Marcel Duy, Product Director, Digital Business Planning at IKEA
This blog was adapted from BrandMaker’s: “Marketing Ops Now” podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.
When talking about Martech solutions and stacks, we notice there are many myths out there. As a marketing operations manager, you’ll probably be able to share a handful of myths of your own. Let’s list the ones we ran into over the years. We hope it will raise the maturity of the Martech conversation in your organization.
Often marketing teams argue they need one system to cover all activities of the marketing function, such as lead generation, CRM, social media, programmatic ad buying, dashboards, web analytics, etc. Having one system in place is more economical. Besides, automatically all data is stored in one place. That makes it easier to create dashboards and reports.
Although that sounds reasonable, research shows that the more solutions in a stack the more mature the users perceive their stack. Perhaps you should look into best-of-breed solutions.
The maturity levels are based on the 5 levels of the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) as defined by Carnegie Mellon University. The maturity levels are also covered in an earlier article and podcast. The maturity levels are based on research where an important finding was that the more standardized goals and businesses processes were, the more automation-ready the organization was.
Source: Frans Riemersma wrote an article on LinkedIn about Martech Stack Size vs Maturity.
Let’s break that myth in half: ‘the best tool’ and ‘right from the start’. There is no such thing as ‘the best tool’. There is only the right solution for your company’s challenge. It is your task to formulate that challenge as succinctly as you can.
And even if the best tool would exist, it probably would not be usable ‘right from the start’. All teams have to go through a ‘try and learn’ process. All the companies with successful Martech stacks, interviewed in the Marketing Tech Monitor, published in May 2021, mention the use of a minimal viable product (MVP) approach.
Nowadays solutions can be more easily switched on and of. With the MVP approach, the team can get used to functionality in a piecemeal fashion, and switch it off it does not do the job.
Whereas solutions can be put to use overnight, the same cannot be said about Martech stacks. Research from the Marketing Tech Monitor shows that the more mature companies are, the more time they had to collect and try solutions to cover the required competencies. Also, the companies with more mature stacks are very advanced in setting up internal processes and their Martech landscape. The companies that positioned themselves as mature Martech leaders report that building Martech stacks is more like a long-distance flight. It’s an evolutionary path.
Research from the Marketing Tech Monitor shows that the opposite is happening. The more mature marketing operations stacks are, the more they go for best-of-breed solutions. Instead of having one solution covering all the needs of the entire marketing department in one module, there are several solutions in place. Those modules or solutions are usually the most successful products or services in a particular area in the market.
Implementing a solution will not automagically structure the internal business processes. Sometimes processes are not structured enough to be automated. This is what the Capability Maturity Model (CMM) research, mentioned earlier, revealed.
Scott Vaughan, former CMO of Integrate Inc., states: “only use technology to scale what you have figured out”. A platform does not run by itself. It does not automate your processes, no matter what platform you choose. It takes an architect to engineer processes and configure solutions.
As said, “It takes an architect to engineer processes and configure solutions”. Not once, but on an ongoing basis. All the companies with more advanced stacks mentioned in the Marketing Tech Monitor that a well-functioning Martech stack does not come overnight. Most of them have spent a couple of years in terms of defining KPI frameworks, data models, processes, critical interaction points with customers, and -let’s not forget- the right set of tools.
Covering all the marketing processes with the software solution will result in long implementation times. But what is worse, it will not bring you value (in time). Focus instead on what you’re trying to achieve. That helps to find the business-critical processes that have a real business impact. It is likely the 80-20 Pareto rule applies to the relevance of the business processes too. Understand how the customer journey works and find the corresponding data points. Then reverse engineer the processes and then automate the critical parts of your process.
If partners run your Martech stack you risk creating dependencies. If the partner is solving a capacity challenge then you are safe. But if the partner is solving a deficit of expertise to run the process or solution, then there could be a challenge.
Another challenge is that brand knowledge, materials, and customer data are not directly available to the company. This limits the learning curve related to the customer experience.
In the Marketing Tech Monitor, many successful companies shared a preference for an in-house solution. Partners were not excluded. Some partners were insourced to run the in-house solution. This allowed them to benefit from the expertise of the agency while building up know-how internally.
All the companies that were interviewed for the Marketing Tech Monitor admitted they embraced a learning journey. They accepted that not everything would be defined 100% upfront. They welcomed learning and testing cycles, and of course failures, as long as they learned from them.
Martech stacks are never done. Successful companies report that for up to 10 years they have been in a continuous evolution of marketing tech tools. Many solutions came and went. Sometimes because a solution was simply not a fit for the stack. Sometimes because a solution was no longer a fit for the business model adapted to new market conditions. These companies always focussed on a flexible integration architecture. Strong integration points give the flexibility to quickly on- and offboard tools.
We have all been sold the dream that technology is going to solve it all. And we all know that’s not true. Strategy comes first. Technologies only enable the processes that execute our strategy.
Also, we have there is the human aspect of how tech-savvy teams are. Marketing operations specialists can really speed up the value we created from a robust Martech stack. Marketing operations run complex platforms, enhance the teams’ competencies, run internal academies, set up training curriculums, and -most importantly- align execution with strategy.
BrandMaker’s “Marketing Ops Now” podcast series has officially started. In each podcast industry luminaries and deep thinkers share valuable marketing ops ideas for both management and marketing executives (some worth stealing).
For every podcast in the series we’ll do a blog post to share the highlights with you. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.