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Martech Stack Best Practices: Making the Most of Your Biggest Investment

Marketing technology is becoming the chief concern of most marketers. In fact, since 2017, many CMOs have outstripped their CIOs in technology spend. This is a fundamental shift in the value and approach most businesses have to technology. Instead of looking at technology as time-saving or cost-saving devices, technology now serves to create cost-effectiveness that, when scaled, can drive the growth of a business. The “martech stack” is now the engine that makes this growth go. 

Every new technology dollar has the potential to benefit a company. This doesn’t mean that you spend every dollar you can leverage up and throw it at marketing automation solutions. It does, however, mean that a coherent martech strategy is necessary. Understanding where different technologies and vendors can provide specific, measurable, incremental value can allow you to execute campaigns and drive growth as efficiently and effectively as possible.

Marketing technology needs to be stacked because most companies have their own process and way of doing business. Creating a stack with technologies that can work together is essential to getting consistent growth from your tech. Across CRM, marketing automation, analytics solutions and more, the modern best practices are fairly clear. When those are sorted out, however, Conversational AI offers marketers one of the best ways they can comprehensive elevate the value they get from their stack, creating dynamic experiences that generate rich information and take on a life of their own. 

 

The Real Reason All Martech Stacks Aren’t Created Equal

We talk about “martech stacks” because there simply isn’t one marketing technology to rule them all. Every company markets themselves in a different way, and every company has different practices they follow, meaning the technology they use is as dependent on their own processes as it is on what a vendor can provide. 

There are over 7000 martech providers to choose from. Most of them advertise at least a 10% impact on revenue and enough material ROI to take notice. The dirty little secret is that usually this doesn’t materialize out of the box. The time-to-value is slow because of a lack of service and support. Alternatively, the buying cycle and lifetime value of many companies can make it difficult to interpret when the advertised benefits are actually supposed to take effect.

Let’s say you have a company that takes 6-24 months to sell it’s products, and customer relationships that last 5-10 years. With all the dynamic effects that happen across this timeframe, how are you supposed to be confident in your measure of one marketing solution? For consumer brands or CPG companies, the buying cycle is shorter, but many of them don’t have visibility on all their transactions, and that means (among other things) that they have little knowledge of the affect of any technology on lifetime value. 

Brands have a martech choice for almost every need, so ensuring that solutions can "stack" is essential to getting value from them. Source: ChiefMartec

Brands have a martech choice for almost every need, so ensuring that solutions can “stack” is essential to getting value from them. Source: ChiefMartec

The “clean little secret” of martech stacks is that, while there are plenty of qualifiers around practice, quality of vendors, technical nuances, available integrations, regulatory requirements and ultimately what the biggest benefit is of a given solution, making sure that all your solutions are interoperable is the best way to maximize sales growth. This means the ultimate measure of any component in your stack can be their contribution to a specific campaign. Knowing something of the returns created by your campaigns, you can then infer how effective your technology investment was. 

 

What does an “interoperable” martech stack look like?

The modern martech stack depends on a healthy dose of out-of-the-box integrations and open APIs. Given the cost of integrating APIs, out-of-the-box integrations may be the weapon of choice for most organizations, but again the power of customization cannot be underrated. Being able to consolidate and leverage data across unified systems first requires that that data can be transferred back and forth between those systems effectively, in an interoperable way. While you may use a system of record in this case, you’ll also be dependent on customer-facing solutions that can use that can integrate and use the data recorded by said system. 

Below you’ll see mastery of this concept within the design Microsoft’s martech stack. Microsoft obviously has a long track record of being effective in sales and marketing, whether it’s B2B or consumer. In their stack, Microsoft provides a model for solutions both within and throughout each of their necessary sales, marketing and customer relationship management systems. In all cases, insights are surfaced from customer-facing solutions and immediately integrated into a system of record, then allowing them to be used in other customer-facing solutions.

So let’s say you learn about someone’s website behavior or the content they interact with – you can then target them with a specific webcast event or marketing emails. Wrapped around this, you need to hone internally processes to the same insights, where brand representatives actively continue the conversation you’ve already started with the customer. This whole process creates a “feedback loop” of consistent messaging and positioning that allows you to realize the best outcomes of a good martech stack.

Microsoft's martech stack is an exhaustive (and expensive) example of what is achievable with a coherent martech strategy, but the thinking it uses can be a model for organizations of any size.

Microsoft’s martech stack is an exhaustive (and expensive) example of what is achievable with a coherent martech strategy, but the thinking it uses can be a model for organizations of any size.

