In 2014, I became the Digital Marketing Manager for a software company. One of my first orders of business was to evaluate our marketing technologies and decide which we should keep, which to drop, and which to bring on board. I looked at our “MarTech stack,” identifying what we were using and how, and my head began to hurt.
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I believe many marketers feel this way; we’ve taken the term ‘MarTech stack’ too literally, collecting technologies into a pile, allowing each device to exist in its own silo. Each time a team incorporates new technology, we must deploy connectors and new API calls to break the silos. We have come to expect creations like these:
This ever-growing tower is a significant challenge. In a recent survey conducted by CommerceNext, 100 digital retail senior leaders were asked about their greatest barriers to achieving their ecommerce marketing goals in 2018, with these two answers leading the pack: “Managing integrations of technology solutions across the marketing stack” and “executing quickly enough on marketing initiatives.” Both clear results of the stacking philosophy marketers are known for.
It seems we marketers are horrified by what we have made. We’ve created our own nightmare. Need to run a multichannel marketing campaign? Easy, just access these 3+ solutions. Want insights from customer data? Fine—it’ll entail working with multiple data storage solutions.
The thing is, it doesn’t seem like things are about to get better. According to Gartner research, marketing expense budgets lowered their allocation for labor, paid media and agencies, and raised their budget for marketing technology from 2017 to 2018 (see Gartner graph below). Things will perhaps get better eventually, but not before they’ll get worse.
The light at the end of the AFPO
Although it seems we’re approaching ‘Stackpocalypse’, there’s actually a simple solution staring us right in the face. And no, it’s not a cloud. Certain MarTech solutions can serve as a central nerve system, a brain that’ll turn your stack into an innately functioning body.
Some might argue that Customer Data Platforms are exactly that: a centralized system that unifies all customer data, making it accessible to execution channels and marketers in a single interface. Perhaps that’s oversimplified.
CDPs can solve the bottom half of the stack equation, but what with the upper half? Do we expect a marketer who wants to execute a complex campaign across email, push, and digital advertising to log into multiple interfaces? How is this marketer supposed to orchestrate the campaign this way? How much time will be wasted on creating and reporting on these campaigns?
This isn’t to say CDPs aren’t part of the solution, but they’re certainly not all of it. To create a MarTech ecosystem, you’ll need a brain solution that must be able to:
- Aggregate all the data and make it easy to explore and segment it
- Facilitate the smart orchestration of campaigns
- Provide business impact analytics and access to business intelligence
- Optimize marketing messages, campaigns, and channels
Just call it the AFPO way.
On second thought, don’t…
What does this look like? Imagine your marketing stack as two big blocks, one for insight and the other for engagement, with a thin middle line that connects and makes sense of it all, unifying and deciphering your data, while connecting and orchestrating your channels.
Working with the brain
Only by creating a MarTech ecosystem will marketers extract the greatest value from their technological investments.
The synergies of such an approach are varied:
- Marketers can focus on doing what they do best, ideating marketing strategies and providing creative input, while also flexing to drive new ideas.
- IT teams can refocus their time and efforts on their core goals, as they would only have to create one new connection when adding a new solution to the ecosystem. Even better, if the solution contains out-of-the-box connectors to data systems or execution channels, adding a custom connection becomes unnecessary.
- The ability to have a constant optimization cycle.
As marketers prepare to pour more money into technologies, the focus should be on adding solutions that will facilitate an ecosystem approach to marketing technologies, not those that will further cement a stack methodology.