Your marketing technology (MarTech) stack is critical to your organization’s success. It’s what enables you to efficiently manage your brand, leverage existing content, coordinate and execute campaigns, and attract and convert customers in an increasingly complex marketing environment. Yet putting together the right set of tools and technology is notoriously challenging. With so many competing options, features, and interoperability concerns to consider, piecing together MarTech can feel like navigating a minefield.
However, when it comes to the behind-the-scenes task of managing your marketing and brand operations, the right marketing technology can make all the difference. That’s sure to be especially true in 2021, as marketers prepare to do more with less — all while managing increasingly diverse teams operating ever more remotely.
Whether you have yet to assemble an intuitive, centralized brand management system or are simply underutilizing the digital asset or brand asset management (DAM / BAM) solution you already have in place, now is the time to get your house in order. Here’s what you need to know about marketing technology to lay a foundation for smooth brand management and marketing operations in the years to come.
3 key marketing and brand operations trends for 2021
To say that 2020 has been a year of unexpected challenges and tremendous uncertainty would be a wild understatement. And unfortunately, those challenges aren’t likely to tail off along with the current calendar year. Many of the challenges you and your marketing peers face today will continue to shape your experience in the year to come. To see how this might play out, consider the following three brand and marketing operations trends that are likely to dominate in 2021.
- Restricted budgets — and unrestricted expectations. Most brand and marketing teams are already accustomed to operating on a “do-more-with-less” mentality. But as the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact communities and businesses alike, marketers may feel an additional pinch. At the same time, organizations will continue to look to their marketing departments to produce measurable results, grow brand equity, and increase market share. Your ability to handle this high-wire act will impact your success in 2021.
- The proliferation of marketing channels and disciplines. As more marketing channels bubble up, marketing teams will continue to rapidly specialize. But more channels means more to coordinate and manage. And, as individual disciplines branch off, marketing teams risk building unintentional silos that ultimately undercut efficiency and brand consistency.
- Centralized marketing services and operations. In large organizations, decentralized marketing services have long been the name of the game. But that trend is already starting to change, as organizations move away from locally based resources for design and content, for example, towards shared services departments which automate processes and empower users through technology. However, even centralized marketing services teams must contend with the challenges of working remotely.
The benefits of building a smart brand management system
Each of the three trends we’ve covered underscores the need for a rock-solid brand management system.
Consider, for example, what might happen as more workers specialize and work remotely. Without the right processes and technology to support your activity, your teams will almost certainly lose visibility and focus—and that will impact results. In this context, marketing technology will be key to empowering your team to efficiently collaborate and self-serve in so many ways —while maintaining or increasing the quality and consistency of your branded applications.
The same is true for shrinking budgets. Without a systematized approach, your team will be less efficient in driving ROI. With the aid of up-to-date marketing technology, you not only optimize your operations but also track your efficiency through analytics and reporting. That same information can be used to continually improve your performance by evolving how the technology is used, and justify your resource requirements by tracking volume of activity.
By taking the time to assemble the right operational marketing technology, you can:
- Create a “single source of truth” for your organization’s brand standards, guidelines, marketing toolkits, and policies.
- Centralize and streamline your processes so that everyone is on the same page.
- Onboard new team members and external agency partners more quickly and efficiently, with a deeper understanding of the brand.
- Distribute creative responsibilities throughout your organization while maintaining control and oversight of your brand.
- Drastically improve your team’s efficiency by reducing complexity, confusion, and rework.
- Decrease your time to market.
- Drive up the ROI of each marketing initiative.
- Improve the consistency of your brand’s application across all channels and synchronize multi-channel marketing campaigns.
- Reduce the energy you spend managing your brand — and apply that time to more impactful efforts.
- Protect your brand investment.
What should your marketing and brand operations MarTech stack include in 2021?
1. A modern brand management system (BMS) has these components:
- Brand asset management (BAM): a category of digital asset management (DAM) with additional functionality designed to engage and educate internal audiences on the brand, promote and facilitate the reuse of content, as well as how and where it should be used. For marketing, design, and communications teams, brand asset management eclipses digital asset management; BAM is the new DAM.
- Dynamic templates for creation of marketing materials: free up graphic designers to focus on strategic initiatives and campaigns while empowering your organization to efficiently self-serve and collaborate on creation of replicable materials (print and digital).
- Workflow automation for internal operations: content creation needs to be quick and efficient, with collaborative review and approvals to ensure appropriate oversight. Approved content needs to be visible and highly accessible, but also tightly controlled and monitored. A modern BMS will provide dedicated workflow automation features to support key brand processes and activities.
- Request intake and management: online web forms and smart dashboards for intake and management of all kinds of internal brand and marketing requests.
- Integration opportunities: one system can never do it all, but out-of-the-box integrations and configurable APIs can break down remaining silo walls (e.g., web publishing via CMS and social platforms) to ensure there is a single source of the truth for approved brand content, with enforced processes and workflows.
- Project management / marketing resource management system
- Project planning and management tools take request intake and activity management to the next level. They keep all teams aligned and on-track as you manage not only internal marketing and brand operations, but also plan for and execute on marketing activities and campaigns.
- Planning and collaboration functionality and automation for cross-channel marketing activity, thus reducing manual work and providing oversite across all regions and sub-brands that may be operating autonomously.
- Marketing resource management completes the puzzle for the most sophisticated organization. It helps your team optimize use of various marketing assets and resources through:
- in-depth resource loading and planning,
- task allocation and time tracking along with calendar integrations, and
- budget management features for allocations and tracking your actual spend.
How to select the right brand management technology
Ready to create the right brand management technology ecosystem for your organization? Here’s how to get started.
- Evaluate your current tools and technology. Conduct interviews with marketing leaders and other appropriate internal stakeholders. Ask them which tools and technologies they already use, and how. What’s working for them, and where do they experience pain points? Are they trained on the existing tools in a way that allows them to fully leverage the available features and functionalities?
- Perform a marketing technology gap analysis Which tools and technologies are you currently missing? What are the risks of continuing to operate without those tools in place? Which tools and technologies do you need to incorporate into your MarTech stack in order to optimize your marketing and brand operations?
- Document your marketing technology requirements. Based on your existing MarTech stack, what constraints and interoperability requirements do you need to be aware of? What is needed by your organization? What will be appreciated and adopted by your internal stakeholders? Understanding what will work for your organization and documenting requirements before looking at solutions is critical to avoid upsell and unexpected implementation costs from providers, and to ensure adoption and ROI following implementation.
- Build a business case. To allocate and secure budget for implementation and ongoing use of new technology, you may need to document and justify expected ROI. Implementing new technology to support marketing and brand operations will realize many types of tangible and intangible benefits. The type of technology being deployed and the amount of existing data related to activity volume and resources involved form the basis of a formal business case.
- Evaluate the available technology solutions. Now it’s time to compare and contrast individual marketing technology solutions that are within budget. Start by gathering detailed information about each of the available options. Then, perform a rigorous RFI and comparative analysis to determine which solutions will best serve our organization’s unique needs, and at what cost.
- Don’t forget to invest in training. Once you’ve identified the right marketing technology to support brand and marketing operations in your business, you’ll need to focus on implementation. Often what looks like a failure on the part of a new technology may really be adoption without proper planning, training, and support for implementation and change management. Evaluate what vendors provide in this regard. Consider engaging a specialized third party for additional support. Give your team ample training and support to ensure they know how to use any new technology that is put in place
The new year is just around the corner. With it will come a host of new challenges and opportunities. By investing in a first-class brand management system now, you can optimize your marketing services and give your organization a leg up in 2021.