Tech charts visually outline a company's assortment of digital marketing technologies. Here is how marketers can create and use tech charts to organize and explain complex data.

It is no secret that marketing is constantly evolving. Today's marketplace is competitive. Customers are not only constantly inundated with messages, but your competitors are also probably making necessary tweaks to their programs to try to gain the slightest edge.

To cut through the clutter and win, you must take every step necessary to give your customers the best, most personalized experience. Sometimes that means evaluating and organizing things internally.

Lately, I've met with a lot of customers, varying from small marketing teams at mid-size companies to large groups at enterprise-level brands. No matter the size of the company or marketing team, each "more advanced" customer is deploying sophisticated digital marketing programs by incorporating data from multiple channels and devices to drive extremely relevant conversations. It's always fascinating to learn how they established rules and guidelines internally to drive these awesome experiences, and recently I've seen many of them implementing "tech charts."

Tech Charts Defined

A tech chart is a visual representation of all a company's digital marketing technologies currently in use or that are scheduled for use.  Its purpose is to effectively communicate with customers and prospects, and it incorporates many of the same diagrams and techniques that our friends in IT have been using for years. A typical tech chart includes cylinders for data stores, input and output arrows, and software blocks.

To begin, put your primary digital marketing platform - the platform that usually sends email, performs automated workflows, pushes mobile notifications, etc. - in the middle. Surround it with other data stores, including things like an inventory system, CRM, e-commerce tool, order management system, social listening platform, data (Read more...) and more.

Use arrows to summarize the type of integration and what kind of information is flowing from other systems into your digital marketing platform and vice versa. If you haven't completed any data integrations, you can use the chart to help note what would be possible if you did have one.

Next notice the primary outflows from each of your systems. This is usually in the form of email, SMS, mobile push notifications, or direct mail. If you've built a program or encapsulated campaign, such as an ROI calculator or size finder, then you will want to add these to your charts too.

The Motive Behind Tech Charts

As I said before, marketing is becoming more complex and therefore more technology-centric. We all may have started with a single email solution to communicate with our customers and prospects, and this system existed as an isolated technology. In order to become a more sophisticated marketing team, you must incorporate and integrate a number of technologies that deliver the relevant communications customers expect. 

To accomplish this level of integration, you usually need to work with other stakeholders, namely the IT department, a vendor's services team, or an outside agency. With a tech chart, you can easily provide a visual representation of your existing solutions and capabilities, as well as the things you need in order to deliver a more comprehensive marketing approach. The tech chart will get everyone on the same page, often eliminating misunderstandings and simplifying technical discussions.

If You've Got It, Flaunt It

Just putting a tech chart together will get your marketing team nods of appreciation and approval from your IT colleagues. In addition to getting each department on the same page for current and upcoming technology projects, tech charts also let the entire marketing department see at a glance what's installed, what you plan to work on, and how you're using all of your data to deliver effective campaigns.

Using a tech chart for marketing management not only highlights what you have today, but also shows what could be possible if you receive the resources necessary to deliver a key integration. For other internal teams - think support teams or call centers - you can underscore how you've built an island of digital capability that isn't in sync with the rest of the company data. If you are shopping for new capabilities, the tech chart provides you with a visual to give to potential vendors. This helps vendors to see clearly where they may fit into your marketing ecosystem and what integrations are vital to success.

Next Steps

If you already have a tech chart, congratulations! Your marketing team is ahead of the game if it already offers a document presenting a visual way to communicate the systems within your organization. Be sure to keep it up-to-date and use it regularly to share how you're using technology to execute programs and plan for the future.

For instance, if you're beginning to plan for 2016, incorporate your tech chart to identify plans for the upcoming year and flesh out key requirements. Consider using new colors on next year's chart to represent any new integrations and technologies so team members, management, and other departments can easily see and understand your plans.

Don't delay building your own tech chart much longer - it might suddenly make all your meetings become crystal clear!

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