There’s no such thing as the “perfect” marketing technology (a.k.a. martech) stack. But that isn’t stopping today’s digital marketing professionals from trying to build one.
Check out each annual edition of Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, and you’ll see just how many martech companies exist today — and the practically endless combinations you could create with those solutions.
You’ll also see a commonality among many of the martech tools: the word “management.”
Campaign management tools, content management systems, customer relationship management software, social media management solutions: All these platforms offer distinct benefits for businesses and rightfully deserve a spot in brands’ marketing technology stacks.
But what about customer data management? Where do marketing technologies like the customer data platform (CDP) fit in the current (and future) martech landscape?
If you’re looking to refurbish your martech stack (and, in turn, your marketing strategy), it’s worth exploring how you can revamp your technology setup to revolve around a top-tier data management system and single source of truth like a CDP.
So, let’s detail what you should do to get as close as possible to the “perfect” martech stack — and well on your way to more robust results and ROI from your marketing team’s efforts.
Auditing your martech stack: How to evaluate your marketing technology setup
Evaluating your martech stack top to bottom may seem like a fruitless task. Or, at the very least, a time-consuming one you feel you don’t have the man hours to carry out.
After all, you have critical tasks you have to complete daily, some of which arguably take precedent over (potentially) exhaustive technology audits: from enhancing email marketing campaign performance to optimizing landing pages for UX and search.
But examining each solution you use — both the big (marketing automation systems, email service providers) and small (chatbot providers, A/B testing tools) — is your only path to realizing a more efficient martech stack that improves your output and ROI in the long term.
You can streamline this process and get the ball rolling with your martech stack transformation (and, thereby, your digital transformation strategy) in earnest by following general auditing best practices recommended by marketing experts.
Visualize and categorize all your martech tools.
Martech stack visualization has become a fast-growing trend in recent years.
Some marketers even enter their stack-oriented charts into the MarTech Conference’s “Stackies” competition to show off their exhaustive marketing technology structures (and how appealing it looks in when laid out aesthetically, we suppose).
As Gartner Senior Director Analyst Bryan Yeager noted, though, the distinct benefit of visualizing one’s martech stack is it provides everyone within an organization a digestible means to see what’s driving their day-to-day efforts and overarching marketing strategy:
“A stack visualization is an effective tool to help evangelize within the enterprise how martech enables capabilities that deliver on customer expectations and drive value.”
The good news? You don’t need graphic design skills to visualize your martech stack.
Just ensure yours provides your leadership team a comprehensive-yet-brief breakdown of your existing marketing technology configuration and how each platform and tool solves a particular pain point or aids one or more use cases. (More on the latter shortly.)
And if you and others in your marketing organization don’t feel comfortable handling this task (or just don’t have the bandwidth), consider hiring a “martech orchestrator”.
As MarTech Today contributor Steve Petersen explained, this person would be in charge of “maintaining documentation about each component of a stack” and, therefore, could be the ideal individual to visualize it for C-suite evaluation and liaise with them as needed.
Determine the efficacy of each marketing solution.
As Brinker noted at MarTech East 2019, brands need to take a focused approach to modifying one’s marketing technology stack to ensure it’s the right fit for the company.
The cornerstone of any modern martech evaluation, he noted, is the ability to discern the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of one’s marketing technologies backed up by data.
Thus, it’s imperative to ask several key questions about every single solution in your martech stack to determine the efficacy of each, including (but certainly not limited to):
- Are there any redundancies across our platforms? If so, how should we decide which software to keep and which to eliminate from our stack?
- Which tools are the easiest to use (e.g., allows any marketing team member to activate data across marketing channels quickly and conveniently)?
- Can we capably implement real-time messaging with customer data on all digital channels with one of more marketing technologies?
- Do we have a central database that unifies insights for our customers, prospects, visitors, and other contacts from martech tools that store PII?
- Is it worth buying or renewing the contracts for our martech tools based on the return on marketing investment we get from each solution?
- Which technologies, if any, haven’t met your expectations to date based on the issues and challenges the martech in question was meant to solve?
As Real Story Group Founder Tony Byrne noted at Discover MarTech 2020, once you have answers to these questions (and similar ones), your brand can take a team-oriented, agile approach to eliminating redundant or inefficient technologies and onboarding new solutions.
