Overwhelmed, anxious, and paralyzed are just a few of the adjectives marketers use to describe how they feel about marketing technology and its exponential growth over the last five years. At the same time, words such as enthusiastic, empowered, and passionate are used to convey their excitement around the opportunities these technologies bring for unification, cross-channel marketing, demand generation, and revenue marketing across their marketing ecosystem.
According to Scott Brinker and his recent 2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, there are nearly 7,000 marketing technology solutions, up nearly 40% from last year alone. For comparison, there were merely 1,000+ technologies in 2014 – only 4 years ago! This kind of rampant growth makes it difficult for even the best marketing technologists to stay informed and educated on the latest solutions.
Some of the many challenges we face as modern marketers is identifying the right technologies for our business, maintaining our collective technology stack, and ensuring we make the most of these platforms. We continually need to review our marketing technology stack to ensure we’re maximizing utilization and closing capability gaps.
Although we may not label it as such, every marketing team has a marketing technology stack, whether it includes a few solutions or hundreds. The core platforms typically comprise of marketing automation, CRM, and website solutions, but there are dozens of other technologies we need to monitor and assess as we advance in our marketing maturity.
Perhaps you are at the beginning of your journey and looking to design your initial marketing technology stack. Conversely, maybe you have dozens or even hundreds of technologies across multiple business units and/or regions, and you need to consolidate and maximize capabilities. Wherever you are in your journey, it may help to utilize this primary process to begin your quest and assess your marketing technology stack.
Step 1: Plan
During the planning phase, you define and document your overall marketing strategies and goals. Your marketing technologies should align to your corporate objectives. In order to properly assess the technologies you need, it’s important to start with defining your requirements related to capabilities and marketing goals. If you already have your marketing plan in place, that’s an excellent place to start. If not, defining goals and strategies may require a heavier effort, including working with your various marketing stakeholders. In either case, you need to end with a clear definition of your marketing goals, strategies, and plans.
In addition, just like planning your marketing infrastructure and ecosystem, you’ll need to define your team’s capabilities. What are the main competencies required to reach the goals and objectives you have defined? For example, faculties such as marketing planning, lead management, lead scoring, content management, nurturing, and data analysis may be on your list of required capabilities. Your list may be small or large depending upon the size of your company and the responsibilities within your marketing and sales teams.
By the end of this stage, you should have a detailed list of capabilities, or, if you’re so inclined, a visual map, illustrating your business and marketing goals and the processes and capabilities required to accomplish them.
Step 2: Audit
Now that you have a formalized view of your goals and capabilities, it’s time to audit your marketing technologies. Collect a list of all technologies your marketing teams, and perhaps sales teams, are utilizing regularly. This may include solutions related to CRM, marketing automation, conversion, web analytics, sales enablement, paid media, social, etc. You are not yet analyzing the merits of any one platform, nor should you be concerned about duplication, underutilization, or any other issues. You are simply gathering a list of all technologies so you can assess them later.
To conduct a thorough audit, reach out to key stakeholders across various departments, business units, regions, etc. You may want to schedule short conversations with individuals to review their technologies, but in most cases a simple survey or worksheet will uncover all of the technologies in use. Consider supplying examples, capability categories, or other technology descriptors to help people remember the various technologies they use to accomplish their tasks.
At the end of your audit, you should have a decent list of all technologies in use across various groups in your organization.
Step 3: Discover
Knowing all of the technologies used by your teams is a great start, but you need a full understanding of context in order to complete your assessment. To uncover this level of detail, conduct interviews with your key stakeholders and the users of the technologies. If you are planning to interview people during your Audit phase, include your discovery questions at the same time.
As part of your interviews, ask questions that will help you understand the need and scope of the technologies. These are a few questions you can seek to answer:
- Who is using the technology?
- How are they using it?
- What are some of the challenges they encounter with the technology?
- Are there areas of improvement they see?
- What value is the technology bringing to them and the team?
- How does the technology interact with other technologies, if it does?
- How is the technology configured?
At the end of the Discover phase, you will have a thorough analysis of the marketing technologies in use along with their context — usage, configuration, integration, data, value, users, etc.
Step 4: Assess
Once you’ve reached this stage of the process, you will have identified (and perhaps created a technology and/or capabilities map of) your goals against capabilities and supporting technologies. You will also have supporting documentation to describe the details of each solution, including how it is used and who is using it. Armed with this information, you can begin your assessment and in-depth review of your overall marketing technology stack.
This is when you’ll begin to make cross-platform connections, dive deeper into what these technologies can do for your business, and detail how each solution can integrate with others. You’ll see patterns and areas for improvement in multiple areas. To start, keep your eye out for the following:
- Gaps – Where in your map are there gaps in technologies? In other words, where have you listed goals and capabilities, but do not have technologies that can support these needs?
- Redundancy – Where do you have capability overlap? Are there multiple technologies performing the same function and outcome? Are there certain business units or regions using different technologies that do the same thing (i.e., event management, lead scoring, etc.)?
- Inconsistency – Are there varying ways that users are utilizing your technologies? Is a governance system required or something to be considered? Are some teams utilizing more of a specific technology solution than others?
- Underutilization – Do you have robust technologies in your stack, but users are only utilizing a small fraction of what they can actually do? Are there capabilities within certain technologies that can increase productivity, quicken lead to revenue, and/or eliminate the need for additional technologies or processes requiring resources and money.
Don’t be in a rush to complete your assessment. Give yourself time to review your notes, continue conversations with users, and give your mind time to find opportunities for improvement. Consider feedback you’ve heard from key stakeholders and continue to include them in your analysis. Not only will this help you develop a thorough assessment, but it will also increase buy-in when you’re ready to take action.
Step 5: Action
When you reach the action stage, it’s finally time to create a visual diagram of your marketing technology stack, including a rollup to goals and capabilities. Illustrate areas within your diagram that need improvement, such as those identified in your assessment. Additional documentation detailing your recommendation is also required, but a clean visual will go a long way in helping you present your findings and acquiring buy-in and approval for change.
Change management, organization readiness, and internal onboarding are outside the scope of this post, but they are all imperative to moving your recommendations forward.
Congratulations! You have officially started your marketing stack planning journey. It may seem like an arduous task, but it will certainly prove to be a worthwhile endeavor.
If you have any questions as you embark on your marketing stack assessment, please comment below or contact us.