Adam Sarner

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Adam Sarner
Vice President
15 years at Gartner
21 years IT industry

Adam Sarner is responsible for global coverage of CRM, with a focus on marketing strategy and technology. This includes multichannel campaign management, lead management, marketing analytics, segmentation, loyalty marketing, digital marketing, and social. ... Read Full Bio

Getting The Data You Need

by Adam Sarner  |  March 28, 2014  |  3 Comments

Marketers clearly see the growing amount of customer data available to them. However, the big story of this  “big data” is not about getting data for data sake, it’s about getting the data you need to make yourself better, faster and smarter.

Digital Marketers are gathering data, and are getting access to, multiple and increasingly expanding customer data sources.  There is “first party type data” such as: transaction records, call center data, website, hosted social data, sales and service channel data, e-mail and direct mail , mobile , point-of-sale terminals, e-mails  and plenty of connected and disconnected  customer data stores/data warehouses. The list goes on.. a lot.   In addition, there is an increasing level of  “3rd party”  data access providing both structured and unstructured customer data sources (largely digital, real-time or near real time)  such as: display advertising/ad network data, anonymous social profiling data, social monitoring data as well as a myriad of  data supplying marketing service providers, digital agencies and marketing research companies.

So the data is there, it’s big, it’s growing and becoming more accessible to marketing organizations. I’ve never completely understood just what a “360 view of the customer” actually means, but it looks as though we are trying to get closer to it.  However, managing these growing, extremely large, diverse sources of data poses a big challenge: How do you get the data you actually need? There is a scoping issue. Marketers will need to choose a few key marketing processes or decisions to focus on first and then expand as projects are defined and capabilities grow.

While you may be able to source all kinds of data, all the data won’t be actionable or will be even able to have a marketing purpose.  A good first step for scoping a project is to understand the business and data criteria of a marketing process that answers these questions:

  • What goals does the marketer hope to achieve with the data?

  • Which data sources are required, and where are they available?

  • Which behaviors will the analysis of the data bring forward?

  • What form will the analytical output of the data  take, and what role will it play in what marketing processes?

The first week of April, Gartner for marketing leaders will feature research about how Data Is Making Marketers Better, Faster and Smarter (clients only).  We will look at the multiplying sources of data that marketers are using,  what tools and techniques are being used to analyze and combine this data, and  what marketers are doing with data to make informed marketing decisions.



Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013     Tags:

Must Sees In The Social Marketing Ops Neighborhood In 2014

by Adam Sarner  |  January 8, 2014  |  1 Comment


Social marketing goes beyond inviting customers to connect to you, charming them with memes and begging them to share your marketing material.  Success in 2014 involves moment of truth, decision based dialogue between company and customer, providing them with paths for purposeful, decision based connections and commerce.

Although past the of peak of inflated expectations in 2014, 43% of marketers surveyed by Gartner say social marketing is a top activity that contributes to marketing’s success. Social marketing is connecting to every other channel and touchpoint — Web, mobile, paid media and in-store — integration that impacts every element of the marketing portfolio.

The social ops neighborhood boundaries cross into other neighborhoods such as mobility, web ops, design and ad ops, with its outer bounds defined by the emerging digital trends track. Social marketing is still in its infancy stage with new technologies and techniques being tried with both failure and success.

In 2014, the five most important stations in the social ops neighborhood will be:

1.  Social Commerce:  Used to convert a commerce transaction, social commerce uses techniques like product reviews, question-and-answer threads, configuration tools, social offers and incentives. Marketers are finding more ways to utilize communities and platforms to drive and measure purchase behavior that contribute to sales and bottom line business revenue.  For these money making reasons, we will see more emphasis in social commerce in 2014.

2.  Social Networks: These are destinations that offer a platform for interaction between company and customer. Social graphs of influence are established here. Marketers participate in established, but evolving networks, while examining emerging platforms to build connections with new users or strengthen current connections in new ways.  In 2014, we will see both alternate and extensions of social networks in and outside Facebook and Twitter  (See Digital Marketers Should Know About These Five Growing Social/Mobile Apps).