There is certainly some level of subjectivity that comes with martech stack evaluation. Ultimately, though, you need to base the majority of your modification decisions on facts.
Decide which martech to keep, remove, and secure.
When it comes time to figure out which martech tools to preserve and which to ditch altogether, there are several factors your, your team, and your CMO must keep top of mind.
For instance, if you’ve invested in a marketing cloud suite, you’ll need to assess the merits of the semi-siloed software within said suite and if they all, in conjunction with one another, truly enable the best possible lifecycle orchestration strategy for your business.
As BlueConic COO Cory Munchbach detailed in our webinar on the downsides of marketing cloud suites for brands today (and why so many companies, including enterprise businesses, continue to omit them from their martech stacks):
“The decreasing percentage of marketers willing to accept the suite of tools over a best-of-breed approach is reflecting their understanding of the opportunity cost of being locked into a suite, versus being able to choose innovative alternatives.”
If you don’t have a single user interface where you can access all first-party data and liberate it through personalized and individualized activities — something the marketing cloud suites notoriously have lacked and continue to lack, despite promising a single customer view for years — your martech stack essentially needs a full-scale restructuring.
Investigating the marketing technology landscape: Tips to find the right tools
So that’s how you can get the ball rolling with your stack audit. But following this close examination of your martech, a new, very important question emerges:
“Which specific martech tools should my organization turn to for true data unification, more efficient data activation, and better customer lifecycle orchestration?”
For starters? A best-in-class customer data management system like a CDP.
It’s essential to remember in your martech research, though, that not all data management solutions are created equal — including all customer data platforms.
By surveying the entire marketing technology landscape, you’ll come across the data management platform (DMP), master data management (MDM) software, data warehouses, and similar marketing databases, on their face, have the same features and value-adds.
However, that’s just not the case. Simply look at the differences between the customer data platform and marketing cloud suites as a prime example of how different the solutions are:
“If you have ever tried to work within one or more tools within a broader marketing cloud … you will find that things just take longer,” Cory noted in our marketing cloud suite webinar. “It always takes more time, it takes more resources, because this is a little bit of a ‘Frankenstack,'” with disparate software that doesn’t easily integrate with one another.
That’s just one martech comparison. But stack up each data management system across the marketing technology landscape against another, and you’ll see only one of them offers the now-requisite, truly unified, 360-degree customer view: the customer data platform.
Extracting the most value from your “new” martech stack for your marketing
You know all about optimization as it pertains to your marketing strategy: mitigating adverting spend waste, enhancing landing page copy to better rank in search, and so on.
“Cost optimization,” however, is relatively new to many marketing leaders.
In a nutshell, cost optimization for marketing entails identifying inadequacies and areas for improvement in one’s program and making the necessary changes to rectify them.
(In other words, a cost-benefit analysis for your marketing strategy and martech stack.)
This can range from ID’ing inefficiencies regarding responsibilities assigned to marketing team members to recognizing missed opportunities in email marketing campaigns.
As it relates to your martech — and eventual customer data management system you and your brand decide upon — it’s vital to routinely appraise your stack to ensure there aren’t:
- Gaps in functionality that prevent you from successfully connecting with individuals and segments in real time and in a consented manner to comply with data privacy laws.
- Issues causing missed revenue opportunities (e.g., customer profiles in your database failing to incorporate data from other systems in your marketing technology ecosystem)
“Higher rates of marketing technology … abandonment are reported among solutions that are complex, redundant, unfamiliar and don’t meet performance expectations,” per Gartner.
This means it’s crucial to construct a martech stack that marketing (see: you) can own and operate with confidence and helps your company with your core business use cases.
(Not to mention avoid the painful process of having to abandon a piece of digital marketing technology that failed to meet your needs somewhere down the line.)
Whether you want to improve cross-channel personalization or acquire more customers at a lower cost, your marketing strategy will only go as far as your martech stack allows it.
“Martech is marketing,” as Scott Brinker so succinctly put it.
That means you need tools and resources that empower you and your team, simplify your day-to-day, enhance your efficiency, and help you liberate your customer data with ease.
Watch our insightful webinar to learn why brands will continue to abandon marketing cloud suites in 2020 and the years ahead in favor of more proven martech — like the CDP.