The Martech Strategy Process
by Peter O’Neill, Research Director Research In Action.
On April 22nd, I co-presented the keynote at the GetStacked conference, hosted by the B2B Marketing organization on a virtual platform for the first time. My brief was to present the highlights from their new “How is Marketing’s Technology Stacking Up ?” research report, which I had authored. We had surveyed over 300 B2B marketers about Martech investment and development plans and also interviewed several marketing executives for in-depth background and insights.
Our survey collected some quite startling statistics. For example, only 13% of the respondents could confirm that their Martech stack was performing well for current and future needs. Nearly one third even consider their stack as poor and in dire need of expansion. The rest reported that their stack was currently adequate but needs developing for future needs, which sounds comforting … but only at first.
So ….. How can we explain this feedback?
Well, rampant digital transformation in the general business world has raised two distinct patterns of change for us B2B marketers. Firstly, we’ve had to adjust to communicating to the market through many new digital channels; and secondly, we ourselves have had to adopt a realm of new technologies to support our new business processes. I suspect that the pace of change in both areas has overwhelmed us somewhat.
Marketing organizations have reacted to these challenges in different ways.
- Some quickly adopted marketing automation platforms and assumed the processes pre-defined by that software. But often without process change management — employees were left unprepared.
- Others eagerly drew up, or had it drawn for them by consultants, an idealistic target Martech “stack” (a sort of architecture) and embarked on a buying binge of software subscription after software subscription to fill out their stack. The result? Well, mostly a collection of disparate, uncoordinated systems which is a headache to operate and manage.
- A further set of businesses ended up with the same result, not through a stack approach, but because all marketers in the organization were empowered to license their own tools as an operating expense. I have seen many times in my engagements, that a SaaS-Apps audit across the marketing departments invariably shows much more technology being used than originally assumed or planned.
In summary, a sense of urgency around digital marketing created a sort of arms race where much technology was being acquired tactically and often in response to brash promises made by marketing software vendors.
So, a sorry state of affairs. A combination of short-term thinking, ego buying, and uncontrolled vendor behavior has created a martech jungle for most B2B organisations. At this point, please allow me to provoke some thought into the discussion and suggest what is really missing in this story. You see, there was another question we posed in the survey – one that I often ask in my engagements as well – when helping marketers in their vendor selection process: “Do you have an agreed and documented martech strategy?”
I am always curious to see the current document on my client’s overall martech strategy. And my experience is similar to the survey result – only one out of five can even give me such a document to review. Now, 57% did say they are currently working on it, but we also asked what timeframe these plans were being laid out for – and a full quarter of the 57% responded that their strategy plan is for 6 or even just 3 months. Well, any strategy timeframe under a year is not a strategy at all – after all, any major Martech acquisition project will typically take 6-9 months from initial specification to vendor selection and that time period is followed by a similar block for project implementation.
I would expect a Martech Strategy to include several elements of planning, guidelines and frameworks. As the title implies, it includes the Technology Plan itself with a description of the current status (backed up by a recent technology audit) and a list and calendar of technology projects for the coming period (broken down into investment areas, make or buy decisions, status of technology acquisition, and an integrations project plan). It should also have a Process Re-Engineering Plan, discussing how it is planned to adopt the new digital marketing methods with the associated change management projects addressing migration and skills acquisition. And a Resources Plan (documenting staffing, recruitment, external assistance, and training).
Marketing has become primarily digital and requires technology to operate effectively and a suitable Martech infrastructure is required by every marketing department to achieve that goal. But equally, digital marketing also requires the appropriate organization and framework of business processes to be effective in operating and leveraging that infrastructure. A clear, strategic approach to the Martech stack is now critical to ensure that, ultimately, spending across the whole marketing budget is optimally invested.
The CMO or Marketing Director must assign this responsibility to a senior member of the marketing staff – a sort of Chief Marketing Technology officer perhaps. In larger organisations, a separate group for Marketing Operations is created to manage the technology – the leader of that group could be the owner of the Martech Strategy.
A Martech Strategy is needed as a framework for all marketing staff, and IT staff, who are involved with the technology. Digital means that there are many categories of marketing staff now involved internally and externally (at Digital Marketing Service Providers):
- marketing application end-users
- marketing operations staff
- executives who need reports and dashboards
- citizen developers of digital experiences or external marketing apps
- all those potential rogue buyers of marketing software (such as analytics) for individual use.
In a democratic modern business environment, there is no way to stop the individual investments, but establishing a framework for all will limit any potential damage that is caused (integration, security, non-compliance, privacy breaches).
The true value of a Martech Strategy is not that it is documented and placed on a booked shelf. It is in the meetings, communications and negotiations that are needed to develop the plan. That continuous dialogue helps everybody to understand the importance of planning and then aligning to that plan and will probably limit resource and integration issues in the future. A Martech Strategy should be a continuous work-in-progress and openly accessible to all of the marketing staff as listed above.
It’s the Process That Counts!
Always keeping you informed!