How to Better Assess Your Martech Needs and Buy Smarter
As the martech landscape and related use cases have exploded in recent years, many marketers have not kept up with a disciplined process for tracking the technology they have and assessing the needs they must meet with future purchases. This misstep can lead to increased costs as a result of redundant platforms, solutions that don’t match needs, the proliferation of “zombie products” (where money is being spent on unutilized tech), and poor utilization of existing platforms.
In order to move your tech stack forward more strategically and make wise purchases, Anita Brearton, founder and CEO of martech management platform CabinetM, recommends creating a single source of truth that tracks your tech stack and having a clear process for auditing your tech needs. In this Q&A, Brearton takes us through why marketers need a better tech stack process in place and how to get started with a more disciplined approach.
Do you find that most marketers have a structured approach and tools in place to manage their existing tech stack and size up what their needs are?
Not always. The marketing technology landscape and uses have exploded over the last five years. And while some organizations have been very disciplined in tracking the technology they are using, many have not, particularly companies with distributed purchasing functions. These companies are just now realizing that in order to move forward strategically they need to develop a baseline of where they are today.
What are marketers missing by not having a better process for tracking and buying technology?
Without a process in place and discipline around tracking technology, marketers run the risk of increased costs as a result of purchasing redundant platforms, signing multiple contracts for the same product, the proliferation of “zombie products” (those products no one is using but are still being paid for), and poor utilization of existing platforms. Increased technology costs ultimately impact the cost of customer acquisition (CAC) and customer lifetime value (CLTV).
Without oversight of all the technology in use companies can also be exposed to security issues. With the abundance of SaaS-based products it has become very easy to swipe a credit card and subscribe to new tools. There needs to be an internal review process to ensure that any tool introduced into the system does not have the potential to expose customer data to a breach.
What is “dark tech” as it applies to a martech stack?
“Dark tech” refers to marketing technology that has been developed internally, rather than acquired. It’s called dark tech because it is rarely tracked within the construct of the marketing technology stack. In some cases, the first time it’s discovered is when someone tries to replace a component of the stack, only to see the stack fall apart — because it has been glued together by a piece of internally developed technology that no one knew about. It is not unusual for companies to have as much internally developed technology as acquired technology, so there is a potential for serious issues if the dark tech is not surfaced and managed.
What are some smart steps to take in order to manage a tech stack more effectively?
- Audit the technology you are currently testing, using, and have recently retired. Include purchased technology, internally developed technology (dark tech), and any technology being implemented on your behalf by an agency.
- Eliminate any “zombie” products (see above)
- Consolidate multiple contracts for the same product
- Create a single source of truth of your organization’s marketing technology that everyone can refer to when considering whether new technology is required. The CabinetM platform has been built to make it easy for organizations to manage their technology environment and of course I’d like to see everyone using our platform. Having said that, for those organizations that don’t use that much marketing technology, a spreadsheet can be a good starting place.
Once a marketer has a clear picture of their stack, what should they do next to make sure that they have the right products in the stack?
Frequently, the first question marketers ask of us is: “What tools should I use in my stack?” There’s no easy or formulaic answer to this question, because marketing technology stacks are snowflakes — each one is different from the next, and with thousands of products to choose from, there are millions of possible combinations. The actual key to success in deciding which tools to use is to align technology requirements with business and marketing goals.
With your goals in-hand, there are two critical foundational pieces of work that must be accomplished. The first is to define your data strategy: Where do you need data, how do you want it to flow, how will you keep it clean, up to date, and prevent duplication? Starting with a data strategy gives you the best framework for adding technology to the stack. You can quickly eliminate any products that don’t support this framework from consideration.
With a data framework, the next job is to select your anchor platforms. Anchor platforms are those that form your technology foundation, they generally integrate with many other pieces of technology in your stack, are critical to data flow and almost always represent a large financial and resource investment. CRM, marketing automation, data management, digital asset management, e-commerce, and analytics are all examples of anchor platform categories.
Once you have your data strategy and anchor platforms defined, you can begin to think about your greater stack strategy. Start by identifying the specific business and marketing objectives that you are trying to achieve, and then define and map the marketing functions that will need to be supported by technology for each objective. From there, you can define the technology requirements needed to support the marketing functions; which, in turn, will lead you to the type of product that you need to acquire.
Here’s an example:
Business objective: Increase revenue and reduce costs
Marketing objective: Improve campaign ROI
Marketing function: Develop a sound attribution strategy that allows our team to make better investments based on past campaign performance
- De-duplication for leads and contacts
- Automated lead-to-contact conversion
- Automated lead-to-account matching
- Automated contact-to-opportunity conversion
- Field normalization (standardization)
- First-touch, last-touch, and multi-touch reporting
In this particular example, the type of product needed turned out to be a data orchestration platform. Once you know what type of product you need, you can create a list of possibilities and then eliminate those that don’t support your data strategy or don’t integrate with your anchor platforms to get to a short list for evaluation.
How can this strategy be mapped to a current stack?
Aligning technology requirements to marketing functions that support business and marketing objectives should also drive the rationalization of the existing stack.
With a clean stack in place, each platform and product should be evaluated against an overall set of marketing functions and technology requirements.
By doing this, it becomes easy to identify redundant platforms and platforms that are no longer necessary. Redundant platforms are a key contributor to budget issues. There’s often a reason to have more than one product in a single category (e.g., email platform) but there is rarely a reason to have more than four platforms that perform the same function. Many times, redundant platforms are purchased because the purchaser didn’t know that one already existed in the organization or assumed that the current platform couldn’t manage their particular requirements.
How will this help marketers make better decisions about their tech stack or speed up their technology transformation?
Having a well-managed stack and a process around technology acquisition strategy is one of the key components needed to drive digital transformation. The others are:
- Making sure that all stakeholders in the organization are involved in the process
- Clearly establishing objectives and the priority of each
- Defining a data architecture and flow that will support all objectives
- Aligning internal skills with the technology and business strategy
CabinetM Stack Finder (NEW!)
In creating centralized oversight of all the technology being used across an organization, it can be a challenge to know where to start.
In response to that challenge, CabinetM has introduced Stack Finder, a tool for its Enterprise users that identifies all of the marketing technology embedded on the organization’s website. With a simple click, it can turn that list into a marketing technology stack list that can be edited and enhanced.
The original article ran Oct. 9, 2018, but has been updated with new information from Anita.
Denis Wilson is the content director for Target Marketing, Publishing Executive, and Book Business, as well as the FUSE Media and BRAND United summits. In this role, he analyzes and reports on the fundamental changes affecting the media and marketing industries and aims to serve content-driven businesses with practical and strategic insight. As a writer, Denis’ work has been published by Fast Company, Rolling Stone, Fortune, and The New York Times.