(Last Updated On: September 22, 2021)

You invest on marketing technology platforms thinking it would be an asset to your marketing operations.

But, did you know those assets could turn into liabilities, when not managed right?

Asset vs Liability

I’m sure you don’t want your assets turning into liabilities.

But how confident are you that your MarTech platforms won’t turn into liabilities?

Fortunately, there are some indicators that will tell you whether your MarTech platforms are turning towards becoming liabilities or not.

And getting them back on track is just within your capabilities, particularly in the way you manage those platforms.

Let’s look at those indicators - .

#1 You underutilize MarTech platforms

Whenever there is a pressing need for a marketing technology solution, you just go ahead and buy / subscribe to it.

MarTech Features

Source: Ascend2

However, many times the MarTech platforms are just underutilized.

Marketers in North America and the UK report using only 58% of their MarTech stack’s full capabilities, according to Gartner’s 2019 Marketing Technology Survey.

In our experience, usually underutilization happens at two levels.

  • You have access to a MarTech platform. But you don’t use it to the fullest.
  • You don’t know you have access to a MarTech platform and never use it at all.

You have access to a MarTech platform. But you don’t use it to the fullest.

You invest in top martech companies platforms with an intention to gain marketing mileage. But, what is the use if the platform that you just procured is used in the wrong way.

For example,

  • If you are building entire web pages as HTML and deploy inside CMS so that those pages will get served from the CMS, then you are underutilizing it. This inhibits your ability to personalize content in various sections of your website. The purpose of having a CMS is to build chunks of content inside CMS so that it can assemble the web page and serve.
  • If you are using a multichannel marketing automation platform to run only email campaigns, then you are underutilizing it. By using just one channel for your campaigns, you are inhibiting your ability to expand reach and maximize the probability of customer response.
  • If you have an enterprise analytical tool like Adobe Analytics and are just using it to measure audience behaviour only in your website, then you are underutilizing it as tools like these can help you measure audience behavior across all digital properties and give you insights on the effectiveness of each channel.
  • If you have a subscription for an advertising platform and you are just using it for search and display campaigns on Google AdWords and Google Display Network, then you are underutilizing it. They give you the ability to reach a wider audience with other native platforms as well.
  • If you have access to a marketing automation / campaign management platform and are using it only for running campaigns targeted at your prospects, then you are underutilizing it.

I can keep giving you more such examples. Incidentally, the examples listed above are all based on our own experience with multiple clients.

And a couple of these clients are Fortune 100 brands.

You don’t know you have access to MarTech platforms.

You may be wondering how this is even possible.

But in reality, there are several OEMs such as IBM who deliver licenses for a bunch of MarTech platforms, free of cost when you buy hardware from them.

The procurement is usually handled by the IT team.

And since marketers are not aware of the availability of these licenses, these tools just sit idly with the IT team.

Only when a need arises and the marketing team reaches out to IT team for license procurement, they become aware of this.

We have come across several clients who discovered very late that they have license to many MarTech platforms.

A leading bank in the Middle East needed our help in finalizing an email automation solution. When we started engagement, we realized what they needed was a marketing automation platform and not just an email automation platform. While the client understood the advantages of marketing automation vis-à-vis email platform, we could not get a go ahead citing budgetary constraints. However, as part of the discovery phase we came to know that IBM is their hardware partner and our partnership with IBM is over a decade long. We immediately knew our client must have marketing automation licenses which IBM would have given them along with their hardware. Upon discussion with the IT team, our forecast was proven correct. We went ahead and implemented the marketing automation solution, thereby saving investments on a separate email automation platform.

Actionable Recommendations

As a marketer you cannot afford to allow lapses like this to happen, especially when you will be held accountable for MarTech platforms too. To save yourself from such embarrassments, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Talk to your IT team and reconfirm that there are no unused licenses for MarTech platforms
  2. Whenever you identify a need for a MarTech platform, check whether the features that you are looking for are available in any of your existing platforms. Opt for new platforms only if the features you are looking for, are not available with your current platforms.
  3. Take stock of the key features of every MarTech platform and validate how well those are used. List down every single key feature that is currently under-utilized.
  4. Identify dependencies that are leading to incorrect usage and create a plan to fix those in terms of people, processes and technology
  5. Implement fixes as per plan.

#2 Your MarTech platforms operate in siloes

Implementing a MarTech platform is a project. Integrating two MarTech platforms is a headache. Integrating more than two MarTech platforms is a nightmare.

Even experienced Marketing technology companies will agree. Such is the closed nature of MarTech platforms.

As a result, most MarTech platforms operate in isolation.

This isn’t a Marketing Architect’s problem, though. This is a CMO’s problem.

