Following several years of hype and some debate over competing concepts, the marketing cloud is becoming a reality. Companies such as PR Newswire are seeing an increase in leads and engagement through the integration of marketing activities under the marketing cloud.
Personalization is among the key benefits of marketing clouds, as they offer B2B marketers the ability to collect data on how prospects are interacting with the company through their buying journey. Marketers can track and access prospect insights from a central location, where the data can be leveraged for a range of marketing activities.
"Marketing clouds offer a more real-time, holistic view of the buyer," said Erika Goldwater, VP of Marketing for ANNUITAS, in an interview with Demand Gen Report. "It also makes the tech, and data, more accessible to your entire company."
While there isn’t a standard definition, marketing clouds should provide a central hub to connect audience data from disparate sources, orchestrate relevant customer experiences, and analyze performance across all marketing channels, according to Chris Lynch, Senior Director and Head of Product Marketing for the Oracle Marketing Cloud. "Marketing clouds should enable marketers to do what they do best — market — by simplifying the complex technology landscape."
Today’s B2B buyers are gathering buyer data from the initial touch point to the win-back process and everything in between, according to Gordon Evans, VP of Product Marketing for Salesforce.
A recent study conducted on behalf of Salesforce Marketing Cloud shows that while 86% of senior-level marketers agree that it's important to create a cohesive customer journey across all touch points and channels. However, only 29% of enterprise companies rate themselves as effective at creating a cohesive customer journey.
"Today, marketers are increasingly responsible for the entire customer journey," Evans noted. "With a marketing cloud, marketers can connect interactions from any channel or device, leveraging customer data to create relevant communications that are delivered in real time, on their customers’ terms."
The marketing cloud’s integrated data enables marketers to personalize the customer experience, observers noted. "What we’ve tried to do is make it easy for marketers to be sophisticated in their marketing with as minimal heavy lifting as possible," Lynch noted.
Lynch highlighted three key ways marketers can effectively personalize customer engagement with the marketing cloud:
- Connect behaviors to real people. Customers move across digital and offline channels in a highly unstructured way. Marketing clouds allow data to live where it wants to live, and tie back to an actionable customer profile where the marketer can take action.
- Adapt in real-time to customer interactions. Once the marketer knows their customers, they can orchestrate how they want to adapt to the dynamic way in which that customers move about the world. Whether it’s email, display, mobile, push, or social interactions, the marketer wants the customer’s behavior to dictate what comes next.
- Tailor content. Marketers leverage the marketing cloud to make it easy for marketers to create, manage, and scale content across any marketing channel. This ensures it hits people at the right time in their lifecycle.
The Importance Of Cross-Channel Measurement
An integrated, cloud-based approach can help marketers track how customers engaged with the brand and through which channels. "It allows marketers to create one-on-one customer journeys for their customers to deliver better results across all digital channels," Evans noted. "This is underpinned by powerful customer data management and analytics."
Phil Hollrah, VP of Product Marketing for Demandbase, added: "I remember marketing having all these different silos, now this data isn't siloed anymore thanks to all these partnerships through the marketing cloud. Having insight is crucial to making business decisions."
The ability to analyze the way B2B buyers travel from channel to channel is crucial to fueling predictive capabilities, according to Evans. "Marketers are becoming more data driven. In a crowded digital landscape, marketers need to deliver what customers want before they even ask for it."
Optimizing The Marketing Cloud
While the marketing cloud can have a positive impact on the way B2B marketers personalize customer engagement throughout the buyer's journey, marketers can become overwhelmed, according to industry observers.
"What's happening to a lot of marketing leaders, their inundated with marketing tools," said David Lewis, CEO at DemandGen International. "There are a lot of marketing tools out there, so marketing teams need do their research in order to build their marketing cloud in a way that meets their needs."
This overabundance of options also effects how marketing teams integrate their selected tools, according to ANNUITAS’ Goldwater. "You're always going to have integration issues unless you work with one vendor across the board. Every enterprise is different, there will always be variety. Not everything will go together in a perfect way. It's crucial to find the best solution for you, and make it work."
It is crucial to have the right strategies in place to maximize the overall potential of these tools, according to Jay Famico, Practice Director of Technology at SiriusDecisions. "It is important to experiment, measure, test, focus on the tech available, and see how it'll help your company meet your goals. After that, you need the right company mindset and the right people running it."