Unlocking marketing technology potential: Tackling CMO challenges for better customer experience

Apr 25, 2023


by | Apr 25, 2023 | Strategy, Technology


It comes as no surprise that the recent research around marketing technology, Digital Connections 2.0, found a significant refocus on the customer. It makes sense as the last few years have seen strong investment in martech, yet there comes a time when you take a step back and look at what the technology is delivering. And when you take this stance, you refocus back to customer and what they need – so much so that 48% of CMOs say customer experience is a strategic priority. 

In this article, we explore some of the challenges highlighted and answer the three big key questions CMOs should be asking to achieve a better customer experience with marketing technology.


Question 1: Where are the main areas of underuse when it comes to marketing technology?

This year, when we asked this question in Digital Connections 2.0, the top two responses were Marketing Automation (37%) and CRM (31%). 

There are a few reasons these two platforms top the list.

Strategy is central to effective use                                               

The strategy required to enable effective use of these marketing automation platforms and CRM is significant, complicated and relies on a number of factors. For example, these platforms are dependent on the data, data flow and structure of the systems, which relies on multiple contributors and multiple disciplines. To bring together those centres of thought is difficult, time consuming and requires considerable investment, so it’s often easier to go with simpler structures, ‘what’s good enough’ or a minimum viable approach to deliver what’s required.

On the flip side, the rich feature set of these platforms is well known, yet, many organisations don’t leverage the full set which results in underuse. This creates a fear of missing out based on the knowledge that there’s more that could be utilised, but isn’t (whether you need to, or whether you should, utilise the full feature set is questionable – and that depends on the strategy).

Silos prevent collaboration and growth                                           

In B2B, there are many functions that contribute and rely on the effective use of these two platforms: Sales, ABM, Marketing Ops, Demand and Web teams all create conflicting priorities. Orchestrating these teams in harmony requires a really solid overarching strategy with clear roles, responsibilities, processes, ways of working, and seamless collaboration. Whilst the silos make delivery simpler, the result is often a lack of overarching strategy for core systems such as marketing automation and CRM – and therefore underuse. 

Lack of adoption limits capability                                         

Underuse is also often associated with lack of adoption. Lack of strategy, roadmap, training or best practice… There are many reasons why the adoption of CRM or marketing automation technologies doesn’t go to plan. If you start with the customer and put some core principles or strategies in place that can easily be translated into deliverable tactics for your team, then your team will start to see successes and this will drive adoption. Not sure where to start? Look at segmentation, verticals, scoring, nurture, or even just email marketing 101 best practices.

Staff retention creates challenges                                         

Recently, we’ve seen the ‘Great Resignation’ which resulted in numerous businesses losing experienced team members who were skilled in developing and enhancing programmes and campaigns, as well as generating insights through reporting. These challenges are disruptive to the daily operations of marketing and hinder the implementation and optimisation of plans, resulting in technical debt.

Trust in data                                                                                     

The above issues can cause a lack of common understanding of categorisations, terminology, reporting metrics, sales stage classification, or sometimes even agreement on what constitutes a ‘customer’. The direct impact of this is a lack of trust in the data. Stakeholders are uncertain that data inputs are accurate and as a result doubt that reporting shows a single source of truth. This brings us full circle back to the first point on strategy – where do you shift the needle to when you’re not sure where the needle is?

Integration skills is a big skills gap                                     

Integration is the second-largest skills gap in enterprise organisations. CMOs recognise the importance of data and integration for martech success but lack the knowledge and skills to unlock it. With many free to use integrators such as Zapier, and more native integrations within martech platforms than before – it can become a tangled web of connections that without proper management can lead to additional layers of complexity in almost any task.


Question 2: If 48% of CMOs said that ‘better customer experience’ is a strategic priority over the next 18 months, how will the underuse of MA and CRM impact the ability to deliver this?

Creating exceptional customer experiences requires anticipating needs, streamlining processes, and ensuring communication is relevant, timely, and tailored to the individual.

Achieving this involves gaining a deeper understanding of your customers, their journey, preferences, business, motivations, preferred communication channels, and their interactions with various digital touchpoints, such as social ads, nurture campaigns, SEO, and landing pages.

The key to obtaining this understanding lies in collecting vast amounts of high-quality data. For many businesses, the closest they come to a unified customer view is their CRM database. However, our research shows that 31% of CMOs feel this resource is underutilised.

Increasingly, businesses recognise the value of having a robust data architecture and are investing in Customer Data Platforms (CDPs). To prevent CDPs from becoming the next underused piece of marketing technology, businesses must revisit their fundamental customer strategies, as well as marketing and sales operations.

Setting technology aside for a moment, determining when you have achieved a ‘better customer experience’ can be challenging since it is a qualitative metric that may vary for each customer and team within your business. Without a baseline for the current customer experience and a framework to measure the impact of enhancements, teams may struggle to evaluate their progress, or worse, feel as though their efforts are not making a difference.


Question 3: If underuse is the problem, what’s the solution?

Underuse is a symptom, not the cause. Thinking about the requirements to deliver a better customer experience first comes from understanding your customer. Without that, you can’t design the right experience and you don’t know what data, technologies or feature set you need. So first and foremost, there’s some thinking to be done, none of which are fast, but they are fundamental.

Core areas of thought to get in place:

  • Customer strategy – research and insight – know the customer
  • Personas and segmentation
  • Map the customer journey – how it is now, what are the gaps, sales process and customer lifecycle
  • Data definitions
  • KPIs and metrics
  • Campaign and programme planning
  • Tracking and reporting

Then let the tech do the heavy lifting! Missed opportunities for providing exceptional customer experiences often occur in MA, and one of the main reasons for this is that several marketing teams neglect the fact that their sales team can be a valuable partner in delivering superb customer service. By using digital experiences effectively, potential customers can be nurtured, the purchasing procedure can be expedited, and the experts on your team can focus on converting those opportunities.

Don’t be afraid to bring in the experts – digital transformation means business transformation. These often mean large internal projects that CMOs just don’t have time for. Remember to invest in the way you work, not just the technology.

The underuse of marketing automation and CRM platforms can have a significant impact on a businesses ability to deliver better customer experiences – a strategic priority for many CMOs. To address this issue, businesses should focus on establishing a solid overarching strategy, investing in operations and ways of working, and bringing in the experts. It is also crucial to define data, establish KPIs and metrics, and map the customer journey to achieve better results. Businesses can also benefit from creating a new breed of data role, such as a data architect, to manage the increasingly complex tech stacks surrounding CRM, MA, and other platforms. By taking these steps, businesses can ensure that they are utilising their marketing technology to its full potential and delivering the best possible customer experiences.

Need to rethink your marketing technology?

Further reading

The Modern curve of return: develop your demand strategy

The Digital: keep ahead of the B2B digital marketing trends

The impact of the strategic skills gap in marketing technology