pink flamingo float resting on water
PHOTO: Vicko Mozara

Summer is here and in the workplace that means quieter, (slightly) less hectic days as our colleagues come and go on vacation and our peers duck out of the office at more reasonable times to catch the last of the sun. 

For those of you buried in your marketing stack, summer is a perfect time to step back and do some housekeeping work to set yourself up for the year-end strategy and technology planning sessions that will be upon you before you know it. 

Every summer I take on one or two projects that aren’t necessarily mentally challenging, but are ones I know will fall to the bottom of the priority list once September rolls around when the pace once more picks up. This summer I’m creating a workbook to help my fellow marketers build and optimize their marketing stacks. I have all the content, but it is buried in whitepapers and PowerPoint presentations, so the challenge is pulling it all together into something that is coherent and useful.

Done right, these summertime tasks can also serve as restorative activities and bring you the peace of mind needed to tackle your end of year tasks.

Mental Break: Eliminate Zombie Products

Begin with an almost mindless task: identifying and eliminating zombie products, those products you subscribe to that no one is using. This generally means pouring over a number of credit card statements with a highlighter in hand to:

  • Identify all SaaS products.
  • Find their owners.
  • Determine if they are being used.
  • Eliminate the ones that are not being used.
  • Feel satisfied in a job well done.

You can do this alone if you are like me and enjoy some solitary quiet time, or in a group — preferably with cookies and lemonade.

A note about eliminating products: many times, zombie products exist far longer than they should because of auto-renewal clauses. If you uncover products that only exist because they were auto-renewed, it’s worth reaching out to the vendor and requesting a cancellation. I’ve only had one vendor refuse to work with me on this — most are very reasonable.

Related Article: What Do I Spend on MarTech This Year?

Game Time: Find the 'Dark Tech' in Your Organization

Now that you’ve eliminated the products no one is using, it’s time to get your hands around everything that is being used. First, get a handle on your "dark tech," the marketing technology that you’ve developed in house. When we first started our company we were surprised at how many companies had built their own unique marketing technology. Then we were surprised by how much of it they had built. It isn’t unusual for us to speak with companies where there is as much internally developed technology as acquired technology.  

The reason we call internally developed technology “dark tech” is that in many cases it’s not being tracked in the stack or isn't being tracked at all. That's fine, until something stops working in the stack and no one can figure out why. Surfacing dark tech can be tricky since many different organizations may be busy producing products and may like the anonymity they have around the technology they’ve developed. Time to create the “great summer scavenger hunt,” complete with prizes for additional incentive (my team will do anything for a free t-shirt or water bottle). 

  • Define the construct and rewards for the Dark Tech Scavenger Hunt. Be sure to include an immunity clause for anyone who has developed technology that could bring your whole stack crashing down.
  • Identify all dark tech elements: this could be a product (e.g. Tag Management System) or a block of custom code used to integrate off-the-shelf products.
  • For each dark tech element, record who created it, who supports it, the function it serves, what it is integrated with in the stack, and if there is a need or opportunity to replace it with an off-the-shelf product. You should also identify any risks associated with the use of the dark tech.
  • Make sure your dark tech is represented in your stack so it remains visible.
  • Achieve peace of mind.

Related Article: Take a Break From the Marketing Action to Think About Strategy

Arts and Crafts: Map Out Integrations

After swimming, arts and crafts was my favorite part of summer camp. Time to fire up Visio, Adobe Illustrator, PowerPoint or get out the stencils and color paper to plot the integration points between the various elements of your stack. Before you can begin to look at replacing products in your stack, you need to understand what connects with what so you don’t inadvertently pull out a product that is essential to the functioning of other products in your stack. Create an inventory that shows how all the products in your stack fit together.

The nice thing about this project is that doing it right will require speaking with your colleagues. It’s a great excuse to grab an iced coffee with someone you may not be able to spend time with during more hectic periods.

  • List your products.
  • Find their owners.
  • Identify what else they connect with.
  • Record how they connect (configuration option, API, custom code, via a third party vendor).
  • Produce a beautiful piece of art showing all the connections.
  • Make new friends.

Related Article: MarTech Sandwiches: A Tasty Approach to Integration Mapping

Back to School List: Create an Inventory to Identify Gaps 

Remember the fun of buying all your new school supplies at the end of the summer? I loved doing this as a child. As an adult I’ve come to recognize myself as a “hoarder of pens” and now force myself to do an inventory, write a list, and internalize the mantra “don’t buy what you don’t need” before I step into an office supply store.

The last bit of martech housekeeping to set you up for success in the fall is to do a functional review of every product in your marketing tech stack. Done well, this will set you up perfectly for defining and prioritizing new product needs for the last quarter and the next year. 

We’ve all heard the statistic that most companies use approximately 15 percent of a platform’s functionality. I’ve seen that validated in live environments over and over.  This is problematic on two fronts: first, you are not getting the maximum return on your investment on the platform you’ve acquired. Second, you run the risk of purchasing another platform to perform functions that your existing platform is a capable of handling, and in essence buying what you don’t need. The impact of buying unnecessary software can be devastating to your cost of customer acquisition, as your budget becomes inflated and performance and productivity potentially slows down as your team struggles to learn how to use more and more products. Time to do a functional inventory:

  • Identify all the products in your stack that could serve more than one purpose.
  • For each product, ask the owner to generate a list of the functions the product currently performs. Also ask for an assessment of how well it performs each function.
  • For each product, ask the owner to generate a list of the functions the product could perform that are not being utilized.
  • Compile all information into an easy to read document for use in technology planning meetings and share with your team. This should become the source document during discussions related to technology acquisition.
  • Feel in control.

There are many benefits to doing a functional inventory: 1. You may find you already have redundant functionality in your stack, and now you have the opportunity to eliminate a product or two to free up budget for something else. 2. When you define new stack requirements you may find that one or more of your products in combination can satisfy those requirements, and you can avoid a lengthy product evaluation and procurement process. 3. You may find some weak links in your stack that could be resolved by swapping out products.

With only a little extra effort and some fun along the way, you can do a lot this summer to set yourself up for a successful fall. And who knows, you might find some peace and tranquility along the way.