When Robert and Kate Kestnbaum first had the novel idea to pioneer database marketing in the 1980s, little did they know that history would eventually look back on them as the architects of a multi-billion dollar industry: marketing technology.

Roughly 35 years later, MarTech has exploded, now comprising more than 4,000 technologies that offer solutions to both traditional and contemporary impediments in the sales cycle.

Overall, the industry has grown by a surreal 2500 percent since 2011, and its 43 categories of products now drive $25 billion to $30 billion in revenue annually.

The Devolution of MarTech

Today, with so many MarTech options available, marketers find themselves in a constant state of stack iteration.

In fact, what once was widely regarded as an exciting endeavor, building the right mix of marketing tools, has devolved into a never-ending process in which marketers struggle to comprehend one product’s value from the next.

At the same time, marketers are under constant pressure to grow their stacks with technologies that enhance workflow efficiency and productivity, improve the user and customer experience and ultimately, expedite the sales cycle.

According to the market research firm econsultancy, “51 percent of organizations use 21 or more digital marketing solutions — a 42 percent increase from three years ago.”

Companies such as MyStacks have launched to help “make sense of it all,” while the more cynical refer to the market saturation as the MarTech Muddle.

Scott Brinker — editor of ChiefMarTec.com, chair of the MarTech Conference, creator of the Marketing Technology Landscape supergraphic, co-founder and CTO of Ion Interactive and author of the newly released book Hacking Marketing — may have said it best: “There’s just too many damn tools out there. No one can keep up.”

Overall, the majority of differentiation claims made by MarTech companies are probably not compelling or distinct enough to drive the amount of business needed to survive. However, as long as marketers are responsible for building and sustaining the “ultimate” stack for their companies, it is unlikely that the industry will signal any signs of decline.

Earning a Spot in the Stack

The challenge for marketers is to establish a disciplined procurement process in which technology is thoroughly vetted and critiqued for user experience and prospective return-on-investment (ROI).

Here are three tips to make this process your own. Using them will help you define a procurement strategy that values a stack of quality, over quantity, for years to come.

Vet the Salesperson Before the Technology

MarTech salespeople, for the most part, are excellent at understanding technology pain points, but are often ineffective at comprehending the needs and challenges specific to individual organizations.

This discrepancy can drive marketers crazy, effectively disenfranchising them from the sales experience before it ever truly begins.

As a first step to determining whether or not a new technology is right for your stack, challenge the salespersons business savvy as it relates to your industry and business. If they can cite specific examples of how their solution helped solve similar problems and fulfill similar needs, than their tech might be worth another look.

Decline the Demo, Even if Interested in the Product

Peter Cohen, managing partner of SaaS Marketing Strategy Advisors put it bluntly, noting, Most demos are useless. They usually don't help the prospective customer make a good choice. They just confuse and bore them.”

Yet the default move of most MarTech salespeople is the demo. The problem, however, is that ease-of-use, user experience, and of course, ROI cannot be identified in a 30- or 60-minute screen share.

Instead of wasting an hour of your life that you can never get back, demand a full-access unpaid trial of at least 15 days, but ideally 30. Arrange for the trial to allow for multiple users so that every stakeholder can test the product, report on their experience and provide thorough feedback. If the vendor will not agree to a free trial period, consider it as a major red flag and move on.

Own the Expectations Game

According to an article in Tech Republic, “the earlier you make your expectations clear to the vendor, the sooner you will find out if and how they can be met.”

Whether you’re considering a new social listening tool, CRM or marketing automation program, leverage your team to establish a set of expectations. In addition, don’t be afraid to tell the vendor what other vendors they are up against — it can help them define their differentiators, provide better case studies and sometimes they even reveal competitive intelligence.

Ultimately by owning the expectations, you’ve put the burden on the salesperson to figure out a way, within a short period of time, to transform their perceived value into a clear picture of how tangible, breakthrough results can be achieved.

Title image "iteration" (CC BY 2.0) by surfzone