In a world where marketing technologies are proliferating at a staggering rate—more than 8,000 per year, by one account—but budgets are shrinking, savvy technology teams must look beyond the traditional feature function aspect of a martech stack purchase.
Often overlooked but integral to a successful martech purchase, implementation, and subsequent use are what I will call the "auxiliary factors."
Martech purchases are often feature/function buys. A marketing leader may say, "According to the RFP comparison or pilot we ran, this martech stack has the most features and functions we need, so that's the one we will purchase."
However, there are now so many components to martech stacks—and so many vendors to potentially purchase from—that you have to account for factors beyond traditional feature functionality.
Here are five such factors to consider when choosing a new martech stack.
1. What is your ultimate goal for your martech stack?
Though your list of goals may be long, sample questions to ask may include...
- How will the martech suite integrate into my current ecosystem?
- Will it provide holistic customer understanding?
- Does it orchestrate journeys or does it blast campaigns?
- Is it operational or analytical in nature?
- How does it account for customer data from a privacy, regulation, and compliance perspective?
2. Do you need a niche or full stack?
Marketers do not operate as islands. To be successful, they rely on collaborations with departments across the organization—from R&D to Product Management to Presales to Consulting. And just as their job function is not siloed, their tools can't be, either.
A martech stack that is not enterprise-scale and doesn't integrate with upstream and downstream marketing technologies can present huge headaches to marketing and technology teams. Data movement can be difficult. Transporting information and content from one system to the next in an automated fashion can be nearly impossible.
As marketing transformation accelerates and niche solutions continue to enter the landscape, marketers are turning to the relative safety of an integrated or full-stack suite approach. That approach allows organizations to rely primarily on a single vendor for multiple interconnected capabilities.
A full 59% of 400 marketing leader respondents reported turning to integrated suites when selecting marketing technologies, Gartner's 2020 Marketing Technology Survey found—an increase from just 29% the year prior.
Choosing a vendor that provides multiple interconnected capabilities—journey management, decisioning, measurement, optimization, and data capabilities—seems to be the trend of the future due to the security, convenience, and interoperability that a single vendor can provide.
3. How proficient is its data collection and management?
Not surprisingly, data collection and management remain a challenge for marketers. In the same survey referenced earlier, one of the top impediments to increased martech use was "lack of a strong customer data foundation," and 23% of respondents cited it as a top obstacle. Even though 87% had deployed or were in the process of deploying a customer data platform (CDP), data woes still existed among respondents.
That's because although a CDP has four primary capabilities—data ingestion, identity management, segmentation, and data provision and activation—it doesn't solve all of the data quality, data movement, and data integration issues that may still exist. And sitting right downstream from data is analytics. With bad data comes poor analytical insight.
As you consider factors that may affect your martech success, consider the robustness (or lack thereof) of the data and analytic capabilities that come (both out-of-the-box and through installation) with the suite. If data management isn't built-in along with some basic CDP-style functionality, you may have to make an additional purchase.
4. What are the suite's analytic capabilities?
Perform an audit of the analytical capabilities included with the stack versus the ones you need. Nothing is worse than outgrowing a suite within a year or two because it doesn't have the modeling, optimization, advanced decisioning, or machine-learning capabilities you need as your organization's marketing use cases mature.
5. How are the services and partner ecosystem?
Though they aren't always discussed in detail prepurchase, a vendor's service offerings, consulting services, and broader partner ecosystem have lasting effects on martech success.
Service offerings often provide a quick way for new purchasers of martech suites to get them up and running. They allow for content to be created and customized for your business—and for time to value to often be reduced. Service offerings are usually delivered via the selling vendor, so they are worth asking about during the purchase process.
Along with quick service offerings come the often longer, phased consulting services. It's important to choose a vendor who works with consulting providers both large and small, across geographies.
Consulting services come in many different forms as well—from data to marketing to technology to application consulting. You'll want to ask about them and whether you have easy access to the consultants. Often, consulting services can serve as staff augmentation, allowing your organization to implement new modules or use cases quickly and go further, faster.
Consulting services also play into the final point of this section: a provider's partner ecosystem. Having a broad partner ecosystem allows a vendor to deliver its clients a wide selection of providers for additional, perhaps nonstandard martech suite capabilities.
Whether for adding third-party data to customer profiles, implementing integrated applications outside of the core suite (think channel, advertising, or service related), or adding new technology components to support the marketing ecosystem buildout, a vendor's partner ecosystem plays a vital role. And so it, too, is worth inquiring about.
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If you and your team find yourselves evaluating marketing technologies, look beyond basic feature/functions to the five auxiliary areas discussed in this article. Though they may seem trivial at first, having a good sense of your options in those areas will make martech life much less complicated.
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