3.  Social Analytics:  Marketers use social analytics to gauge how the brand is perceived through social channels, evaluate the effectiveness of social engagement and programs, and uncover value through social interactions. For 2014, look for social analytics to move from monitoring and reporting to giving marketers more predictive and prescriptive recommendations for use in not only social marketing programs but for marketing overall.

4. Content Marketing: Content marketing references the tools and services used by marketers to create, curate and cultivate brand-related content across multiple channels (see “Adopt the 3 Cs of Content Marketing to Draw Audiences Into Your Orbit” ). High quality content is a major driver for social interaction, serving as the engine of many social marketing programs. In 2014, marketers will be seeking outsourced content services along with developing their in-house skills to scale for the deluge of multi-channel, real-time content they have become responsible for.

5. Social Marketing Management Platforms: These platforms supply the tools, templates, and services that enable the creation, maintenance and commercial presence in online social environments. This includes social applications and promotions for marketers and media companies. In 2014, mature social marketing programs will incorporate these platforms as a necessity, whether as stand-alone tools, or, as part of larger digital marketing hubs.

 For more about Social Ops, see Julie Hopkins and my Guide to the Social Ops Neighborhood on Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map (Clients only)

1 Comment »

Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013 Uncategorized     Tags:

The Emerging Marketing Technology Track

by Adam Sarner  |  October 8, 2013  |  4 Comments

Digital marketing leaders need to innovate faster and are under enormous pressure to source growth — choosing the right technology and implementing the right technique is critical. Smart marketers know they must diversify and see emerging digital marketing technology and approaches as their route to new products, markets and revenue sources.

Effective, lifecycle customer engagement and  the trend toward connecting real-time, decision-support based digital marketing to both online and off customer channels, are rapidly evolving. Yet, current mainstream digital marketing  technology and their processes are still not agile enough to meet customer demand. Enter Emerging Digital Marketing technology on the Digital Transit Map.

emerging tech graphic

Emerging digital marketing technologies cross many neighborhoods of Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map. Here, the emerging tech line forms the map’s outer boundaries; its stations representing technology and disciplines that are truly “on the edge.” The track focuses on innovative technologies and techniques in early stages of maturity. Characteristics include first-generation technologies, pilots, startup providers or initial stages of commercialization. Market penetration for these areas is typically as low as 1% to 5%. For some, adoption will go viral.  Some will also be considered disposable: Approach adoption with a goal to extract value before planned obsolesce or aggregation. While some may reach mass adoption (over 15 million in the U.S.) in the next 8 to 12 months, some will take as long as 10 years, while others will remain niche, disappear, or evolve into something very different.

There is no sure thing here. Don’t look for a comfort zone either. Prepare for risks. However, there are several areas of emerging technology along the Digital Marketing Transit Map neighborhoods we think will be transformational and will open up new opportunities to connect the physical with the digital world. Among them:

  • New connections among channels (e.g. automatic content recognition and natural language questioning)
  • Amplified scale at reduced costs ( e.g. automatic content generation)
  • Digital extensions of physical investments (e.g. geofencing and microsensors and the “Internet of things”

Connecting the Physical and Digital Worlds

Digital is not only changing the way we communicate, interact and experience the world: it’s changing the nature of products and environments. It’s doing this by erasing limits. The customer experience is no longer bound by channels, print, or primetime spots on television; similarly, the physical world is no longer bound by retail shelf-space or manufacturing processes. As everything becomes connected, the physical world begins to inherit the qualities of the internet: infinite extensibility, universal addressability, and low-cost disruption. Every industry has been impacted, not just sectors like retail, publishing, music, home entertainment or banking. Now, insurance, healthcare, real estate, and the public sector will be subject to this disruption.

