Most CMOs feel like they’re running their own IT department.  That’s not surprising.  When you look at the amount of technology that it takes to run an effective marketing department, it’s overwhelming.  There are easily 20 different categories of marketing technology, each with dozens of vendors and solutions, and each of those with a combination of unique and overlapping capabilities.

Marketing technology has grown to such an extent, in fact, that Gartner predicts within a year most CMO’s will control a larger technology budget than most CIO’s.

CMO spending more on technology than CIO

With all of these technologies that must be evaluated, selected, learned, and put to effective  use, it’s no wonder 80% of marketers say that they are overloaded and understaffed.  To simplify things, let’s take a look at the big picture categories of marketing technology – later we can explore these in more depth.

1. Marketing Automation Platforms (MAPs)

Marketing automation platforms (or MAPs), are the backbone of most marketing departments.  At their core, they are project management systems for marketing departments, allowing every campaign to be managed and tracked.  But, as the word “automation” suggests, they are more than just planning tools. Automation is usually focused on digital marketing (email, web landing pages, SMS), and on contact database management.

HubSpot screen shot - consulting carolina

There are very low-end MAPs that focus primarily on email campaigns (Constant Contact, Mail Chimp), and extremely sophisticated solutions that deliver a broad range of functionality from content development to digital asset management (HubSpot, Dynamics Marketing, Pardot).  And there are tools for everything in between.  The more sophisticated MAPs offer integration with customer relationship management systems and the most powerful offer some functionality in all 6 of the categories below.

2. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM solutions typically provide functionality across sales, customer service and marketing teams.  The marketing features included in CRM packages are generally limited to simple marketing project tracking, small email blasts and list management.

Salesforce CRM for Marketers in the carolinas

For the very small marketing team, the marketing functionality included in CRM may be sufficient for most marketing automation needs.  But organizations with even one or two full time marketing personnel will need a more robust MAP.  In any case, CRM is a critical solution for collaboration across sales and marketing teams – so selecting marketing technology should always include ensuring that it integrates with the CRM solution.

3. Web Content Management System

All but the most basic websites need a content management system (CMS, also known as Web Content Management or WCM) to make it easy to add new pages, update existing content and interact with site visitors.  WordPress is one of the most popular CMS options Other popular options include Joomla, DotNetNuke, HubSpot and Sitecore.


There is a fine-line between CMS solutions and MAPs.  Most MAPs include the ability to create landing pages (such as download requests, surveys and product information sheets that appear to the user as a part of the website), and some include complete CMS capabilities.  MAPs are usually, however, limited to landing pages and web analytics, while the CMS is used to manage the majority of content on the website.  High end CMS solutions also include shopping cart and e-commerce functionality.

4. Social Media Marketing (SMM)

This category is one of the most recent entrants to the marketing toolbox but, at present, it also has the largest and most diverse array of solutions available.  Most MAP and CRM solutions have at least basic SMM (note that SMM can also mean Social Media Measurement – which is a subcategory of the Social Media Marketing category) capabilities included (that’s a lot of three letter acronyms - TLAs – in a single sentence!)

Microsoft Social Engagement DigitalMarketing Solution north south carolina

SMM solutions include the social channels themselves (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram … and dozens of others), and the many tools made to automate working with these channels.

SMM automation tools include solutions for:

  1. Listening (capturing posts directed to a brand, and/or mentions that may be of interest to a brand),
  2. Understanding (analytics for tracking positive/negative sentiment, overall interest level, social influencers),
  3. Connecting (replying to posts via social, or importing them into CRM solutions for email or phone follow-up), and
  4. Knowing results (tracking satisfaction, new customer wins and other metrics). 

Capabilities in SMM solutions are diverse, and few work well across all four of the above areas.  Popular options include Hootsuite, Microsoft Social Engagement, Salesforce Radian6, Oracle Social Cloud, Topsy, Mention, Engagor,, Yodle … the list is easily 5x longer than that!

Expect to see some consolidation of these solutions in the future.

5. Social, Portal, Intranet, Community for the Enterprise

As you can see, this category does not yet have a widely accepted name or acronym yet (SPICE anyone?), though it is increasingly being referred to as digital workplace.  Marketing departments are playing an increasingly significant role in the digital transformation of their workplaces through better collaboration tools (because they don’t already have enough to do with all of the other new digital marketing responsibilities!)  Organizations are starting to realize that collaboration is one of the most important components of innovation – and in organizations that are either growing fast, more than a few hundred employees, or have a distributed workforce, collaboration is increasingly difficult.

