Scissors with words CUT COST word written on wooden background - martech bloat concept
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A marketing technology stack, or martech stack, is the combination of software and services that brands use to build relationships with their customers at different stages of the customer journey across all of their channels. The martech stack is typically comprised of CRM, WCM, DAM, analytics, advertising, CDP, CMP, and various disparate tools and platforms.

As enterprises grow, their martech stack grows with it, often to the point where it becomes a burden to effectively use the various components and platforms. Consider that for two years Gartner has reported that marketers are only making use of 58% of their martech stack. This article will look at the ways a brand can unify and streamline its martech stack to make it effective and efficient once again.

Reasons for Martech Bloat

Sheryl Schultz, founder, president, and COO of CabinetM, a martech stack management platform provider, is in a unique position of understanding the challenges of martech bloat. Schultz said that many brands have no centralized records about the technology that they are using, how well it’s being used, and how the tools are performing. “At best, that information is in spreadsheets, productivity tools, PowerPoint slides, and on scraps of paper. Because of this, marketers have no visibility to what is available and who owns it. So, they continue to buy software haphazardly without centralized oversight.”

This results in software and platforms being added without regard for the use and performance of the tools the brand is currently employing, content is often stored in disparate systems and many platforms don’t communicate with one another, all of which contribute to martech bloat. “There are a lot of numbers kicked around for the size of martech stacks, but the large organizations ($1B+ in revenue) we see have at least 100 products they are using to acquire, engage and retain customers, and support CX,” she explained. As far back as 2017, a report from ChiefMartech indicated that the average enterprise was using 91 marketing cloud services. Clearly, martech bloat has continued to be a problem for enterprise businesses.

The cause and effect often stems from the fact that many brands don’t have a core, central platform that acts as the hub for a brand’s martech stack, with additional software being used as the spokes around the hub. This results in disjointed, siloed martech systems that don’t work well in conjunction with one another, resulting in extra effort, work, and time being spent attempting to move from one tool to another.

Related Article: Martech Stacks Are Being Underutilized By Marketers, How Much Does It Matter?

Martech Purchasing Strategies

Tony Byrne, founder of the Martech Stack Leadership Council at Real Story Group suggested that brands avoid overbuying from the major martech suite vendors, as they are going to encourage brands to bundle multiple platforms, whereas the best value and fit for a brand is often achieved by purchasing items individually.

Byrne said that brands may not be able to avoid overlapping capabilities, but they can be reduced by focusing on core services, “rather than what a vendor labels their platform. Lots of tools call themselves ‘Marketing Automation Platforms,’ but do different things in real life. Conversely, the same capability can go by multiple names. So focus on what any platform actually does for you, and then see where you have overlaps.” Byrne emphasized that brands should not purchase technology based on what he referred to as 'love at first sight.' “This still happens all too often in martech,” he said. “Always, always test tools against competing offerings. And there are always competing offerings.”

The martech stack should be designed around the customer data requirements and objectives of a brand. Common objectives of a brand include increasing productivity, enhancing the customer journey, reducing costs, increasing sales and conversions, and increasing ROI. By clearly understanding the objectives of a brand, the needs of each department, and deciding how the technology can support these objectives, a brand is in a better position to create a martech stack that is effective, efficient, and free from bloat.

“Building a martech strategy should start by identifying the business and marketing objectives brands are hoping to achieve, and then defining and mapping the marketing functions that will need to be supported by technology for each objective,” Schultz said. “Generating an objective-driven requirements framework adds value throughout the many stages of auditing, building, and maintaining a martech stack.”

Many brands just jump right in and start purchasing platforms without fully understanding what their objectives are. Schultz said that is often what begins the process of martech bloat. “When companies eliminate this step, the result is often a bloated technology stack filled with overlapping functionality in multiple stack layers, underutilized tools and greater cost.”

Essential Martech Components

While each brand will have specific objectives that require technology designed with those objectives in mind, there are some core components that are typically part of every brand’s martech stack.

  • Digital Asset Management (DAM): A system that stores, shares and organizes digital assets and manages digital rights and permissions.
  • Email and Marketing Automation: A platform or service that facilitates triggered or timed marketing emails to customers.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM): A platform that enables the process of managing interactions with existing, past, and potential customers.
  • Customer Data Platform (CDP): A collection of software which creates a unified customer database that is accessible to other systems, and enables a single customer view for each customer.
  • Analytics Tools: Software or services that facilitate the systematic computational analysis of data or statistics, which are then used to make strategic marketing decisions.
  • Lead Management: A set of methodologies, systems, and practices designed to generate new customers.
  • Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Platforms: though many brands define an ECM in different ways, an ECM is essentially a set of tools that are used to capture, store, preserve and deliver digital content and documents related to organizational processes.
  • Social Media Management: Tools and services that are used to facilitate the process of managing a brand’s online presence on social media platforms by creating, publishing, and analyzing social media content.

The decision as to which core components should be part of the Martech stack is not as challenging as determining which technology platforms should be used versus other platforms, especially if many of the features are overlapping, as is the case of the CRM vs. the CDP, for instance. Both are used to gain a greater, omnichannel view of the customer, but each has its own merits.

Cory Munchbach, COO at BlueConic, a CDP provider, told CMSWire that CDPs are able to work in conjunction with any Martech stack, and are often considered to be the hub around which all other technology is connected. “Interoperable and system-agnostic by design, a CDP can work in the context of almost any martech stack,” she said.

Understanding why a brand would want to use one technology over or alongside another is a key to eliminating martech bloat, rather than contributing to it. Munchbach said that brands should be describing to vendors what they are trying to accomplish, why it is currently a challenge, and why it is important, which enables vendors to explain why their solution can deliver the desired objective. 

How to Solve Martech Bloat Issues

Schultz said that the first step to eliminating martech bloat is for brands to make an honest assessment of the technology they are using, are going to use, or have used for marketing purposes. “To truly eliminate bloat, we recommend organizations start with a simple audit of their martech stack to compile a list of all the tools they are using,” she said. “In addition to the tools they are using, organizations should also track the tools that are being evaluated, and those that have been retired, to get full visibility to all the technology they are touching.”

The process continues by documenting the function, performance and cost for each tool, at which point they are organized based on the function they play in marketing, Schultz explained. “As companies start to organize by marketing function, they are able to see, sometimes for the first time, how much overlapping functionality exists across multiples tools — a great opportunity to eliminate.”

By using what Schultz refers to as Stack Management Methodology, she said that brands are able to eliminate 20% of their spend, allowing them to reallocate those funds to their bottom line. Schultz’ Stack Management Methodology process entails the following steps:

  • Audit and manage the marketing technology being used, tested, or retired.
  • Track acquired and internally developed technology.
  • Capture details about data flow and how tools are integrated; generate integration and data flow visualizations.
  • Map stacks to customer journeys, sales funnels, roadmaps and more.
  • Assess the performance of the technology being used, exposing critical gaps.
  • Eliminate redundant products, functions, and contracts, thereby reducing technology spend.
  • Create and share a single source of truth for the marketing technology that is currently in use.
  • Create auto-renewal reminders for technology contracts.

While Schultz’ CabinetM martech stack management platform greatly simplifies the process, her Stack Management Methodology is applicable and effective for all brands seeking to eliminate martech bloat.

Final Thoughts

As enterprise businesses grow, the technology they use for marketing grows with them, often to the point where it becomes bloated and inefficient. By designing the martech stack based on the objectives of the brand, using an efficient purchasing strategy, and incorporating a stack management methodology, brands can eliminate martech bloat, enhance the efficiency of marketing technology, and increase ROI.