How do you choose your MarTech stack? There are 7000+ tools available today as per Chiefmartec.com by Scott Brinker. It’s important to see through the noise and keep your eye on the goal.
- A MarTech stack is more like a MarTech matrix. Data flow is not linear or uni-directional.
A stack is visually a neat representation. However, in most cases of legacy businesses adopting technology, the truth is that it is more like a matrix because you already have some systems in play and a lot of the technology that you adopt sits on top of what already exists.
There is no single answer to how to choose a tool simply because it depends on your customer data and how it is housed today vs what is the best for a unified customer experience.
- To crack the code, understand what is the source of truth, i.e. what is the unified customer view based on the customer journey. If you understand your customers and their journey, you will identify the broken experiences and the gaps in the way that the data is housed.
The starting point is the customer journey, not your marketing process.
For instance, for one of our businesses, we knew that the lead to conversion journey was broken because every source, whether offline or online, was in a silo and it took manual effort to get all the data together. This manual effort slowed us down from understanding real-time what was effective or not. In addition, manual inputs by teams were prone to error and added to the difficulty of building a unified view. From a customer service standpoint, the interactions were recorded in open text fields, requiring manual effort to sift through and understand customer history and hence preventing more nuance to customer segmentation.
We had behavioural data coming in through third-party apps and these were not integrated with our transactions data. The lack of integration meant that not only did we not know our customers in depth, our speed to execute campaigns through the customer lifecycle was slow as well, and these campaigns were bursts of static output with no dynamic personalisation. The lack of integration also meant that we couldn’t meaningfully predict churn or improve the effectiveness of retention marketing on actual behavioural identifiers such as which parts of a particular service they opted for vs simply knowing whether a particular service was consumed or not. We needed a better MarTech solution to deliver ROI, whether in the form of reduced CPA, or increased retention or increase in LCV.
Acquisition is the sexier sibling, but retention is the smarter one.
After understanding what a unified view would mean, there needs to be a decision on where this is housed. The right answer depends on the ability to have a single identifier, seamless flow of data to other tools, the data modelling desired and let’s not forget the most important, do you have the right team and the right skillsets or are you willing to invest in it. You can buy the best car in the market but you can do nothing without fuel and the right person in the driver’s seat.
- Think about the connections i.e. how these data sources are linked – two way or one way. You also need to think about how this will change your teams and processes.
Even if you have a single source of truth, you will need other tools to access that golden customer record so that there is a two-way flow of data. Mapping all the fields throughout the MarTech stack is important so you know which ones need to be updated, how often and for what purpose. Is the two-way flow of data necessary or not, can the MarTech tool provider enable this or not, will it be a one-time effort or need constant updates – understand this before you opt for a tool.
For e.g. we had a limitation with respect to one of our legacy tools which were not being replaced at the time. We could only update a certain number of fields coming in from another source. So we had to ensure that we knew which fields would be critical and shift some work processes through to other tools resulting in teams taking on additional workflows that they were previously not responsible for.
Even if you take tools belonging to the same company, they may not come with integration in place. They may have the ability to be integrated but will require additional time and money – don’t forget to factor this in.
- Break down barriers i.e. don’t opt for siloed tools that lead to broken customer experience.
The reason why these barriers exist is that different departments take different MarTech tools for different purposes, without thinking through the unified experience. So the sales teams may use a tool for lead management but the marketing teams use a siloed one for social media, another one for email marketing, another one for website data and the operations team used a siloed one for transactions. Sometimes these decisions have been taken over years, at different stages of team evolution, and the end result is not pretty!
So if you are now in the stage where you want to break these barriers, you need to be future ready as much as possible.
Don’t opt for quick fixes, as tempting as they are, because you will still need a rethink somewhere down the line. Avoid the lipstick on a pig situation!
From my own experience, the quick fixes solved immediate problems but when it came to overhauling the whole process, a lot of the effort had to be redone.
- Test all claims. Just because an API exists does not mean every tool can be integrated with another in the way that you have envisioned.
Not every MarTech tool is best in class for every channel, so you may choose different tools for the use cases needed. You need to understand in advance if there are any limitations that exist in the API. Should be doable is not an answer that you should accept. But to challenge that, you need to have clarity on exactly what you require from the MarTech tool and your data flow. Then have the engineering team confirm that what is needed can be practically done.
The integration may cost more than what you are paying for the tool. This is not an uncommon situation!
Understand their product roadmap, how often they roll out updates and the support you will receive on the updates. Otherwise you could be struggling to have all the integrations working when there is a new release.
- How will the MarTech stack drive revenue? You need to have a leader of the entire ecosystem, not leave each tool to be managed by individual teams so that there is complete ownership.
As much as it is the KPI of the team lead to ensure that a tool is being used well by each team member, an overall view is important because delivering ROI and improving efficiency across the board needs a top view. Otherwise, you go back to semi-silo situations. Even one workflow can involve multiple teams and multiple services so there needs to be a master of the orchestra at work.
Understanding how the MarTech stack will deliver revenue and owning that metric is critical before making an investment.
- Having a MarTech stack does not get you to a destination, it’s an always-on journey.
You can implement everything correctly and then find that no one uses it! It’s an always-on journey, not only on adoption but on growing in the maturity curve, getting deeper with data, adopting the data mindset. Where I have seen things begin to fall by the wayside is when you kick off, but the team is already overworked and has no time to spend on implementing the training.
A few days of training do not suffice as fusing marketing with technology means rewiring ways of working. To test and fail does not come as easily to legacy businesses as it does to start-ups. So teams will be wary of what they can achieve using a tool. The temptation will be to go back to the old way.
Changing the employee mindset to iterating, testing and constantly moving forward is important.
It’s the intersection of business, marketing and technology – where the magic happens!