From dealing with legacy tech to determining whether to adopt a software suite approach or a best-in-breed strategy, getting a handle on the growing complexity of marketing technology should be a major focus for all organizations.

Put simply, a martech stack can make or break an organization. Putting together the right set of tools and technology, however, can be a challenge for today's CMO. With many moving targets in the industry around customer data rights and availability, the task can be overwhelming.

"As marketing continues to become more omnichannel driven, CMOs must work to knock down siloes by moving away from disconnected software products or channels and toward a holistic connected platform-based solution," said David Skinner, chief strategy officer for Acxiom.

This approach, he said, powers a free-flowing data exchange between legacy and new tools, systems and channels while enabling businesses to easily add, remove or swap out martech tools to suit their changing needs.

Legacy Stacks as Living Organisms

“It’s helpful to look at legacy stacks as living, breathing platforms rather than static tools," said Skinner. "Martech stacks are a collection of software, services and systems that work together to manage, implement, measure and improve a brand’s marketing efforts."

He pointed out that, like all tools, consistent upkeep is a must.

"Prioritizing routine stack audits can give CMOs a clear picture of what’s working today to determine what changes might be necessary for the future. And, as the business grows, and new tools emerge — including those available in the cloud — CMOs have the essential insight to streamline and modernize their stacks to meet current and future marketing needs."

Glassbox CMO Asim Zaheer explained that there have been a lot of new technologies and capabilities recently introduced that have the potential to significantly improve a CMO’s efficiency and impact.

"The challenge is that there is so much martech available now and so many vendors offering very specialized niche solutions, it can become very overwhelming and confusing very quickly," he said. "Clearly understanding the martech landscape of solutions is the biggest challenge — which ones best serve your specific needs, how they integrate into your existing ecosystem and at what cost."

From Zaheer's perspective, CMOs should start simple by building off their core components, customer relationship management (CRM), marketing automation and website infrastructure. "Ensure you have your core capabilities…covered and properly integrated.”

From there, you can evaluate what business requirements you have and build the stack — email, social, retargeting, sentiment analysis, analytics, etc.

"Evaluate based on simplicity to integrate with your core components, time and effort to implement and ability to manage seamlessly," Zaheer said.

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IT, Sales Operations Among Key Martech Stakeholders

Zaheer explained that IT and sales operations are key stakeholders that should be brought into the process during business requirements definition and technology evaluation.

"It's important to ensure you have anticipated any technical issues with integration or security early on, as well as changes that may be required for structure of data flowing between systems and databases," he said.

Skinner agreed that input from various stakeholders is critical when building an effective martech stack.

Learning Opportunities

"Externally, advisors who work across multiple marketers can bring a broad point of view," he explained. "Internally, a CMO should consult with the chief revenue officer on sales goals to drive greater ROI and efficiency within the stack."

Teams should also coordinate with the chief data officer and/or chief analytics officer to ensure the organization uses the best data and has the right metrics in place to measure what is and isn’t working.

Skinner added that a CMO must also tap the chief privacy officer to define the ethics and protection around data collection and use. Finally, marketing teams should loop in the chief information officer/chief information security officer for data security and strategic planning for future tech.

Best of Breed vs. Single Vendor

When considering whether to use different vendors for various tech and services or pull the trigger on one giant suite of services from a single vendor, Zaheer said he would recommend a "best of breed" approach.

"There are a lot of new innovations out there that one single vendor cannot provide," he noted. "And the level of integration between vendors is improving."

He added that it’s important to get a handle on martech now because if you don't, you’ll be left behind by your competition. "Companies in all industries are moving fast, especially in this digital world we are all operating in.”

He pointed out that everyone is looking to gain a competitive advantage through data, more precise targeting and faster response to potential leads. "It's important to continually look at the latest innovations and determine if they enhance your marketing performance. Start with the core and build from there."

Skinner said most large brands select a primary vendor for martech, one for adtech and another for data management.

"When it comes to choosing between a best-of-breed or suite approach, it comes down to a brand's circumstances, resources and existing martech stack," he explained. "The martech space is constantly changing, with new entrants all the time."

Point solutions, Skinner said, are great for being on the cutting edge or trying new things — but they should still be connected. "Your stack should be built on functionality and flexibility and easily integrate for a frictionless experience. For long-term success, look for a strategic partner who can help connect and manage your stack."