To achieve true differentiation in the digital world, brands must increasingly incorporate digital features and data collection mechanisms into physical products. For example, through technology and techniques in Nike+, the brand builds, monitors, shares, extends and orchestrates the actual experiences of athleticism beyond the product purchase. Retailers such as Tesco are extending shopping experiences into unfamiliar domains such as subway stations with virtual stores. Disney’s Magic Bands will for the first time, track guest behavior in minute detail and help shape their guest experiences before, during and after their visit. Marketers have access to shape not only brand impressions but connect to lifestyle experiences beyond products or stores.

In my published note, Travel the Emerging Technology Track in Gartner’s Digital Marketing Transit Map, I focus on 10 transformational technologies along the track that have the  greatest potential to help marketers and customers connect the physical and digital world.


Category: digital marketing Uncategorized     Tags:

Why Game Based Marketing Is Relevant For Anyone – Who Markets Anything

by Adam Sarner  |  September 13, 2013  |  Comments Off

Think of any immersive, engaging and addictive game you’ve ever played: D&D, DonkeyKong, Minesweeper, Tetris, Myst, WOW or Bioshock Infinite.  Your favorite sets a clear end goal.  Next it proposes rules of engagement, complete with challenges, consequences and a series of outcomes that sustain your curiosity. Small rewards along the way build upon greater rewards reinforcing a series of accomplishments the game designers have creatively engineered into the game’s DNA.

“Endogenous morphine” is released by your body at each milestone – peaking at a final reward to promote addictive feelings of well-being.

It’s why your son, your daughter, or both, is playing Minecraft right now.

Game design techniques can be used in many ways, motivating people to write a review, save money, find a college, comparison shop, calculate ROI, tweet about a favorite brand, or plan a vacation. The only limit to engaging buyers in everything from awareness marketing to crowdsourced product development is your imagination – whether you sell mortgages, automobiles, fast food, apparel, sports equipment or IT services.

However, Gamification has passed the peak of inflated expectations on our Hype Cycle For Digital Marketing in 2013. It seems that merely slapping badges, leaderboards and big thumbs up on things DO work, but only for so long. Granted we all want our gold star, but actual designed engagement scenarios, storyboarding, understanding “player” behavior, dynamics of cooperative “play”, and actual real gaming type creation that motivates desired behavior takes both skill and work. I think it’s true potential has yet to be realized.

This week, Gartner For Marketing Leaders is publishes a series (clients only) on how Gamification techniques are being applied to the full range of marketing disciplines.

Comments Off

Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

What to do about Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, GroupMe and Pheed

by Adam Sarner  |  September 5, 2013  |  1 Comment

We’ve reviewed five emerging applications — Instagram, Vine, Snapchat, GroupMe and Pheed. The applications were chosen because they are all growing users at a rapid pace, represent real-time engagement capability through highly responsive social-mobile channels, and, with the right use case, represent a big opportunity for digital marketers to reach customers with new types of interactions through new channels yet to be fully explored by the competition.

The note dives into what they are, who their users tend to be, how marketers can use them, what challenges to be aware of and how to get started. Multiple analysts contributed to the research, and for me it was one of the more fun pieces for the year. Emerging technology and techniques still in the learning and discovery stage of adoption offer a glimpse into potential megatrends pushing the market forward.  Gartner For Marketing Leaders clients can read the full research here.

Most important of the findings is to have a direction for a business outcome in mind, matched by an appetite for agility in a fluid environment.  Even the applications themselves are trying to figuring that one out. New technologies are coming at digital marketers all the time and consumers’ preferences for them change. Establishing a direction for a future business outcome, even if not available in the short term, will have a much better chance of choosing the right emerging application(s) and keep the project funded.

For these five, just an initial heading towards a purpose like brand awareness can help marketers start to handicap which ones to potentially use.  For example, will you be blanketing a wide audience for maximum reach or creating a more intimate, exclusive type campaign? This will mean different apps.  Which apps, through social, photos, video or all three, will lead customers to a purchasing decision that you can measure?

