In Digital Marketing

For many marketers today, it might be hard to imagine (or remember) a time before the term “marketing tech stack” was as commonplace in your department as “budget” or “ad spend.”

The truth is, though, that marketing technology is still very much an emerging field. If you are a marketing technologist reading this post, you undoubtedly know that properly managing your marketing tech stack can be both exciting and stressful at the same time.

That is because even the best marketing technologists face a constant stream of new solutions entering the marketplace that, depending on your team’s needs, could make or break your marketing strategy.

This post is designed to help marketing technologists understand how the martech landscape has evolved since the early days at the start of the digital marketing revolution, through to today when over 5,300 different solutions exist, any one of which may be the missing piece in your marketing tech stack.

You will learn how to build a roadmap that helps you navigate through the ever-evolving martech landscape to ensure you arm your team with the best solutions to deliver quality campaign results and boost your return on investment.

A Brief History of Marketing Technology

While the marketing tech stack that you know and love today really did not come into play until the rise of digital marketing and birth of “big data” in the early 2000’s, marketing and technology have been attached at the hip since at least the early 1980’s.

For anyone who has watched Mad Men and dreamed of a day when a scotch and IBM Selectric were the only tools of the trade, your fantasy will likely be shattered when you realize just how unreliable any marketing strategies were in the time before computers were in every home and business nationwide.

Don Draper’s product-focused marketing relied on little (if any) data to make assumptions about what was important to a target demographic. Instead, marketers in the pre-computer era relied on anecdotal evidence to design campaigns.

Then came the birth of computers capable of storing large amounts of customer data in the 1980’s and all of a sudden a beautiful relationship was born. Marketers shifted their approach toward relationship-based marketing (as opposed to focusing solely on the product). It was still a heavily manual process, but nevertheless, the shift put marketing technology on an unstoppable trajectory toward where it stands today.

The 1990’s brought customer relationship management (CRM) platforms, with Salesforce introducing the first software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution in 1999. Then, in the 2000’s, digital marketing evolved into the early incarnation of what it is today with tools like Marketo coming to market in 2007 as one of the first marketing automation platforms.

In fact, aside from CRMs, Marketo’s emergence may well be the first notable piece of marketing technology that continues to hold a position in the modern marketer’s stack. It is no surprise why. Marketo looked to solve a growing problem for companies who had uncovered the potential impact of big data marketing but had yet to find a way to harness the power into a scalable solution.

Other companies soon looked to do the same. In the early stages of marketing tech stacks, full-suite solutions dominated the marketplace. The “one-size-fits-all” approach to martech left big gaps in the marketing strategies of many companies with less traditional go-to-market plans. A flurry of emerging startups quickly filled those gaps, offering niche solutions aimed at solving singular problems rather than offering a full-service solution.

Thus, the marketing tech stack was born. Comprised of any number of solutions from various vendors, martech stacks are an assemblage of the best possible tools for enabling your marketing team to maximize the ROI of your campaigns.

However, curating an effective martech stack requires a well-developed strategy for overcoming some of the big challenges marketing technologists face.

Marketing tech stack

Challenges of Today’s Marketing Tech Stack

Marketing technologists know that putting together the right combination of tools comes with its fair share of potential hurdles to overcome. Those include:

  • Budget. Historically, finding the money to invest in the right tools has been a major issue for marketing technologists. There is a cyclical relationship that has developed between marketing teams and vendors. As martech vendors improve their offerings, it becomes easier for savvy marketers to demonstrate the return on investment from specific tools and campaigns. As a result, marketing technologists have proof of their contributions and are able to secure bigger budgets, which then get funnelled into new martech solutions that help make them better and so on. According to Gartner, marketing budgets have increased for three consecutive years. Not so coincidentally, the number of martech vendors has grown 500 percent in that time.
  • Integrations. Managing a marketing tech stack gives you the flexibility to hand-select the solutions that your team needs and try out new tools without needing to transition every other part of your marketing process over to another platform. However, one of the issues marketing technologists face when putting together their martech stack is finding solutions that integrate with one another. A lack of integrated tools creates a more manual process for your marketing team as they shuffle data from one tool to another. It also has a more dangerous side-effect. Your customer experience inevitably suffers when your tools do not all work together to manage customer data.
  • Adoption. As the marketing technologist, you might spend significant time researching different martech solutions, comparing competitor pricing and determining exactly what your team needs to be successful. You may go through a negotiating process before signing a deal, then an integration process as you get onboarded to a new platform. You may invest all this time (not to mention the money) and find that all your hard work is in vain if no one actually uses the tool. The marketing team is not interested or does not see the value, and so this new platform just sits there, untouched. Pretty frustrating, right? Luckily, marketing technologists can overcome this challenge by establishing a strong roadmap for adoption.

How to Structure Your Marketing Tech Stack Roadmap

When it comes to building an effective martech stack, planning and precise execution are important. Remember that at the end of the day, the successes and failures of your martech stack land on your shoulders. So you will want to make sure you get this right.

Here is how:

  1. Set the foundation.

Before you can even think about experimenting with innovative new martech solutions, you absolutely must establish the foundation for smart data management.

Why?

Because no tool – regardless of how innovative, smart, or expensive – can overcome bad insights. Incomplete, inaccurate customer data threatens to bring down your entire marketing strategy by misleading teams to make campaign decisions on misinformation.

That is why investing in the right data management system needs to be the first step in building your marketing tech stack. It is the investment that enables everything else your martech stack is capable of doing.

Check out this post from the ReachForce blog that highlights other essential components of a marketing technology toolkit.

  1. Go slow. One solution at a time.

Once the foundation is established, the fun begins. With so many different solutions on the market, there are endless opportunities to test new tools and see what works best for your team and their strategy.

A word of advice: do not do it all at once.

Why? First, because the team will not be able to keep up. Getting adoption for one solution is difficult enough, never mind introducing four at once.

The second reason is even more important. Each successful implementation into your marketing tech stack should inform the next solution you bring on board. For example, say you find success using an email marketing platform and are seeing very promising early results.

You might choose to then double down on email marketing by investing in better technology that allows you to trigger emails based on customer activity on your website. Alternately, you might say “now that that’s covered, I will turn my attentions toward social media marketing.”

In either case, taking it one step at a time ensures you can easily measure the success of a given solution before deciding whether to make it a permanent piece of your stack.

  1. Insist on team training. 

When it comes to team adoption, a little training goes a long way. Some businesses offer tremendous onboarding programs that will help you and your team get up-to-speed on a new solution in no time flat.

However, many startups have not quite worked the kinks out of their new user training program yet, and therefore things may feel a bit disjointed in the early stages of implementation. It is important you insist on training for your team within the first 30 days if you really want to see results. Otherwise, adoption will be low and you will likely end up dismissing the solution as “ineffective.”

  1. Measure results every step of the way. 

If the first part of a marketing technologist’s job is choosing the right tools, the second part of the job is undoubtedly measuring their effectiveness. Measuring along the way ensures you have all the information you need when or if your CMO or CIO asks you to justify the spend on a given solution. This inevitably helps with the next step…

  1. Be quick to cut your losses and move on.

Adopt new solutions slowly, but do not waste time (or money) on ones you know are not working. Do not be afraid to pull the plug on a solution that is not adding value quickly. There are so many different martech tools out there, you will always have alternatives to try.

That is exactly what you can do today with SmartForms by Reachforce.

To learn more about how ReachForce SmartForms can help you optimize lead generation and improve your impact on revenue, sign up for a free trial and get a demo today.