If you were to ask any marketer about the MarTech Stack, they might cringe and throw their hands in the air in frustration. Many marketers find the MarTech landscape confusing and overly complicated by the maze and sheer volume of vendors who all claim to help you become more customer obsessed. They all put a stake in the ground to improve revenue through more personalized customer interactions, and all enable data-driven marketing. It’s nearly impossible to untangle the landscape from the core pieces and parts that you really need in order to be able to execute on customer-centric marketing.
Fundamentally, the “stack” is misunderstood. From a CRM perspective, one of the best definitions that we’ve come across explains it as “a number of different technologies from a number of different companies that’s meant to attract and retain customers in the most efficient way possible.” This definition sings to any person in marketing operations when it comes to process efficiencies. And connections strategists love how this definition ties back to the core of the customer lifecycle.
To help demystify the MarTech stack, let’s play a little game of two truths and a lie. Can you guess which of these statements is the lie?
- It’s not a stack, it’s an ecosystem.
- Data pipelines are more important than the stack itself.
- Start with technology and layer in strategy.
Truth or Lie: It’s not a stack, it’s an ecosystem.
Truth. The Stack is more of an ecosystem, revealing a series of interconnected systems and solutions, powered by data as the foundation for designing and executing customer-centric experiences. With over 5,000 MarTech vendors in the landscape, where or how does one begin to populate the ecosystem?
We built a blueprint of the ecosystem that allows us to map out what companies already have, what they need, and what they don’t. The decision to choose one MarTech solution over another really rests on what’s best for a brand and what it’s trying to achieve. While the industry is innovating towards marketing suites and platforms that span the ecosystem, the best of breed technologies are still leading the trend, with 34% of marketers using an integrated best of breed stack (2018 Walker Sands State of Marketing Technology Report). When you view your stack as an ecosystem, and align it with business objectives, it becomes clear which systems need to connect and interact to deliver upon the intended customer experience. The success of a MarTech ecosystem depends on integration, connectedness, and compatibility of systems.
Truth or Lie: Data pipelines are more important than the stack itself.
Truth. As marketers, we know the importance of having the right technology in place to enable the experiences we envision for our customers. However, more important than the MarTech Stack and the technologies itself are the data pipelines that connect the solutions. How data is distributed and acted on throughout the ecosystem is vital for enabling any kind of data-driven marketing initiative grounded in customer understanding. Too often, technology systems face severe limitations as a driver of personalization and are at times considered an obstacle versus an enabler. This happens because the data pipelines that fuel the execution systems don’t contain the right data sets or act as their own source of truth. We execute a process of reverse engineering the ways that each system can and should use data to properly identify what should be contained in the data pipelines and where that data should come from.
Truth or Lie: Start with technology and layer in strategy.
Lie. Just like CRM, strategy is another term that can often be confusing and muddied. Strategy serves to provide clarity of when, where, and with whom to connect. It provides inspiration for how to connect emotionally and behaviorally, in new and unexpected ways. Too often we see technology as the answer, with no context of what the question is or what we’re trying to solve for. Why does this happen? According to the 2018 Avanade Sitecore Market Research Report, 73% of executives see a lack of collaboration between IT and Marketing and an astounding 69% of executives see a lack of collaboration between the CIO and CMO. But the bigger issue that we face as marketers is a lack of a unified customer and brand strategy, which would not only act as the north star for the customer experience, but would inform which technology to use to operationalize customer-centric business strategies. Every single person in an organization is responsible for the customer experience. Figure out how to break down the silos in your organization, rally around the customer, and partner to find the best technical solutions that can execute on your customer strategy.
CRM is often used synonymously with what the MarTech ecosystem personifies: a central hub for data, intelligence, experiences, and measurement functionality. Whether you prefer the visual of a stack or an ecosystem, it is actually very simple to understand. Think of it this way:
- Data = Heart, the lifeblood of all systems that fuels other systems
- Intelligence = Brain, the systems that turn data into useful insights to help orchestrate and make decisions across channels
- Experiences = Hands, the systems that execute within channels to deliver online and offline experiences
- Measurement = Nervous System, the feedback mechanism for the effectiveness of the MarTech ecosystem
What isn’t so simple to understand is the relationships between the solutions…between data and technology. Between IT and Marketing. Between strategy and execution. As a CRM strategist, the job now requires a leveling up of skillsets to become conversant in technology and data. The integration of data and technology is more than a job, it’s a responsibility. CRM is the what. MarTech is the how. Strategy is the bridge between the two.
Author: Michelle Thomas, VP/GD, Connections Strategy & Melissa Berger, CRM Center of Excellence Lead, NA, Digitas