By nearly every measure, marketing technology stacks are getting more cluttered. Stack leaders and ops managers need to manage a wider set of tools, across a growing number of channels, while getting bombarded with pitches for new capabilities from vendors and colleagues alike.

Meanwhile, stack leaders face pressure from business executives and sometimes IT leadership to rationalize their environments and justify incremental spend.

Could the Marie Kondo “KonMari” method — so famous for helping homeowners declutter their domiciles — show us how to tidy up our martech stacks? I think so.

The KonMari Approach to Martech

At its simplest, Marie Kondo’s “KonMari” approach to tidying up entails:

  • Organizing your possessions by category, not location.
  • Discarding anything that does not “spark joy.”
  • Finding a designated place for each remaining item and keeping it there.

Let’s consider this in the context of your martech stack.

Organizing Martech by Category, Not Room

Stack owners often refer to capabilities by vendor or product name. "Will it integrate with Salesforce?" is a common type of question I hear when advising a stack leader on certain new technology. Vendors prefer you think this way because it helps lock you in, but you are better served by evaluating the set of capabilities afforded by any platform.

Put another way: you need a drawer to put your workout clothes, not separate drawers for Under Armour vs. Nike sportswear. What services is Salesforce actually providing you? (Probably too many, but that’s another story.)

Email services provide a good example. The typical large enterprise that my firm, Real Story Group advises will send prospect and customer emails from multiple different platforms, including potentially:

  1. Email Service Provider
  2. Marketing Automation Platform
  3. Customer Data Platform
  4. Customer Relationship Management System
  5. Customer Success Management System
  6. Sales Enablement Platform
  7. Support Services
  8. Transactional Applications, including Ecommerce
  9. And more …

Each one of those platforms bolted on an email capability for seemingly good reasons, but now you’ve created a very cluttered environment for customer journey experience managers and likely customers too. Which brings us to the next question …

Related Article: Why Analytics Solutions Remain Core to the Slimmed Down DX Stack

Does It Spark Joy?

Martech leaders may have a hard time answering this now-famous question. We get excited about new capabilities and that’s partly why our stacks have expanded. In the example above, the ecommerce manager may indeed feel joy that she does not have to integrate with an enterprise-wide email platform to send real-time confirmation messages to customers, when that capability already comes built-in.

Yet, we have to ask: joy for whom?  Customers may not feel joyful upon receiving multiple, disconnected messages from your firm in a short time frame. A truly customer-centric enterprise will start at the glass and work backwards, rather than from incumbent tech platforms and work forwards. You could probably create more joy for your customers with one or two carefully orchestrated email services, spanning use cases from transactional to marketing to support.

And then we have to address the needs of colleagues who are actually getting work done, ideally in as agile a way as possible. Content marketers may not experience joy trying to craft multi-channel messages in your excessively heavyweight web content and experience management (WCM) platform. A campaign manager will never feel joyful trying to manually aggregate customer data from multiple different engagement silos. Taking a more services-oriented approach can help both.

Related Article: Cutting Back on the DX Stack Fat

Learning Opportunities

Finding the Right Place for Your Martech Services

In your stack, as in your household, this might become the hardest part. Where do we seat what capabilities? And who decides?

At RSG we’ve devised a reference model for where different services could fit in a generic stack.

Real Story Group reference guide for MarTech

The key word here is generic. This is a reference model, and when RSG works with subscribers inevitably it gets customized. Yet the principle holds: every service should have its place.

Next, let’s note what’s not there, at least initially: there are no logos. You can add logos later, after you figure out what key services you need to fulfill for effective prospect and customer experiences. When you do add logos, you may find a single platform provides multiple services, which may make good sense. Alternatively, you may find multiple platforms providing the same service, which may not make sense.

Either way, KonMari dictates you should be intentional in your choices. In my experience, these decisions are best made by a martech council with a customer-centric mandate and ample input from enterprise architects.

Note that this process does not push willy-nilly centralization as an end in itself. Indeed, at the end you may not see fewer vendors. After all, you may prefer Under Armour yoga pants but Nike socks. What you should aspire to over time is fewer overlapping services and capabilities you don’t need, and therefore ideally less spend with each vendor.

Related Article: Confessions of a Martech Tool Underachiever

Create a Martech Stack That's Right for You, Not for Vendors

Perhaps now you can begin to understand why some of the biggest martech vendors will push back against this strategy. The likes of Acoustic, Acquia, Adobe, Microsoft, Oracle, Salesforce, SAP, Sitecore, et. al. would have you organize your marketing technology not by item but by room — their room. This will certainly spark joy for their investors seeking excessive profits and customer lock-in, but it will not actually simplify your life and may well clutter your customers’ experience.

After years of helping martech leaders “find the designated place” for the services that spark joy, I’ve seen the outcomes become very enterprise-specific, just like your household may differ from your neighbor’s. It’s the process that matters, and Marie Kondo offers as good a process as any.

fa-solid fa-hand-paper Learn how you can join our contributor community.