answer questions or address concerns in real-time.
- A/E/C firms who desire to gain true competitive advantage and avoid commoditization are turning to implementing strategic client experience (CX) A number of important CX components including client surveys and research, voice of the client (VOC), and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are empowered by enterprise CX tools such as Qualtrics and Medallia, as well as survey and feedback platforms such as ClientFeedback Tool, GetFeedback, and SurveyMonkey.
- When it comes to tracking and managing relationships, a solid Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solution is essential. Many firms use A/E/C industry specific platforms such as Deltek and Cosential, but there’s a trend towards using enterprise solutions such as Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, as well.
A/E/C marketers may not have the same degree of “big data” that their retail and B2C counterparts produce. But there are several tools for web analytics and dashboards/data visualization that can be a huge benefit to marketers.
- Nearly every marketer has Google Analytics installed on their firm’s website, but many have only scratched the surface of what insights are available.
- Beyond the capabilities of Google Analytics, tools such as HotJar, CrazyEgg and Lucky Orange provide amazing insights into how visitors are actually using a website. Dynamic heatmaps visually represent visitor clicks, taps and scrolling behavior, and visitor recordings show how actual visitors navigate a website.
- Whether it’s digital analytics or even proposal hit rates, dashboard and data visualization tools such as Google Data Studio, Grow.com, Tableau, Geckoboard and Klipfolio allow marketers to build KPI dashboards and data visualizations that help them better understand the results of their efforts and focus on what matters most.
With all of the parts and pieces that make up today’s increasingly complex marketing plans, managing the execution of those plans on a day-to-day basis can be a challenge. Marketing teams at every firm can benefit from the better collaboration and project management that technology can provide.
- Slack is a messaging and collaboration tool that provides teams the ability to simplify communication, create topic-specific channels and streamline workflows.
- Trello is a light-weight project management tool that uses boards, lists, and cards to help marketers organize and prioritize projects. It can also be useful for things like editorial calendars and content roadmaps. Full-fledged project management solutions such as Basecamp, Teamwork and Workfront allow marketers to manage their projects with a robust set of capabilities.
- File-sharing tools such as HighTail, Dropbox and Google Docs are helpful for sharing/sending large files and large quantities of files with clients and colleagues in other locations.
- With so much marketing technology in use, integrating as many of the tools as possible is important. That’s where integration solutions like Zapier come in to help connect apps and automate workflows.
Putting it All Together
While technology can do some impressive (and ridiculously fun!) things, it has to be approached strategically—closely aligned to support a firm’s marketing plan and content strategy. Marketers need to avoid the mistake of being wowed by every shiny new tool that comes along. As tools are identified to meet functional needs and are mapped to specific objectives, it will become clear which technologies are must-haves versus nice-to-haves (and must-have laters).
It’s also essential to look at MarTech use holistically, to know what tools are being used and how they (should) work together as one cohesive unit to support a firm’s marketing efforts. As marketers build their firm’s MarTech stack (a “stack” is the nickname given to the grouping of technologies that marketers leverage to perform marketing activities), they should continue to audit what they’re using and review its utilization and performance on a regular basis.