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How Marketing Technology Can Transform Your Business

Aug 18, 2022
Jonathan Copulsky, Senior Lecturer and Executive Director of Spiegel Research Center providing insight in MarTech.

In today’s industries, marketing technology (or MarTech) is no longer suggested, it’s expected. Whether it’s an email to confirm a payment, or an ad for a wedding dress after you’ve googled “engagement rings,” organizations of all kinds are deploying new and unique ways to reach potential customers.

Jonathan Copulsky has been studying the challenges and benefits of MarTech for many years. Copulsky is a faculty member in the Professional Master of Science in Integrated Marketing Communications Program, as well as the former executive director of Medill’s Spiegel Research Center. Prior to joining the faculty at Northwestern University, Copulsky spent 20 years as a senior principal with Deloitte, where his leadership roles included Global Insights Leader, Chief Marketing Officer, Chief Corporate Responsibility Officer, and Managing Principal for Deloitte's Customer and Marketing Strategy practice.

In this article, we’ll use some of Copulsky’s research to take a closer look at the benefits of MarTech, specifically for finding and engaging customers. Copulsky also provides recommendations for upskilling and reskilling your workforce to employ technologies and make your company a digital powerhouse.

What is marketing technology?

By now, you’re probably very familiar with MarTech—you just might not know the full extent of it. What was once a small group of start-ups has now grown into a multi-million dollar industry that extends beyond what any marketer could have imagined. This “technology disruption”, or sudden emergence of new technologies, is changing the way we think about marketing practices.

Copulsky describes MarTech as any marketing technology a company uses to:

  • Automate or streamline processes
  • Collect and analyze data, or
  • Provide various means of reaching and engaging with existing or potential customers

Common examples of MarTech include content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress, Square Space, and BrightSpot; email marketing platforms like Mailchimp, HubSpot, and Marketo; and customer relationship management systems (CRMs) like Salesforce, monday, and Oracle.

The full suite of these interconnected tools that a company leverages to achieve marketing goals and objectives is known as the “MarTech Stack.” These tools manage the sending, receiving, and reporting of marketing communications. Within these categories, there are smaller tactics that marketers use to convey their messages: emails, texts, blog posts, app reminders, and more. Marketing technologies also go hand-in-hand—and are often used interchangeably—with digital marketing strategies, such as search engine optimization, digital advertising, and social media marketing.

The Benefits of MarTech

In addition to the economical benefit of reducing the time and money spent on marketing efforts, Copulsky stresses how MarTech enables communication and personalization on a scale that was previously unattainable. That means you can focus on upskilling and reskilling your current teams rather than replacing or expanding them, and improve the quality and quantity of your marketing tactics while you do it.

Organizations can benefit from MarTech’s ability to:

  • Offer various and unique ways to reach your audience
  • Aggregate work for review and reporting
  • Standardize templates, process, and cadence
  • Operate without excessive oversight or expenses
  • Funnel more qualified and interested leads
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Hear from an Expert

Medill Senior Lecturer Jonathan Copulsky shares research-driven strategies for sustained success in leading digital teams amid accelerating business disruption.

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A Faster, Cleaner Customer Journey

One of Copulsky’s main value points for the implementation of MarTech is the ways in which it enables a responsive customer journey and creates digital resilience within your organization. He uses five words to capture the essence of MarTech: Know, Personalize, Engage, Measure, and Analyze. Let’s walk through each of these stages.


Where marketers of the past would focus on the product first, best practices now show that it’s prudent to start with the customers themselves. Identifying and answering your target audience’s wants and needs (Knowing) is more likely to catch and keep their attention than telling them why they should use your product or company. According to Copulsky, this helps to reduce friction and make the experience more memorable; nobody likes to be contacted about something they don’t want or need. If customers feel you have the solution to something relevant to them, they’re more inclined to act.

Once you’ve identified your ideal customer and their unique wants and needs, you can use MarTech to find “lookalike” audiences, or people who are and act similarly to them. With marketing technology, it’s fairly quick and easy to accomplish this and will help you reach prospects faster than your competitors. Based on a collection of users (usually a list of leads), an algorithm can take their characteristics to find new people that “look like'' them. The assumption is that if they have similar demographics, interests, backgrounds, and/or buying patterns, they’re more likely to act the way that your ideal customer would, and eventually adopt your product.

