“Marketing without technology is not marketing at all.” This is a caption in a 2015 article on Forbes.com, titled “Marketing: What’s Technology Got To Do With It?” The piece got me thinking about content marketing and social media marketing strategies. Personally, I have a tough time dealing with the term “strategy,” primarily because I feel it is overused in business. Everyone is creating a “strategy.” There are content strategies, content marketing strategies, social media strategies, digital strategies, analytics strategies, regular marketing strategies, digital marketing strategies; the list goes on and on. No one knows where one strategy ends and another begins. Still, they all somehow ladder up to the overarching business strategy, and one common and – oftentimes – overlooked theme is that they are all enabled by technology.
The Content Marketing Institute (CMI) has a piece on developing a content marketing strategy. It is interesting because, at the outset, the article attempts to draw a clear line of delineation between content marketing strategy and content strategy. The content marketing strategy is about the larger story and focusing on ways to engage an audience to influence behavior, whereas content strategy is a process for creating and publishing content (or what I view as the technology piece). To me, this is an attempt to separate technology from business by those that do not understand technology. The piece highlights key components of a content marketing strategy, such as audience personas and a content map showing how the engagement cycle might look. It also calls out a channel plan and how you need to connect them. In my mind, all of this is technology-driven and the technology should come first. People who do not understand this come up with creative ways to distance themselves from the technology component by creating a separate-yet-nearly-identical strategy, just as the CMI article attempts to do by differentiating content strategy from content marketing strategy. This mindset also gives people an excuse to blame technology when their strategies fail. In other words, “my strategy was great, the technology failed,” and I would argue your strategy failed because you failed to think about the technology.
My thoughts on putting technology first are not a common one, but they are growing in popularity. A recent article in TechCrunch, titled “Innovation is in all the wrong places,” summarizes my feelings quite well by highlighting how most companies are creating superficial innovations. There is an analogy in the article likening a business to an onion with multiple layers. Business communication is the outermost layer, and under it is marketing, which handles promotion and pricing, but the core of the onion is made up of the business values, culture, and systems (aka technologies). I believe technology needs to be at the core. The piece ends by stating “Let’s stop thinking of technology as a trendy tattoo — a surface-level commitment best kept on a conspicuous but not often used part of the body. Let’s think of it as oxygen — essential to the beating heart of your business.” Some CEOs are starting to understand this. As a 2015 McKinsey piece cited, “One CEO we know believes it’s time to create a position—marketing technology officer (MTO)—that’s rooted both in technology and domain knowledge.” The need for marketing to understand and embrace technology is becoming very real. They cannot simply go buy a tool to solve all their problems, although companies creating marketing clouds like Adobe, IBM, Salesforce and Oracle would like you to think otherwise.