By: Heidi Bullock

Posted: March 24, 2016 | Modern Marketing

Earlier this week, the big marketing technology (MarTech) conference swept through San Francisco, giving marketers and technologists a sense of new and upcoming solutions, and what technologies are truly standing the test of time.

Every year when this time rolls around, I personally really look forward to Scott Brinker’s updated Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic.

MarTech Super Graphic

And every year, as I look at the graphic and sift through the landscape, I go through a series of emotions (and this year was no exception, with the number of MarTech solutions now reaching 3,874):

  • Excitement: Wow, this is a beautiful visualization of tech geek nirvana. I love it! Look at all of these new companies with interesting new offerings. And Scott has done a great job of categorizing the thousands of companies in a very elegant and organized way.
  • Pride: MarTech is real. Marketing has come a long way and I’m so proud that this area of business is getting the investment and attention it deserves. Several years ago, this would have looked like a few green peas on a big white plate, but today, it’s a satisfying meal–complete with mints when you are done eating.
  • Panic: Dear God, do I really need to know about all of these companies? Am I an incompetent marketer if I am not using all of the “latest and greatest”? How is my budget going to support another tool–and who on my team is going to run this thing? These concerns are real. It’s hard enough to come into the office every day and work on your day-to-day tasks, but more and more, marketers are challenged with being a technical landscape aficionado on top of it–and this is coming from someone who loves it!
  • Calm, Cool and Collected: Okay, stay cool. I have got this and I need to chill out.

It’s easy to get stuck in any one stage of the emotional journey, it’s critical to keep moving forward. While an entire book could be written on how to make sense of all of the MarTech solutions, let’s keep things simple for the purpose of this blog. Follow these three steps to navigate the ever-evolving MarTech landscape:

1. Build a Solid Foundation

It’s critical to have a few core solutions that represent the foundation of your ‘house’. A good way to think about this is to understand what will be your source of truth or system of record for your key functions. For many companies, this is often your marketing automation systems, customer database/CRM and content management system (CMS) .

This is an obvious point, but make sure you put energy and thought into this blueprint. The tools you put in place here are critical to getting set up correctly. For example, understand your data flow, rules, and data hygiene processes. Understand APIs and what is truly out-of-the box versus needing to bring in a team to complete your integration. It’s also helpful to connect with other companies similar to your own to see what they have done right and wrong–essentially, learn from their successes and mistakes.

2. Understand Where You Are and Where You’re Going

You need to know what the current state of your business is and where you plan to go. The majority of businesses are trying to grow–so make sure you consider this as you evaluate new solutions. It’s critical to think about tools that will grow with you, so you don’t have to rip-and-replace every other year. Some solutions are excellent for a small businesses, but then reach real limitations quickly.

Another important lens is understanding needs versus wants. What is mission-critical for your business? If customer marketing and referrals are important, you may need software to drive advocacy. Or, if this is in your future, build your stack knowing this could be an addition for next year.

3. Avoid a ‘Frankenstack’

Some of you might have seen what’s commonly referred to as a “Frankenstack”, a set of individual siloed tools that an organization tries to get to work together and ultimately results in a hot mess. It can happen to the best marketers, and it often happens because of rapid growth and a lack of planning or impulsive decisions (“Hey we can use it here!”). It is painful for IT, and it is painful for marketers. When this occurs, it is often more time consuming and expensive to fix. The key here is to have a plan, involve IT, and be honest about the resources you need to maintain and manage the solutions. This thoughtfulness will save a lot of grief in the future.

The ever-evolving sea of MarTech solutions can be overwhelming, but with the right plan in place, you can understand how to evaluate new solutions and avoid being swept away by “shiny new objects”.

Have you checked out the new Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic? What other tips do you have for evaluating these solutions for the best fit for your business?