2015-30-April-Double-Frankenstein.jpg

Marketers have hundreds of marketing technology choices, which can make choosing the right ones for your business overwhelming. Making the right decisions can have huge impact on the future of your brand.

Dr. Frankenstein had choices, too. He made the wrong choices. He built a monster and, then he lost control of it. Don't be Dr. Frankenstein. Don't lose control of your technology.

Whether you buy a marketing cloud solution or elect to build one yourself, you need to understand how to avoid creating a Frankenstein monster (to borrow Travis Wright's term).

These five practices are a sure-fire way to build a marketing technology Frankenstein--a platform that will hinder your marketers more than it'll help them. Avoid these at all costs.

Make Technology Decisions for Non-Technology Reasons

Why did you pick that SaaS application for whatever purpose? Was it the best solution or did you just do it, because you could sign up without IT sign off?

It's the classic story--the debate about who controls marketing technology--marketing or IT. And, unfortunately marketers are making technology decisions simply to circumvent the IT department.

People often make technology decisions for reasons that have little to do with the technology. They make political decisions. They make emotional decisions. They make decisions, because of some allegiance to a brand.

Some of that is okay--a natural part of being a human who has to make decisions. Too much of it is poisonous.

Your marketing technology platform should do two things. It should facilitate the customer experience and support marketing strategy execution. Acting for reasons that don't fall into one of those categories (e.g. political ones) means you build things that don't help move the organization forward.

If a technology isn't adding strategic value to your platform, it's removing value from it.

Grow Too Fast...or Too Slow

Every day should be a struggle between two forces: tried and true traditional technologies and strategies versus innovative, new ones. The tension between those forces is critical.

If you move too fast--adopting every shiny new toy that the media claims is the "next thing"--you end up with a hodgepodge of unproven technologies powering unproven ideas. And, because you had to move so fast to keep up, you probably didn't think about how they do or don't fit into the big picture. You just stapled them together.

On the other hand, you can't just do what you've always done. You need to learn, experiment, and evolve. You need to improve. Refusing to implement newer, unproven strategies means you are always a step behind. You are using Flash when everyone else is using HTML5.

This is classic "stay the course" thinking. Choosing to do nothing, simply because you don't know what to do, is a poor choice.

When architecting your marketing technology platform, make it a dual operating system. Build a foundation of proven technologies (and accompanying strategies), and build in the agility to test newer, innovative technologies.

Jascha Kaykas-Wolff's and Kevin Fann's book (which I highly recommend), "Growing Up Fast" introduced the term "dual operating system" in the context of building an organization.

Define Problems in Terms of Technology Needs

Needing a marketing automation platform isn't your business problem; your lack of a scalable way to interact with contacts is. Just as needing a new content system isn't your business problem. It's that you're struggling to update your digital content in a timely, accurate manner.

Defining business problems in terms what technology your organization needs is putting the cart before the horse. It causes you to make poor technology choices that you will need to work around in the future.

Technologists of all kinds understand the pain of having the wrong solution in place. You have to build customizations that violate best practices. You have to tell business users to do things differently than the technology vendor intended. It all has a "bad smell".

Be disciplined about defining business problems before selecting technologies. (I'll even admit that this is really hard to do.) That discipline reduces the risk of selecting technologies that you'll have to code around someday.

Build Tightly Coupled Integrations

Building tightly coupled integrations between two technologies means that you've fused them together with implementation. You hardcoded things that should be configurable or pluggable. You shared context across technologies that shouldn't share context.

There are many ways to tightly couple an integration, and all of them will paralyze your technology platform.

Here's a good example: If you hardcode your web analytics tags into your content management system templates, what happens when you need to change them? What if you want to use a new analytics platform? You have to update and deploy code, which is risky and expensive. You tightly coupled your CMS to your analytics platform.

You could have just used a tag management system (TMS) and made the change in a few clicks. The TMS, which serves the purpose of integrating technologies, decouples the CMS from the analytics platform.

Building loosely coupled integrations is about building for the present and the future. Don't just get it done to get it done. Think about the possibility for change. Always ask, "What if we need to undo this tomorrow?"

Solve Problems in Isolation

Marketing in 2015 is crazy and dynamic. There are lots of things you can do--a lot of which you should do and a lot of which you shouldn't. Many of them are small and tactical. Others are huge and earth-shaking.

Nothing in marketing happens in a vacuum. Recognize the marketing technology platform is a system. And, systems thinking shows that optimizing the individual parts of the system (in isolation) does not optimize the system as a whole.

If you only implement the best content management system, the best programmatic ad platform, the best marketing automation platform, and the best CRM, you probably didn't implement a holistically "best" technology stack.

The marketing technology platform must balance tactical strategies with the overall vision. And, the facets must have the ability to communicate. Otherwise, you have a whole bunch of technologies that work really well on their own, but poorly together.

Don't be Dr. Frankenstein

Dr. Frankenstein created a monster. He cobbled parts together into something that worked, but hideously. And, in the end his monster caused more than a few problems.

The diversity in today's marketing technology landscape make building a Frankenstein pretty easy. With the right strategies and a systems thinking perspective, you can avoid building a monster. Instead, build a technology platform that fuels your organization's growth.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by  IowaPolitics.com