As the martech landscape continues to grow, marketing companies of all sizes are learning the value of building a great marketing stack. But one mistake that a lot of them make is putting their focus in the wrong place.
During this week’s Dreamforce 2016 conference in San Francisco, speakers Scott Brinker of ion interactive — and the MarTech conference chair — and Travis Wright of MediaThinkLabs both emphasized that the place to begin building a marketing stack isn’t with marketing tools; it’s with your customer.
“It’s about the customer experience. You don’t start with the tool,” Wright said. “The tools are the thing at the end. You start with what problems can you solve for your customers, and then you ask which tools can help you do that.”
Brinker told the audience that the best yardstick for choosing marketing tools is to look at how they help you reach customers across different channels.
But Brinker added one caveat to that customer-first advice. With the martech industry growing so quickly and new vendors and tools constantly entering the space, he said it’s important for marketers to devote at least some attention to new opportunities.
“I think taking maybe five percent of your time to be more exploratory is good,” Brinker said. “What’s out there that I don’t know about? What new ways exist for me to reach my customers? So, spend maybe 95 percent [of your time] focusing on customers, and the other five percent looking at some of the shiny new objects out there.”
Here’s a recap of some of the other tips Brinker and Wright shared about how to build a marketing stack.
How do you know when you need a new marketing tool?
For Brinker, “it’s about pain points.” He told a story about how his own company was developing its stack and realized that they were facing data quality challenges. When that pain point became obvious, they knew it was time to look for new tools.
Wright said one of the challenges here is whether to build something in-house or go out and look for a vendor. If the latter, he said, “it’s a matter of mapping out what you want to accomplish and finding out what tools exist. There is no ‘one stack fits all.’ Every martech stack is like a snowflake.”
Should you invest more in martech tools or people?
Both Wright and Brinker emphasized the need to focus on people.
“This space is still so new and nascent,” Wright said, “and for a lot of it there are no experts! Training people is so, so important — having a culture of learning in your oganization.”
Brinker advised the audience to spend more money on people than tools.
“Sure, you want to spend on the software,” he said, “but you also have to spend on the support people. Avinash Kaushik, the analytics expert, years ago proposed a 90-10 split — you should spend 90 percent on teaching your people how to leverage analytics and 10 percent on the tools. We could quibble over the exact numbers, but I agree that the money invested in the actual software should be the smallest part of the equation.”
How do you vet martech vendors?
Both Brinker and Wright talked about the value of social proof when vetting martech vendors — i.e., look for reviews from real customers to help decide which tools are a good fit. But both also offered some additional tips to help make sure the vetting process is a success.
Brinker cited one tip from fellow marketing technologist David Raab. “One thing he recommends when companies are selecting martech is to write down specific scenarios for things you want to do with the software. Map it out, so when you get into the demo you can ask the salesperson, ‘Can you walk us through this scenario?’ Evaluate several vendors through this same objective lens. It’s not just about what features they have, but how would those features work in practice for our organization?”
Wright agreed on the value of having specific use cases in mind when doing a vendor demo, and he shared a few other tips, too: “Check out [the vendor’s] team. How stable are they? Have key people left the company? This happens, and organizations die on the vine because top talent leaves and the product isn’t going to be supported as much. I also check out Glassdoor before I buy a technology because I want to see what employees are saying about the company. If a lot of them are complaining, it may not bode well for the company’s future.”
And Brinker also warned the audience about trying to predict the future when vetting vendors.
“I think you have to accept that this industry is in continuous flux,” he said. “The tools required today are different from five years ago, and five years from now I bet they’ll be different, too. You want to vet a vendor for sure, but trying to create a road map that goes five years out is going to be very difficult.”