So you’re thinking of building a marketing tech stack? Of course you are! Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is waning and the economy seems to be growing again (fingers crossed…), all of the marketing budget cuts that happened as a result are likely to be reversed as companies try to stay competitive. Marketing teams (read: you) will need to identify how to reach their goals for the coming year.
For a lot of teams, the answer to their KPI prayers may be new marketing technology. The good and bad news is that there are more options than ever on the market. Scott Brinkner’s Marketing Technology Landscape for 2020 identified more than 8,000 martech solutions. You know, just a casual increase from the 150 original solutions in 2011, and up almost a thousand the previous year.
The plethora of solutions available mean you’re more likely than ever to find the perfect fit, but there are also more ways to go wrong. So as you consider your approach, keep these common mistakes in mind as you build your tech stack.
1. Not having a project management solution
While we aren’t defining what martech is or isn’t here (that could take a while), I would argue that any marketing team needs a solid project management solution in place to reach their goals. As you’ll read in other mistakes, the process to plan, acquire and implement new marketing technology has a lot of moving parts, and to successfully build a martech stack, you need to keep track of and manage all those pieces.
Pick a project management platform that fits your team’s needs and commit to using it.
2. Not auditing existing martech first
If you’re reading this, you probably already have some martech in place. It’s also likely that you don’t know ALL of the martech that’s in use, or have it all documented.
Before you add anything else to your stack, do an audit of what’s already there. Here’s what I recommend you document for each solution in your audit:
- What is it?
- What does it do?
- What other platforms are connected to it, and how/why?
- Is it accomplishing what it is meant to do?
- Is it actually being used?
- Does it provide ROI?
Without understanding the current stack, you’re really just flying by the seat of your pants. Sure, that can be fun at times, but here, it’s almost always a recipe for a mess of broken tools and junky data.
3. Not defining use cases before evaluating software solutions
Once you have a grasp on your current stack and a way to manage the myriad projects that will pop up along the way, it’s time to start planning for the future state. The best way to do that is to define your company use cases and goals.
To build your use cases, just fill in the blanks: As an X, I want to Y, so that z. The result of the use case should meet your business goals. As an example, mine right now might be: As a martech expert, I want to share my knowledge so that my readers get real value, and therefore want to read more of my work.
This exercise is vital before you start shopping or doing demos. Without this, you’re just picking a logo.
4. Picking a best of breed, best of suite or hybrid approach
Welcome to the age-old digital marketing debate: Is it better to pick software that’s best of breed (best point solution) or software that has the best suite of solutions? There’s no right answer here and it will depend on each company and team, and where they are in the marketing maturity spectrum.
There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and the path you take will have long-running implications (no pressure, right?). For example, the best of breed approach may work for a small team that doesn’t have IT support and needs to get up and running quickly. An enterprise company probably has strict security measures that make picking a single provider much more appealing, so that each individual vendor doesn’t need to get vetted before being approved.
And don’t forget to consider your industry. If you’re in a highly-regulated industry (think: fin tech, health tech), the platform you choose has to be able to support those regulations (such as, collecting data without violating HIPAA). You’ll probably be looking at an enterprise-level and more expensive solution.
5. Not having a data foundation in place
Just like building a house (I assume), the most important thing to have in place is a solid foundation so that as you add pieces on top, the bottom doesn’t become unstable.
When building a marketing tech stack, the foundational pieces all have to do with your data. Teams that spend the time building a solid data foundation will have an easier time adding new solutions and be better able to scale.
Data Management Platforms (DMPs) and Data Warehouses are often the way that teams build that foundation. Picking a good one and understanding how it will work with your marketing cloud and analytics platforms will pay off for those who do it right.
6. Not writing down contract details
While building a marketing tech stack and juggling all the contract details, it’s best to create a central document where all those details are recorded. This will help you manage subscription renewals as they come up, and if someone ever leaves the company, it’s a great thing to be able to hand off.
The document should include: Solutions purchased, renewal dates, cancellation deadlines, number of seats or contract limits, active users, cost, a copy of the contract, and the point of contact at the vendor.
7. Picking a solution based on demos alone
A demo should definitely be part of your evaluation process. But it should not be your entire evaluation process. Before scheduling demos, define what that buying process is and apply it evenly across the different vendors you’re evaluating.
And don’t forget to get budget approval before you start scheduling demos. With budget and use cases defined, you can share them with the sales rep ahead of time, so that it’s as productive as possible and you don’t get a boring, boilerplate demo. If possible, schedule demos within the same day or week so that it’s easy to remember the details and compare.
8. Not giving equal priority to change management and training
Before pulling the trigger on a new solution, you need to evaluate how the change will impact your team and others. Buying new software is really just the first step towards the ultimate goal you defined in your use case. If a change management plan is not in place, you run the risk of not getting the adoption needed by your company to get the promised ROI from the vendor.
It doesn’t matter how many bells and whistles the new solution has if no-one on your team bothers to use it. So make sure you have a plan and budget in place to get you to the real finish line.
9. Process, procedures and policy
Buying a new solution for your marketing tech stack without updating (or creating) your internal process, procedures and/or policy documentation is a sure-fire way to get bad and inconsistent data.
Just like with the foundational elements I mentioned earlier, these three Ps play a vital part in your success or failure in marketing operations. Having clear guidelines and procedures will help with adoption and ensure that you have the functional data you need to prove the effectiveness of the new changes. Without it, you’re likely to get messy and inconsistent data and a frustrated user base.
10. Picking a solution you will grow into
Just like when you buy a car, it’s a good idea to pick something that you’ll be comfortable in for the next few years. It’s a pain and it’s expensive to switch solutions every year, and you can often negotiate for multi-year subscriptions to get a discount! So pick something that will meet your needs in the mid-term.
Similarly, don’t pick something that is way too much for your current needs either. Most startups won’t need a fully-loaded enterprise marketing automation platform and buying one doesn’t mean you’ll speed up your growth. It’s more likely that you’ll just spend more money on consultants to help you get basic functionality because you don’t have the infrastructure in place.
In car terms, this is like buying a Mercedes-Maybach when you get your first job as a BDR out of college. Way to go with setting high goals for yourself, but also, maybe just get a used Honda instead and don’t ruin your credit.
These mistakes are really just common sense. Most are things that we know we should do but avoid them because they aren’t fun. Who actually likes creating documentation and keeping it up to date??
But when doing something as critical as building a marketing tech stack, this hard work pays off many-fold. Remember that buying new software should not be the first step of your journey (nor the last!) in order to successfully implement it.
I am a marketing operations expert with a decade of experience working for startups, agencies and enterprise-level companies around the globe. After stints in Boston and Madrid, I’ve settled in an idyllic Vermont farmhouse with my wife and two rescue dogs. When I’m not at my computer, you’re most likely to find me tackling a home improvement project way beyond my skill level or trying to find a new fly fishing spot in a nearby river. Say hello or hola on LinkedIn .