children's blocks in a stack: 1,2,3 and A,B,C

The marketing technology (martech) landscape, as monitored by Scott Brinker, is made up of 6,829 solutions from 6,242 vendors. That’s up from just 200 solutions in 2011.

What’s more, the martech sector attracted venture capital investments of more than $8.8 billion last year. For volume reasons alone, it should surprise no one that choosing and implementing the right mix of technology solutions remains a big challenge for marketers. From content and media management to workflow and collaboration tools to data analytics and reporting solutions, building (and managing) the perfect marketing technology stack can seem like a daunting task.

And yet even though according to Gartner martech spending is on the rise and outpacing advertising expenditures, it’s not uncommon for marketers to patch together a mix of free and low-cost systems that may work in the short term but won’t scale to meet enterprise-level needs. Here are four tips for building a successful martech stack.

1. Let Your Business Strategy Guide Your Choices

As is the case with any other investment, you will need to choose martech tools that match your business goals. Your go-to-market plan should dictate the set of marketing tools you will need in order to succeed.

For example, the tools necessary to successfully target a market of Global 2000 customers with chief financial officers as the key buying audience will likely be very different from the set of tools needed to support a mass play business-to-developer strategy. What is fairly obvious, whether you are a B2C or B2B company, is the need to manage and measure your engagement with customers and prospects and define the rest of the stack from there.

Marketers are increasingly using artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to gain rapid insights into customer and prospect activity to either reduce churn or improve conversion rates. Forbes reports that, according to Capgemini, three in four organizations implementing AI and machine learning increase sales of new products and services by more than 10 percent. Tools like Microsoft’s Azure Machine Learning, for example, can help companies analyze and reduce customer churn through risk prediction and intervention models.

Related Article: How to Future-Proof Your MarTech Stack

2. Focus on Alignment Between Marketing and IT

In the past, marketers deployed the tools they needed while the developers in the IT department talked with other developers to identify what they needed, and companies were left with several point solutions that fell short of a cohesive technology stack designed to work across the whole organization and support broader business goals. More recently, marketing and IT have figured out the necessary processes to make the stack actually work across the whole organization, and now more thinking is done in advance around all the various integration points, from and sales and marketing to customer support and service.

I don’t think it’s overreaching to say that success today means that the lines that once divided these teams are not just blurred but gone. For a marketing department to be successful, it must be armed with the data and intelligence gathered by and flowing from the systems capturing, managing, analyzing and delivering these new data sets. Likewise, developers and engineers must have a firm understanding of the intelligence needed to make the entire business successful. Utilizing the latest technology innovations to support business goals and improve outcomes involves shared objectives and responsibilities.

Because marketing has traditionally owned some tech tools, like digital asset management (DAM), those systems have tended to be siloed off from the rest of the company. But the C-suite has become aware of the fact that marketing technologies have the power to improve brand awareness, customer engagement and the overall customer experience, so systems that were once the sole purview of the marketing department are now more widely recognized as critical enterprise applications that must be more fully integrated into other systems. In this new environment, IT can offer valuable insights into how marketing’s preferred solutions can be integrated with other systems to benefit the entire organization at scale.

Are you considering a significant, long-term project that would impact your company’s core infrastructure, or are you considering an application that can be easily implemented to address your needs today? You should work with IT to determine the best course of action and develop a realistic timeline for deployment.

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

3. Build for Today With Tomorrow in Mind

The need to meet goals quickly can lead marketers to adopt seemingly simple, low-cost systems. For media management, for example, marketers can use Dropbox, Google Drive and Excel. Those tools might do the job just fine — for a while. But they likely will not be able to meet the needs of a company as it grows, forcing marketers to reassess, make adjustments and, often, start over.

And a system’s ability to scale isn’t the only thing to consider. You need to plan for an unknown future, of which scale is just one aspect. As you move upstream customerwise, you will need more sophisticated technical capabilities. Consider what tools you will need to support the business you’re building, not the one you’re running today. For example, while all potential customers care about the level of security you offer, larger organizations will likely require you to provide information about your security policies and certificates as part of the RFP process so they can determine whether you comply with, for example, SOC 2 or HIPAA standards.

Related Article: How to Both Simplify and Increase the Complexity of Your MarTech Stack

4. Plan for How You’ll Measure Success and Identify Failure

Define a set of key success metrics that both IT and marketing are aligned on and can work toward together. And, if possible, always make these metrics and goals a part of the organization’s agenda. Measuring success can feel impossibly hard, but working from an agreed-upon framework will help year after year.

In the end, companies that are successful develop marketing technology strategies from the outside in, based on what customers need, want and care about. Understand your customers, set near- and long-term goals, and implement the technologies that will support your business objectives with them in mind.