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Marketing Technology Framework – Think Outside the Stack

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Has your marketing technology framework enabled your department and processes to run like a well-oiled machine? Or are you more like the 50% of marketers, as reported in recent research from Signal, whose “stacks are not helping them to coordinate marketing across channels”? For those in the latter group, part of the problem may be in looking at marketing technology (martech) as a “stack.”

Lenati and Chiefmartec.com have produced an infographic, Making the Right MarTech Bets, with guidance for leaders and professionals selecting and implementing marketing tools. Here are the recommendations from that infographic combined with the research findings from Signal detailing martech challenges.

1) Martech success starts with strategy. More specifically, marketers should invest in long-term core platforms while experimenting with flexible point solutions, for functions like social media management. Absolutely! That is exactly the framework the B2B marketing technology strategy model on home page here helps marketers develop.

Yet 39% of marketers, according to Signal, identify “lack of effective strategy” as one of their top five obstacles to marketing technology success.

2) Overall, marketers say only 9% of their stack is “fully utilized.” Training and planning are key: how does each tool fit into your marketing process flow, and what training and integration is needed to maximize the use and value of it?

Two of the top five obstacles to success (“integration complexities” and “inconsistent data across technologies”) relate specifically to integration issues.

Most cloud apps provide APIs to simplify integration. Many also provide pre-built integrations with popular platforms, such as the huge array of tools that integrate with Salesforce. And tools like Zapier simplify the process of connecting cloud apps to automate workflows.

3) Talent – invest in the right people. Effective marketing requires strategy, processes, and tools. But these components are worthless without the people to make them work. Digital marketing and marketing strategy are the top skills sought.

38% of marketers say “inadequate budget/resources” is one of the top obstacles to success. Certainly, budget dollars can be spent many ways: on technology, services, advertising, outsourced functions, travel, and other items. But given that author, blogger and former Googler Avinash Kaushik has been quoted saying “for every $10 spent on your…tool(s), $90 should be spent on people,” budget shortfalls are highly likely to impact the quantity of talent on the team.

4) Be innovative; stay in front of what’s next. This presents a catch-22 for marketers in small to midsize companies. Most are already hard-pressed even to invest in relatively proven marketing tools. Devoting time and budget to experimental technology is an even tougher sell.

But failure to anticipate technology developments puts the company at risk. Consequently, SME marketers need to at least be aware of AI tools for customer service, analytics, and other applications—and to try to carve out modest allocations of budget and time to explore.

Scratch the Stack

Part of the answer to overcoming these obstacles may be to discard the notion of marketing technology as a stack. As Asad Haroon notes in his summary of the Signal research, “a concept we like to call the ‘anti-stack’ can in many cases work better than the typical individual marketing stack.”

And as pointed out on the V3B blog, marketing technology isn’t so much a “stack” as it is a matrix. The stack model comes from the software world, where it identifies “an operating system, database, web server, and programming language designed to work together to provide a development environment.”

Marketing technology doesn’t work that way—it’s a mix of interconnecting (or not) applications that support a marketing strategy and set of processes unique to each company.

Three Approaches to Martech Strategy

As the Lenati infographic and the Signal research both conclude, marketing technology success starts with strategy. Three common bases for developing such a strategy are:

Data-centric: Strategy is based on the ultimate metrics or KPIs most important to a company or its marketing team, and the tools and platforms used to report those measures. Metrics, however, are more useful as indicators of relative success and guidance for modifying specific tactics rather than driving strategy.

Contact-centric: Some firms choose to make their CRM platform the base for martech strategy, selecting other tools (for social media monitoring, analytics, etc.) based on their integration with the CRM system. While this can be effective for “post-CRM” marketing (communications with customers and known prospects), it’s not helpful for managing the pre-CRM stage (e.g. SEO, online advertising, and top-of-the-funnel content planning).

Content-centric: This approach, reflected in the website visibility and engagement model for martech, puts content planning, targeting, and development at the base of strategy. It’s effective at addressing both the pre- and post-CRM phases of martech strategy.

The MarTech Bets Infographic

Here’s the infographic from Lenati and Chiefmartec.com.

Making The Right Martech Bets #InfographicYou can also find more infographics at Visualistan

Top B2B Martech Challenges – What Do You Think?

This website, as noted on the home page, “is designed to help marketing professionals—particularly in small-to-midsized B2B companies—make more strategic decisions about acquiring marketing technology (martech) tools.”

It’s based on experience and anecdotal knowledge about the technology challenges faced by SMB marketers. There’s no question some B2B companies struggle to:

  • Develop an overall strategy for building their marketing technology stack (or more accurately, their martech matrix).
  • Select tools based on their fit with the organization’s overall martech environment and strategy—rather than just the “best” tool within a specific functional silo.
  • Integrate their tools and get the proper training, on a business level rather than just a “how to” for tool use, to maximize value from their martech investments.

There is at least some research to support these points as well. MarTech Today has reported that integrating different martech tools is among the top challenges marketers face, and advises CMOs and directors to “Consider your full marketing technology stack when making software decisions, and avoid inefficiencies and sunken resources resulting from too many solutions providing similar functionality and value.”

But in general, while there are numerous studies done each year on the challenges faced by B2B marketers generally, there’s a dearth of research specifically focused on marketing technology.

And what is produced is often targeted at the enterprise level, such as the prediction from Forbes that “B2B marketing technology choices will simplify in 2017 because…the predictive marketing automation market will consolidate.” That’s a real possibility, but not something SMB marketers are thinking about. Even the “all-in-one marketing cloud solutions” touted by MarTech Today as potential solutions to integration issues are primarily targeted at large companies.

One other challenge noted at the SMB level is underinvestment in technology. Marketers often have difficulty getting budget allocated for technology purchases because of their inability to prove ROI from the tools.

But that creates a chicken-and-egg situation: it’s extremely difficult to prove the value of investing in marketing technology without first investing in analytical tools that can track the metrics required to prove the ROI.

Anyway—what are your thoughts? Are the challenges noted above familiar? If not, what are the biggest martech challenges your business faces this year?