Digital marketers should approach these applications as emerging and potentially disposable. None of these these apps are natively mandatory to your organization. Some of these apps may either go stellar over the next few years, while others in the space will essentially disappear in less than eight months. This means that marketers must adopt an innovation/experimentation with purpose approach to them all, including the risk that a measurable business outcome, even with a calculated heading towards one, may never transpire.

Welcome to the digital world.


1 Comment »

Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

Social Ops On The Digital Transit Map

by Adam Sarner  |  July 18, 2013  |  Comments Off

“Social” has been on the “peak of inflated expectations” for well over a year now. Social Marketing, we believe is almost at peak as we are seeing a second (perhaps 3rd) wave of interest focused on metrics and business outcome.  Largely, we see that although there are social marketing activities yet to be fully explored, progressive digital marketers have already rolled up their sleeves and are focusing on consistently creating valuable and engaging content, generating qualified leads, and coordinating both in-house skills and external resources that give social marketing proven business results.

While exploring the Social Ops Neighborhood and riding the track on the Digital Marketing Transit Map, consider three stops of high interest for the rest of 2013 and into 2014:

1. Content Marketing: Social marketing depends on having something to say — and saying it in a way that is thoughtful, timely, compelling and authentic. In an effort to become more creative and more responsive as content marketers, many social teams are studying the newsroom habits of publishing organizations and developing best practices based on the principles of media workflow. It requires a focused and funded effort that staffs and organizes resources appropriately. These capabilities and resources are something which many digital marketers still do possess.

2. Social Analytics: Social monitoring, particularly for digital marketing teams, has been in a terrific sweet spot over the past three years. Most organizations unfamiliar or uncomfortable with social media needed to “get their feet wet” and audit the social space just to get an understanding of what was being said about their brand on social networks. Social monitoring filled this initial step very well. Today, there are currently hundreds of social media monitoring offerings available, but needs have changed. Clients are starting to move beyond keyword search and basic sentiment and they are increasing demand for Social Analytics, which builds on social monitoring and includes unstructured text (beyond keywords) analytics, predictive modeling and prescriptive recommendations about what to do with the social data they are gathering.

3. Connection to Marketing Ops: Social marketing needs integration with, well, marketing. The space has just about had it with doing social because it’s social and measuring social KPIs for more social.  Marketing Ops is about the management and operation of marketing platforms and applications, including campaign, lead, loyalty, event, performance and marketing resource management systems and processes. Marketing operations span the gap between digital and traditional marketing channels. Social Marketing must be considered in these plans. Social Marketing at a basic level offers what multichannel marketing seeks to do: giving marketers engaged and targeted interaction particularly when the customer is reaching out themselves.

Comments Off

Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy     Tags:

Marketing’s M&A and its Digital Marketing Trek

by Adam Sarner  |  July 18, 2013  |  1 Comment

For the last three years, there has been consolidation in all types of marketing application markets such as IBM acquiring Unica, Teradata acquiring Aprimo, SAS acquiring Assetlink, Microsoft acquiring MarketingPilot, Infor acquiring Orbis, Salesforce acquiring Radian6, Buddymedia, and ExactTarget (which included Pardot), Oracle purchasing Eloqua and Adobe buying Neolane (not finalized), just to name a few.  We believe that further M&A activity, particularly focused in digital marketing functionality, such as content management and agencies,  social marketing , mobile marketing, e-mail marketing, digital analytics and ad technology and will continue to accelerate over the next three years.

