Your Marketing Technology Stack Needs a Partner-Neutral Hub

[lead]This is the second of two blog posts about cross-channel data connectivity.[/lead]

If you were able to go back in time and tell a Mad Men marketer in the 1960s that consumers could, in an on-demand way, research brands and products 24 hours a day, they would be blown away.

As I explained in my last post, the lightning-fast evolution of marketing technology enables marketers to reach consumers at scale with 1:1 marketing.

That high-speed innovation has created an industry of single-point solution tools that work great on their own, but have a lot of trouble working with each other well.  And the complexity of cross-channel coordination between all those technologies remains a final hurdle to reaching the nirvana of relevant, cohesive conversations with consumers.

What Marketers Can Learn from FedEx

In the world of business logistics with complex systems, hubs serve a very important purpose to help coordinate the activity of the spokes. For example, the Memphis World Hub for FedEx is vital component to their overall delivery system. In fact, sometimes a package may originate from the same region as its final destination, but because of the World Hub, it’s actually more efficient for that package to get routed miles away through Memphis and then on to its final stop.


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Marketers need to take a page from the Logistics 101 book and invest in their data infrastructure, beginning with a hub to help control all of the spokes in their marketing stack.

How can you tell the difference between hubs and spokes?

  • Hubs are built to maximize the value of the entire system; spokes are built with maximizing their own value
  • Hubs connect all spokes; spokes are not good at connecting with others
  • Hubs are built to support spokes; spokes are made to support themselves only

In marketing, spokes are single-point platforms such as a CRM, a search platform, a mobile app, etc.  Spokes are critical parts of the marketing stack and they work best when they’re laser-focused on being the best at what they do.

Spokes should embrace hubs to help them connect to others and build beautiful combination solutions because every technology in the marketing stack works better when they work together.

Why Marketers Need a Hub to Bring It All Together

At Signal, we believe that today’s marketing technology landscape — just like any other complex business system — needs a hub. It needs an infrastructure that all spokes can plug into.

Marketers are realizing that the next dollar, yen, or euro they should invest in technology should be in updating their infrastructure, rather than adding another new spoke. Maybe a new single-point solution will make your marketing a little better this year…but an investment in a hub could increase the effectiveness of ALL of your spokes this year.

A hub can bring incredible revenue and customer engagement value to marketing organization. Simply put: spokes work better when they work together.  Think about any three of your current single-point technologies. How much more effective could you be if those three platforms were integrated? If they could share their data and could coordinate their customer interactions?

Because hubs are a relatively recent concept in the media and marketing world, brands haven’t even realized yet how much they need one. They’ve spent a lot of time trying to integrate tools one or two at a time. As a digital marketer for over a decade with a focus on ad tech, I’ve sat in countless meetings with my best vendor partners with the hopes of getting them to integrate. These meetings are frustrating, rarely hit the mark, and waste time and money. The kicker is that we then move on from those tools in a few years and then have to repeat the exercise again!

A next-generation data infrastructure enables all of the customer engagement data from each spoke system to flow to each other.   Imagine real-time connectivity linking all the single-point solutions in your marketing stack: email, CRM, search marketing, mobile and more.  How much would your entire stack benefit from this deep integration?

If you have 20 technologies in your marketing stack, each one is being fueled by 1/20th of the data set and making decisions on 1/20th of the data.

Shouldn’t every one of your marketing technologies share in the intelligence that it generates with the rest of your marketing stack? Wouldn’t it be better if each platform had 100% of the data to use rather than a fraction of it?

Think about your own marketing stack.  How could a hub help your operations? Write down the names of three of your spoke technologies. Imagine a hub in the middle that enables immediate cross-channel, cross-device data collection and sharing. What new initiatives could you begin? What past hurdles could you have solved?

The next dollar you spend on marketing tech should be an investment in integrating your stack, versus another tool that solves one thing.

Learn more about Signal’s Open Data Platform to see what a hub can do for you.

Originally published June 17, 2014

Josh Dreller was formerly Director of Product Marketing at Signal.

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