Let’s see an example that explains why.

As marketers, we all strive to provide personalized communication to our audience.

Personalization

Source: Sprout Social

This isn’t achievable if the platforms operate in isolation.

Providing personalized communication at scale requires at least the following MarTech solutions to be integrated.

  • Tag Management Platform
  • Analytics Platform
  • Data Management Platform
  • CMS

A Tag Management Platform will help in assigning a common id for all visitors to the portal

An Identity Management / Data Management Platform helps de-anonymize the audience and feeds the analytics platform

An Analytics Platform helps track users’ actions in the website and feeds the CMS with personalization capabilities

A CMS Platform will help reach out to the user with personalized communication on subsequent visits, based on pre-built rules

As far providing personalized experience is concerned, all of these platforms are equally important.

Only if all four platforms are integrated, they will work in unison and provide a personalized experience to your audience.

Personalized Experience

If you were not able to provide personalized communication to your audience, the reason could well be what is listed above.

And you would agree that you need to seriously reconsider the way you are currently managing those platforms.

So, how do you go about this?

In an ideal world and with a fat marketing budget, this is relatively easy.

You can just buy Adobe Launch, Adobe Analytics, Adobe Experience Manager and Adobe Audience Manager and facilitate the above in a relatively easy manner.

However, challenges arise when you use different platforms for each purpose. For example, for the same scenario, if you happen to use Drupal and have tighter budgets, your challenges are different.

Your default choice is to replace Drupal with Adobe Experience Manager as all modules of Adobe Experience Cloud have native integration and you don’t need to break sweat.

But, what that will do is, significantly impact your marketing ROI.

Because, unlike Drupal which is an open source platform, you will incur significant license costs for the Adobe Experience Manager and you need to factor in the same when demonstrating ROI.

An alternate and a smarter choice is to get Drupal work with other modules of Adobe Experience Cloud.

You only need to do a little workaround to achieve your goal.

But most marketers don’t risk exploring out of the box solutions to facilitate these integrations, although it has the potential for a significant save in terms of the overall Martech tool cost.

Less than one fourth of marketers have sophisticated integration between MarTech platforms, where all systems are integrated to a common unified database and a shared orchestration engine.

Siloed

Source: CDP Institute Member Survey

If you are a marketer with a marketing technology stack operating in silos, you need transformation.

An aggressive Indian private bank just got a campaign management platform (Unica Campaign) implemented. Earlier, they used Oracle Siebel CRM where the bank’s Relationship Managers got recommendations on the next best actions for customers based on some pre-defined rules. Now that the bank had increased the targeting capability, the bank wanted the next best offer to be sent to the RMs through Siebel CRM. Unfortunately, there was no native connectivity between Siebel CRM and Unica Campaign. To overcome this, we built a web-services-based solution that fetched the next best actions from Unica Campaign and loaded it onto the Siebel CRM database asynchronously. From there on, Siebel CRM communicates the next best action to RMs as before. This particular integration helped the bank save several thousand dollars.

Actionable Recommendations

While integrating different marketing and technology platforms is a nightmare, it isn’t impossible. Here are our recommendations on integrating marketing technology services and platforms that work in siloes. This may appear technical. But that is the nature of the problem.

  1. Before even getting into integrating systems, first understand the possibilities of business outcomes that can be achieved with the help of integration. Only when you find significant value there, should you get into integrating.
  2. Get your technology team to identify whether any native connectivity is available between isolated systems. If available, get them to go for it.
  3. If not, look for any integration plugins on Zapier, and buy those and use it to integrate systems.
  4. If not, check if your technology team can consume APIs and facilitate integration. If so, go for it.
  5. Finally, if none of the above is possible, get your technology team to build solutions using database drivers to facilitate integration. If even that does not work, look at alternate solutions with greater integration capabilities.

#3 The performance of your MarTech platforms is plateauing

Time wasted in managing tools

Source: Customer Think

This number is likely to go up when technologies in your MarTech stack are not functioning at optimal levels.

How often have you heard that your website is slow? You know it directly has a revenue impact.

This is a common occurrence in most organizations.

But it’s just not your website’s speed that impacts your business.

Every single MarTech platform’s speed impacts your business.

The challenges become complicated when you have multiple systems integrated.

It’s one of our firm beliefs that agility is more important in marketing than accuracy, as you cannot achieve 100% accurate targeting.

To ensure agility, MarTech platforms need to be in a highly optimal state all the time.

However, not every marketer is ready to tackle this.

Martech Optimization

Source: Ascend2

Depending on the type of MarTech software, the definition of agility changes.

For example, for CMS, even a delay of a few microseconds has a great impact on customer experience and agility.

