The secret to building a useful martech stack

Want to ensure the success of your martech investments? Here's a simplified approach to implementing your martech stack.

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We all know someone who has struck out on their own to become an independent consultant or gig worker, or to launch something more significant. Many of us have also been part of promising (and not-so-promising) startups, like those we joined during the dot com boom — or maybe we even had a startup or two of our own.

In any case, I think you’ll agree that in nearly every instance, the main reasons for any of those ventures failing were:

  • No capital.
  • Bad hires.
  • No plan.
  • Terrible execution.

These mistakes also apply to my forays into entrepreneurship. We had excellent plans and great teams, but the lack of capital obliterated any chance of success the business might have had.

If this sounds familiar, you might be among the many marketers who’ve experienced similar pain when trying to build a marketing technology stack. In a rush to find a solution to whatever blockers you may face, you forge ahead and hurry to buy what’s being sold to you.

It’s not magic, it’s martech

The problems start when there’s no real plan to optimally select, implement and use a martech solution or integrate it into your existing ecosystem. Add to that the issue of not knowing what human capital is required to launch, run and maintain the point solution or platform, along with no formal training for those resources. Then, after several months, you blame the vendor or your team when the magic martech you’ve purchased doesn’t deliver what you needed or expected.

As Eric Brown, DSc, the CIO of Sundial Capital Research, said: 

“I’m sure you can find a hundred or so martech vendors selling some version of a platform that will do what you need it to do. Do you take the time to run a thorough selection process, or do you find the first one that fits your ‘right now’ need and your budget and push ‘buy’? Based on my experience, people do the latter and pick the first one they find that does what they need to do. They find a solution to the problem they have today with little to no thought about how that platform will integrate into their broader organization’s ecosystem and whether the solution will solve their problem tomorrow.”

The secret sauce

While blaming the plethora of vendors hungry to inflict their wares on unsuspecting marketers is easy, there is a practical solution. There’s a secret sauce to successfully selecting and implementing a martech stack that’ll work every time — and may even deliver some return on your investment.

B2B martech spending will reach $6.6 billion by the end of this year and exceed $8.5 billion by 2024. A separate study estimates that the overall martech industry worldwide was worth about $345 billion in 2021. Clearly, there’s no shortage of vendors with proposed solutions to the marketing problem du jour. And, of course, that’s part of the challenge — there’s way too much choice out there.

Dig deeper: Three ways to organize your martech stack

It starts with a plan

The first step is to develop a solid plan for whatever marketing technology you think you need to connect, convert and retain customers. It’s not another tool or platform, it’s a plan. So put the checkbook away and cancel any martech vendor appointments.

A robust plan requires you to document and align your short- and long-term business, marketing, customer experience and technology goals. That work can be as simple as pulling the right people together for a whiteboard session for a couple of hours. At a minimum, you’ll want the heads of marketing, IT and sales in the room, along with their number ones. There should be no more than six to seven people. Anyone else you include must be someone who will deliver measurable value to the process.

Collaboration is necessary

Once the working group is selected, it’s time to articulate the problems and desired outcomes. Please note that I didn’t say solutions. I said desired outcomes. By documenting your challenges and what you expect to happen as an outcome of the selection, implementation, integration and use of any specific martech tool or platform, your goals become more tangible.

Gather stakeholders from other business units to discuss and document the people and processes that make the business go, along with the content they create for prospects and customers and use themselves. While this is happening, a small, focused team of marketing and technology resources should run a full audit of your current marketing technology stack, including the efficacy of deployments, integrations and utilization. 

Dig deeper: Why martech integration needs more than technical skills

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Shape a strategy and roadmap to martech success

The team should document and review any gaps along with the total cost of ownership (TCO) of all components of the martech stack. This analysis will provide you with the projected benefits of the decision to increase (or decrease) the footprint of your martech stack.

This is also an excellent time to inventory all platforms, services and tools collecting and storing first-party data and determine its structure, qualitative precision and usefulness as a tool to deepen engagement and drive conversion.

At this point, armed with more data and insights than you had before starting this journey, you can effectively shape a strategy and roadmap to martech success. This work includes determining the right resources, developing an appropriate budget and creating a proper execution plan. 

It’s complicated, but not impossible

Building a martech stack is a complex undertaking. While I’ve tried to provide a simplified approach to successfully implementing or optimizing your martech stack, your mileage may vary. Some leaders will choose to go it alone, while others might prefer to hire a martech sage to guide them. 

To ensure the success (and ROI) of your martech investments, you’ll need a plan to optimally select, implement, integrate and use any martech solution. You’ll also need a realistic budget, a savvy team who can roll up their sleeves and get things done and an execution plan to activate your martech strategy. Whatever approach suits your circumstances, the approach I’ve shared here has worked for organizations large and small and it will work for you. 

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.

About the author

Gene De Libero
Gene has been a Martech Healer for over three decades, inventing the future while helping organizations and leaders 'Ride the Crest of Change.' A serial entrepreneur since his first newspaper delivery start-up, Gene developed early innovations in social media networks, digital-out-of-home narrowcasting, and SMS mobile marketing. As the principal at Digital Mindshare LLC, a New York-based strategy and marketing technology consultancy, Gene helps clients optimize their martech investments, ensuring maximum returns and strategic alignment.

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