Who are the buyers? There are at least six competing sources of consolidation:

  1. The software megavendors: IBM, Oracle, Adobe, Salesforce, Teradata, SAP, and so forth. For them, the digital marketing opportunity is the next frontier in software and big data, and they’re the most visible and voracious of the bunch.
  2. The internet media giants: Google, Yahoo, AOL, Facebook (which bought Microsoft’s ad server technology), Baidu…for them, providing marketing tools assures their media will always have a marketplace.
  3. The agency holding companies: WPP, Omnicom, Publicis, Interpublic, Dentsu, along with incumbent marketing firms like Acxiom and Merkle to name but a few…for them, marketing technology is both an opportunity and a threat…
  4. The mainstream media conglomerates: Hearst, Gannett, Tribune, etc….like the agencies, for them marketing technology is both an opportunity and a threat…some of them (like Hearst) are even buying agencies to go along with their marketing tech acquisitions
  5. A few diversified global companies, such as Singtel, SDL, Rakuten, Sony, Nokia and others who see digital marketing as a global investment, and
  6. A small collection of newcomers who are developing the scale and going public to become buyers themselves: Velti, OpenX, RocketFuel, Turn, AppNexus, Rubicon, YuMe, [X+1], etc…these newbies are looking for diversification and a chance to become megavendors themselves.

Adding to this growing interest and future investment in marketing technology comes not only the complex story of cost, viability concerns, potential redundancy, future maintenance, customer support and vendor roadmap vs. your future plans,  is the overall picture of how (and even which) marketing applications should come together.

Assuming the plan is for marketing to create scalable, integrated and orchestrated interactions, relevant offers and customer experiences across all channels and media (armed with multiple levels of analytics and attribution metrics supporting all this), what we  end up with is a multitude of approaches: A combination of platforms, suites and hubs with a continuing flow of new and evolving point solutions.

The implications of these accelerating changes in the market will be both wide reaching and ongoing, affecting the future of marketing organizations overall.  For the the week of July 22,  our Gartner For Marketing Leaders research (clients only) focuses on examples, causes and consequences of marketing’s M&A activity and what it means to your Digital Marketing plans.


1 Comment »

Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags:

Adobe to Acquire Neolane

by Adam Sarner  |  June 28, 2013  |  2 Comments

In just three short weeks of Salesforce announcing a deal with ExactTarget, Adobe ups the ante by entering into a definitive agreement to buy Neolane, a multichannel campaign management vendor, for approximately $600 million in cash.

The digital marketing space, a once perceived blue ocean, is now tinged with red as it continues to heat up and expand. New approaches and new channels for campaigns, such as real time social and mobile capability, as well as the white hot demand for creative content marketing to support these initiatives have greatly accelerated and will continue to drive this market forward. However, to be successful in digital marketing overall, a multichannel marketing approach, one that orchestrates both online and offline channels (the way customers traverse their path to purchase), will be key to digital marketer’s success.

Neolane, still a relatively small company (Gartner estimates around $60 million in revenue) will have the opportunity to bring multi-step, multiwave, campaign management execution capability to Adobe Marketing Cloud along with further access to industries such as retail, financial services and insurance industries, who are using multiple channels like contact centers, direct mail/catalogs and point of sale. Gartner often sees Neolane in competitive deals against IBM’s Cross-Channel Marketing Optimization solution, formerly known as Unica. For Adobe, this is a more strategic move than shopping for an e-mail marketing provider.

Adobe will have the opportunity to fuse its growing digital capability such as web analytics, social, ad management and creative content marketing capability, into multichannel marketing, expanding their offerings traditionally sold to advertisers, agencies and publishers.

The proposed deal, along with other digital marketing acquisitions including, Oracle, Microsoft,Teradata and IBM deals before it, not to mention other market’s (web content management, e-mail marketing, web analytic, BI and the mobile and social space) developing functionality to get into the digital marketing, will mean a hot, crowded and complex area for a long time.


Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013     Tags:

The Loyalty Hierarchy of Needs

by Adam Sarner  |  June 19, 2013  |  3 Comments

Achieving true “loyalty” from customers means that you have created a feeling of affinity or true affection towards your brand and its products and services. It means that sometimes, even when data suggests they should do otherwise, customers choose your company over others. Not easy to do, nor is it something you can obtain solely by awarding points from an accrual and redemption engine. To obtain the holy grail of loyalty, that is, profitable long term customers and advocates (customers who buy from you and actually like you) there needs to be a loyalty hierarchy of needs, steps along the way (loyalty programs included) that build on each other towards true loyalty.