Personalize & Engage

With your target market in sight, now it’s time to engage them with specific messages, through specific channels, at the specific time that’s best for them. This is how you let your prospects know that you are paying attention to their pain points and care about their unique experiences. For example, you may find that open rates are higher in the morning than at night, or that older demographics prefer a phone call or text over email.

Copulsky offers several case studies of companies that are embracing technology disruption and using MarTech for high-quality personalization. At The Washington Post, the Zeus platform constantly monitors contextual data, such as what article a person is reading or watching, what position they have scrolled to on a page, what URL they have used to arrive there, and what they’re clicking on. The publisher then matches that data to its existing audience data pools to create assumptions on what that user’s consumption intent will be.

Similarly, CarMax personalizes the images shown on its website based on your search behaviors (e.g., you search for a minivan multiple times). The text and images continue to change depending on what the site learns about you as you explore its pages. If you seem to be attracted to large, red cars, it will prioritize those listings.

Measure & Analyze

When it comes to measuring the value of MarTech, Copulsky says, “Some organizations have deployed marketing technologies elegantly, while others have struggled to realize the value of their investments.”

Just like any other investment, it’s important to track performance to make sure it’s worthwhile. For a majority of MarTech tools, you can monitor and derive insights within minutes. Many have dashboards, charts, and graphs to help you visualize and understand the results of your efforts. If you find that you aren’t reaching the KPIs you had hoped for, many platforms offer data-driven suggestions (either from software or a dedicated representative) to make adjustments and meet your goals.

Digital Resilience in a Fast-Moving Industry

In his lectures, Copulsky frequently references the concept of ‘absorptive capacity’ to understand how organizations navigate technology disruption. Professors and researchers Wesley Cohen and Daniel Levinthal coined this term in 1990 to describe an organization’s ability to identify, assimilate, transform, and use external knowledge, research and practice. In other words, how willing are you to assess your competitive landscape, recognize an opportunity, and try something new?

As you increase your absorptive capacity, this leads to a stronger digital resilience. According to CSO, digital resilience is “an organization’s ability to maintain, change, or recover technology-dependent operational capability.” In our constantly evolving digital environment, organizations must be able to adopt new digital solutions and recover, rebound and move forward if things go wrong.1 For MarTech, this would include testing and implementing new platforms, assessing their performance, and being ready to adjust or abandon them if necessary.

For those looking to achieve digital resilience, Copulsky emphasizes these four points:

  1. Disruptions are not new. We can all find examples of massive technology disruptions throughout our lives, but they seem to be coming at us at an increasing pace.
  2. No organization will be left untouched by the disruptions stemming from successive waves of new digital technologies.
  3. Digital transformation is not a “one and done” project with a start and end date. This is a never-ending journey.
  4. To successfully lead digital transformation efforts, you need to be able to chart a north star, but also able to pivot as circumstances shift.

Bringing Your Workforce On Board

With all of its advantages, one of the main challenges of adopting new technologies is gaining trust and adoption from employees. Although most people tend to be wary of and resistant to change, Copulsky and his colleagues found that people are more willing to take risks and tolerate ambiguity if their leaders provide a clear vision and purpose, create the conditions for people to experiment, and empower the people to think differently. Collaboration, communication, and transparency are key for adoption and growth, and companies find more success if they prioritize them in their digital technology strategy.

First, it’s important to let your team know the when, what, why, and how of introducing MarTech into their workflow. That could mean training sessions for upskilling and reskilling, or teaching them an entirely new set of softwares and processes. Copulsky also recommends that every trial has clearly stated learning objectives. Roll-outs need to be done in an agile manner, with sufficient time for additional refinement and adaptation. Then, you should solicit feedback on how workers feel about the new tools, what is working and not working, and whether or not they’d like to keep using it.

Looking for More Marketing Intel?

If you want more insights from Jonathan Copulsky on marketing technology, digital resilience and maturity or marketing in general, see the recording of his recent presentation to the American Marketing Association.