8 minute read 12 Sep 2023
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7 ways to unleash value and drive growth from your MarTech and teams

By Steven Bailey

EY Americas Commercial Excellence Leader, Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

Passionate about the consumer agenda. Fierce advocate for my clients, teams, and DEI. Former serial expat. Grateful partner at home.

8 minute read 12 Sep 2023
Related topics Consulting Customer

After heavily investing in MarTech, brands still struggle to scale in growth and profits. It’s time to look within.

Three questions to ask

  • Why are marketers frustrated with their marketing investments?
  • How can marketers get more value out of existing MarTech investments?
  • What role will generative AI play in marketing?

Regardless of your business model, your organization has likely prioritized investing in marketing tools and capabilities, such as customer data and MarTech.

Perhaps you changed gears during the pandemic when digital became the only channel to conduct business. Or, given the renewed focus to improve customer experience (CX), maybe you committed to collecting and utilizing customer data and analytics.

Whatever the reason may be, marketers are finding themselves heavily invested in a plethora of point and/or integrated marketing solutions, only to be met with frustration: the inability to maximize returns on their MarTech investments and scale efforts to drive growth.

According to Gartner, Inc.¹, more than 50% of senior marketing leaders were unimpressed with the results received from their marketing analytics investments, possibly tarnishing the perceived value of these investments — in turn exacerbating the challenge of realizing business value and organizational growth.

Additionally, there are recession and inflationary concerns, which have and may lead to more highly scrutinized marketing budgets.

As daunting as it seems, this is a great time to optimize previous investments to find both cost savings and opportunities for growth.

Below are seven considerations to look within for paths to scale and optimize your marketing investments.

1. Utilizing customer data, the golden record and smart segmentation

Every marketing action and customer reaction creates data — customer data. And you likely have a trove of it. Now seen as the powerhouse it is, effective use of customer data can set your organization on an upward trajectory toward growth and profitability.

It’s the fuel your organization needs to analyze customer behavior, which can foster improved CX, customer satisfaction, trust and loyalty, and opportunities for personalization and the creation of new offerings. And for those organizations that rely on distributors and retailers, now is the time to double down on cultivating consumer data and direct relationships to build in-house profiles.

Begin putting customer data to better use to realize its benefits by:

  • Consistently improving your data to create a “golden record,” a unique singular view of your customer
  • Enriching your data to incorporate transaction-based insights, call center or chat queries, sentiment scoring, customer preferences, social media profiles, life events, among others — all unified using identity resolution (IDR) and a customer data platform (CDP) — to obtain a master data asset for each customer
  • Using your master data to inform propensity and other models to predict customer behavior or your audience/smart segmentation strategy, enabling you to create discrete, intelligent segments for engagement

Along with compiling master data, attention should be given to the planned demise of third-party cookies and broader signal loss. The depreciation is due, in part, to data protection regulations, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), answering the call of consumers’ demand for control of their data.

This seismic shift drives home the importance of focusing on capitalizing on better collection, management and utilization of first-party customer data — data you own.

2. Orchestrating the customer journey

Now that you have your golden record and your CDP prepped to continue enriching your data, it’s time to elevate your customers’ experiences with your brand through customer journey orchestration (CJO) and decisioning, which fuel purposeful personalization.

In its simplest form, CJO involves the collection, coordination and management of data, across various touch points and channels, that customers leave behind when interacting and transacting with your brand. When the data is powered with machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) and further enriched, the stage is set for decisioning.

The data empowers you to understand your customers — their preferences, what content resonates the best, how they want to be engaged, and when they want to be engaged. These insights drive smart decisioning, enabling you to pinpoint the most relevant next best action (NBA) to orchestrate for your customers.

For instance, based on previous actions, you may need to target a specific segment with recommended products or follow up on a customer query before a second query is warranted. Smart data-based decisioning and CJO enable you to enhance and personalize every interaction, accurately and in real time.

3. Developing a connected technology landscape

Customer data, smart decisioning and CJO must be connected and integrated into all channels and here’s why.

Let’s say you have a golden record for Customer A. Through smart segmentation and previous interactions, the NBA is to send an email or SMS to include a birthday promo code.

You need the ability to seamlessly send those communications to the “connected” and “integrated” channels and either prompt automatically or alert a human to take an action. A disparate set of marketing technologies in your MarTech stack will only make this integration more costly and less resilient.

Having a connected ecosystem not only supports efficient and effective delivery of NBAs, but it also allows you to meet the demands of your customers for fluid, personalized experiences everywhere they engage with your brand.

4. Recognizing that loyalty is more than a program

Customer loyalty is more than a program: It must be a deliberate strategy embedded throughout the customer journey. Loyalty is, above all, predicated by a relationship built on trust — trust created through an emotional connection with your brand.

Keeping customer data, AI-fueled smart decisioning and CJO at the center of every strategy contributes to building trust most effectively when done in a manner that provides (perceived) value to the customer, including moments to “surprise and delight” that may have little to no cost.

When done in concert with the mechanics of a loyalty program, delivering “high-trust” moments of engagement informed by a better view of what your customer needs and wants will create the virtuous cycle brands crave to build: stronger affinity, loyalty and lifetime value.

Loyalty efforts are also an excellent opportunity to ask your customers for zero-party (0P) data (i.e., offering customers the chance to complete a simple profile of interests with the stated intent of using it to provide better offers and communications), enabling your brand to continue to enrich your golden record and engage with greater impact.

5. Rationalizing your marketing processes and MarTech

As mentioned above, all channels within your MarTech stack should be connected and integrated to gain the most value. Organizations should avoid allowing siloed teams, based on product or function instead of the customer, to build individual solutions without considering MarTech capabilities overall.