Whereas with statistical modelling platforms, even a few minutes or hours of delay won’t have a significant impact on agility.

Following are some of the reasons why your MarTech platforms are slow.

  1. Your internet bandwidth and latency is not within recommended levels
  2. The computation speed of your computer is insufficient, possibly because of temporary files
  3. You have stored too much data on the local machine on which the platform is accessed
  4. You are using more concurrent operations
  5. You are using an older version of the platform
  6. You are using an older version of the Operating System on which the platform runs.
  7. You are using an older version of the database that your platforms are using
  8. The load on the platform is beyond the limit
  9. The hardware configuration is insufficient

Performance issues in your marketing technology services due to points 1 to 4 are mostly temporary and can be fixed instantly.

However, performance issues due to 5-9 require serious attention.

Once you spot a performance issue, it is important for you to fix it at once as you don’t know when the system will lay flat, and start impacting marketing velocity.

For a large Indian private bank, we had been providing campaign management services for over a decade. About three years after starting our engagement, we realized the amount of time taken to execute a campaign was constantly on the rise. This never used to be an issue in the past and we were not sure where the problem lay. But we were cognizant of the fact that if we allowed the campaigns to keep taking more time, we were headed for trouble. Even before our client realized this, we did a study to identify the root cause and concluded that the performance issue was because of the recent upgrade of the campaign management platform. We also found out that with the upgradation of Hardware, Operating System and Database, things will go back to normal. We communicated this to our client and got the buy-in. While upgrading one at a time is the conventional solution, we were bold enough to upgrade all three at the same time with zero business impact. Post upgradation, the campaign execution time was brought down by 73%.

Actionable Recommendations

To ensure your MarTech platforms are always at an optimal speed, these are our recommendations.

  1. Ensure sufficient hardware is available as recommended by product vendor
  2. Ensure the platform, OS, and Databases are up to date with all patches included
  3. Constantly monitor the health of the application, ensure the logs are captured and retained for future resolution
  4. Document best practices / DIY fixes for instant speed up of your applications such as clearing temporary files, restarting applications / servers, and closing hung up processes etc.

#4 Your marketing and IT teams are mostly under friction

Did you know just 30% of marketing executives agree that their relationship with IT team is collaborative and productive?

Even more interesting is that just 13% of IT leaders agree that their relationship with marketing team is collaborative and productive.

But situations demand that marketers and IT collaborates.

It vs Marketing

Let’s evaluate your relationship with your IT team by answering the following -

Disclaimer: It’s not our intention to make your IT team an antagonist. After all, they have their own KRAs and KPIs to chase.

  1. Do the marketing and IT teams in your organization have common goals?
  2. Are both marketing and IT teams involved in MarTech procurement decisions?
  3. Does the ownership of Martech business solutions lie with the marketing team?
  4. Do you have clearly demarcated roles and responsibilities with regard to usage of MarTech platforms?
  5. Are you happy with your IT team’s SLAs and TATs for fulfilling marketing requests?
  6. Have you been provided utmost transparency about what is MarTech usage currently
  7. Have all your campaigns gone live as scheduled? Or without being postponed due to technical issues such as an upgrade installation, migration etc.
  8. Does your IT team take last minute requests without creating an issue?
  9. Does your IT team help you prevent data from getting into siloes?
  10. Does your IT team try to help you become smarter with decisions?

If you have answered “yes” to most of the questions, you are one of those rare lucky marketers, where you are aligned with your IT team.

Others don’t.

And this friction hurts your marketing. How?

A marketing technology platform is supposed to either increase marketing velocity or marketing efficiency.

But with friction between your marketing and IT teams, you can hardly use the MarTech services to their full potential.

And you cannot afford to do this.

Actionable Recommendations

In a business where departments are in siloes, teams have their own goals. Unless common goals are established friction sets in and will continue. If you want to this, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Look for the possibilities of outsourcing the entire MarTech function to an integrated Martech services company who not just manages these platforms, but uses it efficiently to deliver marketing success.
  2. Move away from on-premise to cloud based solutions to reduce IT dependency
  3. For platforms that can’t be moved to the cloud, arrive at a mutually agreeable SLA for all activities that are dependent on IT. Consider this SLA when planning your marketing activities to set expectations right.

#5 Your MarTech stack is not complete

Different marketers have different objectives when it comes to setting up their MarTech stack.

priorities-martech-stack-optimization

Source: Convince & Convert

As a marketer we come across a lot of innovations happening in the marketing space.

There are only two things that facilitate this.

One. Creativity in identifying marketing use cases.

Two. Technology support to execute at scale.