First steps: Promise me something that I need and deliver on it. Very basic, but mandatory. For example, an airline promising to take customers from point A to point B, safely (and perhaps on-time). Does this make customers loyal? Nope. It hasn’t for the airlines. However, if there is no value proposition and no customer satisfaction along with it, there is no loyalty. They paid, you delivered, they’re satisfied. There are others with a similar value proposition, and may even be able to do it more cheaply.

Next steps: Entice me, get to know me, and be make it easier to accomplish my needs. Here is where loyalty programs get useful. Think of these systems at best as a type of payoff (usually around a 2% discount) incenting a customer to keep on buying from you vs. others. Are they loyal now? Nope. You’re competing on price or another largely undifferentiated scheme your competition has enrolled their “members” in. The trick is to use the incentive to ask and gather information about their needs. Do they prefer self checkout? Which channels of communication do they prefer? Do they go on holiday the same time each year? Now’s the time to ask that information. Pre-populate the customers recurring point of origin on a travel site. Enable a mobile app to take a picture of a customer’s check saving a trip to the bank. Even newer digital marketing loyalty type techniques such as gamification and social can be used as incentives to start figuring out how to make it easier to accomplish their needs. You will be amazed how many expensive loyalty programs are disconnected to any sort of understanding and preference building and just sit there redeeming toasters.

Last Step: Be in-tune with my evolving needs. Armed with the preceding steps where you have customer satisfaction, incenting, learning and building trust (your doing something about preferences they share with you, right?) You are now in a position to start anticipating future needs. Here is where the love starts. Your continually understanding their preferences, your aligning their goals with your products and services, customers are exchanging more information because you’ve delivered on the preferences they’ve shared already, and they got value from them. Because of this, you recognize patterns and even start to anticipate needs. “Dear customer, it’s your wife’s birthday, you haven’t bought flowers, we took the liberty of arranging a last minute delivery in your area. Press here”. True loyalty even saves lives, ensuring long term relationships.


Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Uncategorized     Tags: ,

Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013

by Adam Sarner  |  June 5, 2013  |  2 Comments

Gartner has just published our multichannel campaign management MQ for 2013 and is available for clients here.

Digital marketing continues to fuel the multichannel campaign management market. New approaches to campaigns such as real-time social and mobile offers as well as the rising need of content marketing to support interactions, will be aggressively driving this market forward.

Budgets for digital marketing are growing about twice as fast as the overall marketing budget and now represent about a quarter of total marketing spending. Gartner expects spending on CRM software to exceed $14 billion in 2013, with a growth rate of 7.5% — marketing automation will achieve 11% annual growth.

Digital marketing has sparked this growth because it enables new techniques that can grow revenue faster — for example, inbound marketing, real-time marketing and data-driven marketing. In addition, new technologies such as social and mobile open, not just new channels, but new ways of engaging customers. Marketers now have to coordinate more channels and more kinds of campaigns.

The pace of change challenges established MCCM vendors to keep up by adding new functions.

Vendors with new technologies will continue to enter the market, and these innovations, which are sorely needed, can often differentiate companies from their competition.

The multichannel campaign management market consists largely of established vendors that started by selling full-function, on-premise software (for connections to direct mail, call centers, and email), and of new vendors that offer cloud solutions with fewer functions (usually to the marketing organization), focused on digital marketing (such as email, social and mobile). Established players are re-architecting their solutions to accommodate digital marketing. The newer vendors are busy adding functions, including offline capabilities, via development and acquisitions. Both are adding advanced analytics to improve decision making around campaigns. This work lays the groundwork for more accelerated changes in the MCCM market in the future.
Thus, the MCCM market exhibits an fusing of offline and online channels driving change. MCCM vendors are beginning to responded not simply by enhancing the functions of their products but also by changing their approach to delivering value to customers:


Category: digital marketing Marketing Strategy Multichannel Campaign Management MQ 2013 Uncategorized     Tags: