Where marketing execs are spending all those tech dollars

Gartner says marketing may spend more on tech than IT, but for what?

When you think of technology spending at a company, you probably assume the IT department disperses nearly all the money, with a small percentage going to departmental tech like smartphones and cloud services. But according to Laura McLellan, Gartner's vice president of marketing strategies, 50 percent of IT spending outside of the IT budget goes through marketing departments -- on top of IT's expenditures on marketing technology. In fact, by 2016, 80 percent of marketing tech investments will come outside of IT, Gartner predicts.

What is marketing spending its tech dollars on? The list is long, including social media applications, marketing analytics (Web, social, and dashboards), content management, campaign management, search-engine optimization, and collaboration tools. In the next year, the top areas for digital marketing investment will be social media, mobile applications, customer relationship management (CRM), customer analytics, content management, collaboration tools, and predictive analytics.

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These technologies break down into three broad buckets:

  • Marketing automation. This includes content management and social media monitoring, as well as the automation, aggregation, and analysis of social data, not to mention established technologies such as sales-force automation and CRM. The goal of this category is to increase the effectiveness of the marketing processes themselves.
  • Social technology and mobile technology. Both technologies produce fundamentally different interactions with and among customers. How marketers can take advantage of them is unclear. At one end is the monitoring of people's new behaviors -- what they comment on in social media and how they shop or look up information when not at a desk, for example. At the other is using these new conduits to customers to serve them actively, such as tapping into location data to provide localized recommendations -- marketers use the terms "geotargeting" and "hyperlocal" to refer to these new types of possible services.
  • Analytics for real-time business intelligence. Historically, companies have used BI to assess the past, then roll out changes based on that assessment. But in a fast-moving world, that insight often comes too late. Also, it's typically based on data collected for very specific purposes, so the insights that can be gleaned from it tend to be limited to those original purposes. But new, often cloud-based technologies -- collectively called big data -- are providing ways to analyze information very quickly (even in real time), from multiple sources. Companies can adjust their operations and marketing more quickly -- and even more targeted to specific types of customers.
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