CMOs: Look to musicians for advice on a martech stack that performs
Contributor Scott Vaughan returns from Nashville reflecting on what marketers can learn from the original 'stack' users.
I was in Nashville last month, proudly watching my niece — a singer/songwriter — perform. For this three-day adventure, I saw my share of bands and listened to multiple sets of music. During each gig, I noticed the background presence of Marshall stacks powering the sound and experience.
The martech world picked up the “stack” analogy as a generation of modern B2B marketers started to acquire technology and cobble together tools to power their demand and revenue marketing machines. Somehow in this journey, we’ve lost our connection to the original intention and promise. We’ve gotten enamored with the size of our martech “stacks,” not the productivity or ROI.
Sticking with the music analogy, who cares how much equipment you have or how cool it is if the band sucks?
A quick Google search says that “martech stack” appears more than 150,000 times in search results. So, these stitched-together tech mashups must be a big deal, right?
We have “Stackie” awards as part of the MarTech Conference to help identify breakthrough work by B2B organizations. The spirit of the contest is right — identify those organizations that exhibit creativity and results. These popular awards are not about how many logos you have or how big your tech stack is.
Many marketing teams have been stacking up as many tools as they can, treating them like trophies. Various regions, business units and functions are buying software and apps on a one-off basis, creating silos — often with good intentions but little knowledge of what’s available across the organization.
Excellent marketing technology should be a source of pride when it delivers exceptional results and experiences. But it shouldn’t be the main attraction on center stage. Rather, it should support and make the band and music better.
In speaking with a wide spectrum of B2B CMOs in recent months, I’ve found they’re on a mission to invest more wisely (not necessarily less) in martech. This includes making sure the right talent — an internal or an external partner — is in place to get the most out of the investment.
If your stack is losing or has lost its way, here is practical advice to get out of the martech stack business and focus on using technology to get the results you want.
Take inventory and assess your current martech investment(s)
The first step is to conduct an audit of the technology you have purchased across your organization and through your agencies/partners. And schedule these regularly, every six months or annually, depending on the role and needs of your tech investment.
Taking inventory gives you a clear picture of what you have today. Many teams then rank the tech using labels such as “essential,” “required,” “nice to have” or “unsure.” Others have developed ranking systems using “efficiency” and “effectiveness” scores to determine which tech investments are having the biggest impact on the business and bottom line.
This effort often results in surprises about the tech and tools that are actually delivering business value. And you will likely find at least two technologies being used that essentially provide the same basic functions, creating an opportunity for consolidation.
First, use what you’ve already invested in
For most, the essential and required technologies are the transactional platforms that power your demand and customer experience: your database/data warehouse, your CRM and marketing automation and your web presence in all its forms. You can then identify the other critical tech and tools for your specific business requirements. These can be tools that focus on such impactful areas as data governance and health, process automation, content, account-based marketing (ABM) or “hacks” that help your team be more productive and effective.
This categorization process also allows you to go back to your essential and required tech providers and reassess what’s possible with the technology and agreements you have in place. Many vendors regularly add new capabilities — maybe you discover that an existing solution does 70 percent of what another existing piece of software does for you.
Using existing providers for additional functions will reduce the amount of tech and the number of providers you have to manage and will free up budget and resources.
Clear room for martech innovation
Most importantly, with a tight, justified tech stack, you now have room to invest in experimental, leading-edge technology that you can put to work to separate your brand, experience and impact from your competitors. Many B2B teams have the same fundamental tech: marketing automation, CRM and data tools. Not exactly game-changing or differentiating.
Marketing breakthroughs often come by working with up-and-coming providers who automate a pain-in-the-neck set of manual processes or allow you to do something new in your market. But be cautious: Not every movement or new marketing thing needs a dedicated technology (See the “what you’ve already invested in first” section).
Just as with music, too much technology can ruin the sound. The same goes with martech. When you go to see your favorite band, you’re not looking at the equipment. You’re watching the musicians perform and listening to the music. In the spirit of focusing on performance versus the size of the stack, take a strong cue from the original “stack” people and use martech that makes your show a whole lot better.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.