However, many times, organizations utilize a proliferation of spot solutions that are not connected or integrated into common processes and have no overarching market resource management (MRM) capabilities, leading to overspend, errors and inefficiencies with increased complexity.

The following steps will help you address these issues through re-evaluation and rationalization of your marketing processes and MarTech to help you focus on delivering demonstrable, attributable results for your brand.

  • Assess before acting

    Making large investments in platforms and not seeing results typically translates to, “this platform doesn’t have the right capabilities to solve my problems” — leading to more investments. Before taking this route, reassess the challenges that led to your investment. Then revisit the platform(s) you’ve invested in to mitigate your challenges and conduct a deep dive into their capabilities. This is where you may find, for example, that your next investment should be to create a clear strategy and plan to advance the potential of your current platform(s) through learning and skills development.

  • Simplify and consolidate

    Take inventory of your current stack and associated costs. Note the platforms that provide the most value and offer essential features that support your organization’s growth objectives and CX expectations. Where possible, eliminate legacy and redundant technologies to reduce budget strain, fragmentation and the use of duplicative solutions.

  • Be ready to standardize

    After identifying your keeper platforms, verify compatibility and that data, content and journey orchestration tools can be connected and integrated into common processes. The idea is to create a robust, yet minimal, stack that can achieve effective outcomes.

  • Establish a market resource management (MRM) system

    With the right tools, you can move with efficiency and precision; this is the essence of establishing an MRM solution. Improving day-to-day operations and driving more effective resource management, an MRM solution enables organizations to house, manage and optimize resources — workflows, processes, operations, finance and budgets, and content — into a central hub to support all marketing activities.

6. Refreshing the operating model for modern marketing

The future success of marketing includes a new operating model: one that’s supported by advanced capabilities delivered by multidisciplinary teams in sprints of incremental, continuous improvement.

A new operating model also demands investing in your in-house strategy. From understanding the need for and importance of owning your own data, to specializing and upskilling your marketing function across the campaign lifecycle, the key to thriving in the future is putting humans — your existing talent and your customers — at the center.

Three factors to get right in tomorrow’s marketing operating model

  1. Move from a product-centric to a customer-centric operating model. Where possible, organize teams according to personas to ensure you are in service to your customers, rather than around the MarTech products in your stack.
  2. Define your in-house strategy. Empower your teams to own the data and capabilities you need to control your own destiny and gain transparency lacking in historical agency models.
  3. Establish multidisciplinary teams. Blend marketing, technology, CX and data expertise into working units that can deliver with continuous improvement, leveraging agile principles and clear governance to drive high performance.

The new operating model will empower teams, increase efficiencies, better coordinate work and enable the ability to work toward goals and initiatives with a unified brand voice, message and perspective.

7. Adopting a future-forward mindset: generative AI

Prepare your generative AI strategy now. The technology is here, and as it matures, generative AI will continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the world of marketing. Put another way, it’s a game changer set to unlock a new frontier of opportunities for marketers, creating capacity for marketers to do less blocking and tackling and more testing and optimizing.

One of the biggest hurdles to effective personalization has been the lack of capacity to produce the volume of content required for personalized experiences. Generative AI removes this hurdle as it can create hundreds or thousands of content variations almost instantly and automatically in service of personalized engagement.

When powered by a better understanding of patterns in customer behavior and data to segment and pinpoint relevant audiences, generative AI can unleash highly tailored campaigns and purposeful personalized experiences that would have previously taken too much time at too high a cost.

With the power of generative AI to create a new volume of experiences, it becomes even more important to measure and test effectiveness to create a closed feedback loop that results in greater impact at speed.

Generative AI is evolving at lightning speed; this is the time for organizations to explore, test and create policies and strategies to harness the promise of its power.

Key takeaways: be bold and execute

Especially during times of market headwinds when budgets are more highly scrutinized, it’s critical for companies to unleash more value from their existing investments to maintain and drive growth.

For marketers, these pressures mean it’s time to:

  • Continue to evolve your organization’s ability to collect, resolve and enrich customer data.
  • Advance the ability to orchestrate customer journeys, scaled and intelligent, through AI and ML to truly deliver the next best action.
  • Integrate your technology landscape to enable true engagement across channels, in real-time, in the channel of choice.
  • Appreciate loyalty as more than a “program,” building trust through each interaction and finding opportunities for the exchange of value for data.
  • Carefully evaluate opportunities to rationalize your organization’s MarTech stack, remove complexity and invest in continuous advancement of capabilities from existing tools, where possible.
  • Transition to a customer-centric operating model, fueled by multidisciplinary teams, empowered by clear governance, and driven by agile principles of delivery and an optimized mix of in-house and agency execution.
  • Define your strategy for generative AI now, identifying strategic use cases that will create capacity for your teams to elevate personalization, testing and optimization.


As the connected customer continues to evolve, marketers must have a clearly articulated blueprint to drive growth through the lens of enhanced customer experiences. And this starts with optimizing existing investments by establishing a connected ecosystem of capabilities while embracing new customer-centric operating models focused on fast, incremental continuous improvement — with the potential to unleash new, sustainable growth while optimizing spend in ways marketers have always wanted to.

Special thanks to Salima Eboo, Managing Director, Ernst & Young LLP, for contributions to this article.

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About this article

By Steven Bailey

EY Americas Commercial Excellence Leader, Consulting, Ernst & Young LLP

Passionate about the consumer agenda. Fierce advocate for my clients, teams, and DEI. Former serial expat. Grateful partner at home.

Related topics Consulting Customer