Facebook at work digital workplace  charlotte nc sc digital workplace expert

Solutions in this category are similar to the tools in the other 6 categories, but they focus inwardly within the company rather than outwardly to the customer.  Social, content management and even CRM all play roles in the SPICE marketplace (acronym used twice = new broadly accepted term).

This category, too, has a diverse range of offerings, some more comprehensive than others.  The list includes: Microsoft SharePoint, Google for Work, Confluence, Jive, Chatter, Yammer, Facebook at Work, Alfresco, EMC2, Box for Business, Trello, M-Files, eXo Platform, Skype for Business … and a long list of others.

6. Analytics

Virtually every marketing tool includes some analytics capabilities and, for smaller organizations, those capabilities may be sufficient.  For larger enterprises with more than a couple of marketers, and in particular for those that need to aggregate data across many databases (big data) to produce enterprise analytics, one or more comprehensive analytics solutions are required.

Microsoft PowerBI Analytics for digital marketers bigdata north carolina

Analytics itself is a broad category.  It can include business intelligence (BI), dashboards, reports, web analytics, text analytics, predictive modeling, machine learning, pattern recognition, collaborative filtering, and more.  Business intelligence solutions are receiving the most attention at the moment and focus on a single reporting and dashboard interface for data that is sourced from a number of different databases.  Predictive analytics solutions, once only available to the largest organizations, are quickly gaining traction as well.

Analytics solutions include: Tableau, TIBCO, GoodData, IBM SPSS, Salesforce Wave Analytics, Microsoft Power BI, SQL Server Reporting Services, Microsoft Revolution Analytics, SAS, and, of course, Microsoft Excel (probably the most widely used analytics solution in the world).

7. Integration

It’s important that all of these technologies work together.  In fact, research demonstrates that the more technologies that marketers have to use, the lower their performance and job satisfaction.  And 40% of marketers say that multiple data sources are hurting results.  But only 11% of CMO’s have omni-channel strategies.

Scribe data integration for dynamics crm hubspot salesforce

Integration software includes the specialized solutions that make it possible to share data across the myriad applications that marketers are struggling to master to serve customers and meet business goals. Solutions range from built-in importing tools, to enterprise tools such as Informatica and mid-tier tools such as Scribe.  Solutions from the above categories often include out-of-the-box integration with other solutions, or relatively low-cost connectors for rapid integration.  But buyer beware, many solutions advertise built-in integration, but the functionality is so limited that it can be useless (and expensive to upgrade).

Other Marketing Technology Categories

There are numerous other categories that we could describe.  In fact, each of the above 7 categories has at least several sub-categories (for example, MAPs can include email marketing, web marketing, content marketing, marketing resource management, and other sub-categories).

Digital Marketing tools - consulting in charlotte nc

Outside of the above 7 categories, other categories include: search engine optimization (SEO), event and webinar management, telemarketing, voice of customer, data enrichment, digital asset management, graphical design, catalog content layout and print production.

Where do I go From Here?

To summarize, and as illustrated in the nearby picture, selecting and using digital marketing solutions can be overwhelming.  Keep in mind that all of these are there to help you practice the four timeless principles of good marketing: listen to customers (big data), understand what they’re telling you (analysis), connect more consistently and relevantly, and know what your results are so you can improve.  We call that the LUCK Principle(TM) – think about how any solution you are considering will help you improve your LUCK before making a final decision.

Digital marketing technology solutions list MAP marketing automation CRM customer relationship management content management social marketing enterprise social business intelligence integration

Where can a marketer get started?  Here are a few suggestions:

1. Start with CRM.  Extract as much marketing value from your existing CRM solution as you can.

2. Select and implement a marketing automation platform (MAP).  We will be publishing a series of reviews and an ebook over the next few months, follow C5 Insight to keep up to date.

3. Consider the other technologies that you may need, and on-board them one-at-a-time.  The world is changing fast – develop a general vision and gradually move towards it, knowing that it will continue to evolve.

4. Do the thinking, outsource the rest.  Marketers have to wear lot of hats in today’s workplace.  Focus your time on the things that contribute the most value to your organization (generally, this has to do with planning, developing concepts, and managing internal relationships), and outsource the rest.  You don’t have to be a deep expert in every technology – let others handle the execution for you so you can focus on the big picture.

C5 Insight offers customizable Digital Marketing Administration options; for more information, click here