Not everybody can deploy a Microsoft-level stack, but if you can apply the same principles they use, you can keep data organized in a way that is usable and actionable – especially when an exciting new customer-facing solution comes along.

 

Essential, Modern Martech Stack Components

CRM/Database Management

Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle, SAP – every major software provider builds some sort of CRM or database management system that allows you to consolidate your view of customers. You could even have a bespoke solution built in AWS, Google Cloud, Oracle Cloud, whatever – your solution needs to be flexible and malleable in order for you to best collect every relevant piece of data without hitting sprawl.

 

Marketing Automation

Maybe it’s Saleforce Marketing Cloud, Oracle Marketing Cloud, Marketo, Pardot, whatever else. These solutions are the new frontline for many businesses. Typically they not only provide personalized email campaigns, but they can also drive website and ecommerce personalization, mobile, social and web ads as well. While CRM or your database of record handles the logistical action, marketing automation goes out there and makes things happen.

 

Analytics

You can’t improve what you don’t understand. Unfortunately, many CRM and marketing automation solutions simply don’t give you a great view of your reports, nor are they extremely customizable or cross-functional. Tableau and other providers can help you benefit here, as well as your use of solutions like Google Analytics 360 and Adobe Analytics can help you get every drop out of your essential web analytics.

 

Content Management

This isn’t just wordpress anymore (or your ecommerce solution of choice). Your teams are creating and distributing content, and there are few enterprise-grade solutions outside of Ion Interactive – but does that matter? Your marketing teams are small, flexible, and cross functional. They’re like startups within your larger organization, always searching for growth opportunities. Adding any software that helps manage, optimize and deliver content without losing a human touch or sight of strategic objectives is essential to modern performance marketing, and to a modern martech stack. Adobe’s Experience Cloud may be another avenue to explore, and with their Open Data Initiative with SAP and Microsoft just getting started, we may be seeing the martech stack evolve right before our eyes.

 

Social & Advertising Solutions

It’s going to be Facebook, Linkedin, Google, Twitter, maybe Snap, maybe some programmatic providers like Criteo – overall, you’re going to have a variety of solutions to choose from. You may even use something like The Trade Desk to connect your TV and traditional campaigns with your online attribution capabilities. Content Management, Marketing Automation, Analytics, even CRM all have overlaps with your social and advertising solutions, and every single one has a relationship not just to your basic audiences but also the content you use to retarget your customers.

This category is almost “peak martech stack” – after all, most of your advertising dollars are flowing through digital now. Out-of-the-box integrations may help you get a handle on what works best for you. Simple ones like Google Ads’ integration with Salesforce may be enough to get you started in the right direction.

 

Sales Automation, Events and Manual Integration

More and more sales automation solutions are coming online, and much of their work is integrated with marketing automation through email, lead scoring and more. CRM activities are also being automated at a higher rate, and solutions like Salesforce Einstein are leading the way on this by leveraging AI. The impact of this won’t yet be seen for many B2C brands, but the reality is, as more marketing becomes automated, more in-store intelligence and proactive selling of brand ambassadors and representatives will be required. This is sales behavior that is more common in the B2B space. It also requires manual engagement. Understanding how to include manual activities in your automated, interoperable stack is essential.

 

The Next Generation of Martech Performance

If you’ve established a coherent martech stack approach that is generating consistent benefits across campaigns, then your main priority is not your system of record, it’s finding new solutions that will generate more of the engagement, insight and sales you need to max our your ROI.

Conversational AI is one of these solutions, except it’s not really a risk. Consumer behavior, for one, has evolved to where every individual sends 94 text messages per day, on top of WhatsApp users sending an average of 144 messages per day, similar numbers across other social messaging channels, and more than 500 million smart speakers going into use by 2023. You shouldn’t just think about monetizing these platforms, but also the behavior that has helped them grow. The platform players are already doing it. There are plenty of ways to use conversational AI for omnichannel and personalized marketing approaches.

This isn’t just about making your martech stack better, but feeding the stack with the rich opt-in information that comes from real-time interactions – a totally different (and better way) of marketing to consumers on a one-to-one basis. 

real time marketing information

Conversational AI, in this case deployed through a virtual skincare advisor, generates rich information on consumers that allows them to be better segmented and marketed too across the entire martech stack.

It’s up to you, not only as a marketing leader but as a leader in technology as well, to take action on deploying this technology and making it fit with your own practices before competitors do first. 

Automat is a provider of conversational ai solutions. Contact us to learn more about what this technology can add to your martech stack