While the former is individual marketer specific, the latter is completely driven by MarTech platforms.

And not every brand has same the MarTech stack, even at the category level.

After all, the MarTech industry and the number of martech companies has been exploding.

In MarTech 5000 2020, Chiefmartec.com has listed around 8,000 solutions under 6 major categories and 49 sub-categories.

MarTec 5000

Source: Chiefmartec.com

We understand it’s impractical to load up every MarTech platform available in the market in your marketing technology stack and is not necessary too.

However, there are certain essential marketing technologies that a modern day marketer like you should have.

Increasing martech investments

Source: Sirkin Research

If you don’t have those platforms, then your marketing will be behind the eight ball, almost all the time.

Not sure how your MarTech stack fares against the essential platforms?

Here are eighteen questions that can help you find the answer.

  1. Do you have a Content Management System that supports personalization at scale in an easy manner?
  2. Do you have an analytics tool that does multichannel analytics in an integrated manner rather than tracking and reporting channels in siloes?
  3. Do you have an Identity Management platform to de-anonymize visitors and provide personalized content?
  4. Do you use Advertising Platforms to run digital marketing campaigns rather than using manual bidding methods on PPC, Display and Social Campaigns?
  5. Do you use Advertising Platforms to run mobile, video and native advertising platforms to make sure your campaigns are run beyond Google and Facebook?
  6. Do you have an Affiliate Marketing platform to sell your products through third party affiliates?
  7. Do you have a Data Management Platform to retarget your audience on internet?
  8. Do you have a Marketing Automation / Campaign Management Platform to run 1:1 campaigns targeted at your prospects and customers?
  9. Do you have an Optimization platform to test digital experiences on your audience?
  10. Do you have a Journey Builder platform to build customer journeys?
  11. Do you have an Event Based Marketing / Trigger Based Marketing platform to trigger marketing campaigns based on pre-defined events?
  12. Do you have a Digital Asset Management / Product Information Management / Marketing Resource Management platform for proper meta-data management, storing and retrieval of marketing assets and products?
  13. Do you have Machine Learning applications in marketing and other Artificial Intelligence platforms rather than age old statistical models?
  14. Do you have a Customer Data Platform to have a unified view of your customers?
  15. Do have data visualization / reporting platforms to make data driven marketing decisions?
  16. Do you have Conversational Marketing platforms to use chat as a sales / service channel?
  17. Do you have Social Listening platforms to monitor social interactions?
  18. Do you use Content Syndication Platforms to distribute content as per your content calendar?

A leading Malaysian Bank with ambitious digital transformation objectives engaged with us for analytical services.  The existing MarTech stack was not sufficient for the vision that they had i.e.) providing hyper-personalized content to  their audience based on not just online interactions, but also offline. To facilitate this, we implemented SAS Event Stream Processing and integrated it with Adobe Campaign and Adobe Analytics. Once we did that, we could bring customer data from different systems, devices, and channels and create a single profile for each customer and use it to deliver timely and relevant campaigns along their customer journey thereby facilitating real time customer targeting.

Actionable Recommendations

While MarTech platforms are exciting, don’t buy a platform just because it’s cool. What may look cool, may not be too useful. So, if you want to augment your MarTech stack management software, here’s what you need to do.

  1. Quantify the benefits that the platform can offer
  2. Evaluate options and decide whether you want to go ahead with an on-premise or cloud solution
  3. Get the vendor to demonstrate proof of concept for the platform in case of on-premise or register for a trial version of the product in case of a cloud solution
  4. Clearly define success metrics for PoC / trial and start testing the platform
  5. Once the PoC is successful, you can go ahead and procure / subscribe to the platform
  6. Ensure the implementation is not just done at a technical level and that the platform and workflows are customized to suit your unique marketing processes.

Summary

MarTech platforms are meant to increase marketing velocity (more campaigns, frequent communications etc.) and marketing efficiency (better targeting, increasing responses etc.). However, due to poor choice of vendor / engagement of martech consultant, most brands fail to leverage any value from MarTech investments.

When managing MarTech platforms in-house, only when the IT and marketing teams share a common goal, can you truly benefit from these platforms.

Even if you outsource your MarTech management to a martech services company or an external agency, you need to ensure that you don’t engage with such companies just for technical management and maintenance. Instead, your agency should be able to provide marketing services using these platforms while also ensuring the health of these platforms.

Finally, you may not have all the key MarTech tools in your MarTech stack today. However, with many platforms offering cloud based solutions, you can easily include those in your stack and make your MarTech stack contemporary. However, just adding those platforms won’t take you anywhere. Your focus should be on integrating these platforms, getting them to work in harmony and finally delivering marketing velocity and efficiency.