What's in your MarTech stack? If you're scratching your head, you're not alone. MarTech, also known as marketing technology, is any tool marketers use to get work done. With more than 7,000 tools out there, chances are you're using one right now. And a stack is just fancy talk for a collection of MarTech tools.
In this episode, Ron Hadler, Red Door's VP of Data and Innovation, explains why MarTech and data science are so important, how to choose the best MarTech tools for your business, and more.
What is MarTech (Marketing Technology)?
Reid: Oh, and we always are. There's so much technology. When we first started in this business in marketing, there really wasn't that much technology in all of it. There wasn't a lot of data. There wasn't a lot of science and analytics, and tracking. It was creativity, and now the marketer's job has changed. And the change is a result of a lot of this technology. So, I'm really excited that we get to talk about this and help our listeners understand it all. So to level set on understanding it all, is can you explain in the simplest format possible. What is MarTech, or marketing technology, and why it's so important?
Ron: Sure, yeah, MarTech equals marketing technology. I describe myself as a marketing technologist. That came into the marketer's vocabulary around 2011, when Scott Brinker wrote the article, The Rise of the Marketing Technologist. And, really what that meant is that we were using a lot of technology in order to get our jobs done. And because it was technology, the complexity of that software, you really couldn't just be a marketer. You also needed to understand the technology and how it works, how data got moved between different platforms, how you could pull that data, and how you could report on it.
Ron: And so just really anything that we're doing these days to execute our jobs, whether that's building our websites, placing ads, reporting on that data, using APIs, all of that is marketing technology. You could say that even Microsoft Word could be used as a marketing technology because you're using it online, you're collaborating with somebody, you're designing your campaigns in there. All considered and all the technologies that pull that off, have it hosted, have multiple people doing it, marketing technology is everything out there. And the reason that it's so important is that around 2017, you had essentially the chief marketing officer's spending more budget on marketing technology than your CTOs, and that's really the difference.
Ron: And that's what's being important because marketing contributes to the bottom line. CTOs and overseeing IT essentially is an expense. So you've got two different things. We're trying to increase money to make more money through marketing. We're generally trying to reduce budget through IT and to reduce expenses.
What is a MarTech "Stack"?
Reid: Yeah, and that's an interesting challenge that marketers didn't have to face before, and now it's evolved from a degree of partnership as some of this, what you're talking about is direction, saying, "I've got to pick some of the stuff to make the best use of it that I can for-profit purposes or for reaching new audiences." So that means they have to put a bunch of stuff together, and from that, so then can you help us then define the stack part of the MarTech stack?
Ron: Sure, yup. And this is another word I think that has evolved from Scott Brinker again, is the stack, and understanding that that ability and understanding what your environment is for your marketing technology, all of those pieces that come together. A couple of years ago, they did an evaluation or audit and that your average enterprise has over 90 different platforms, it's probably more than that now, that are a part of their marketing technology stack. That's a lot of technology that needs to work together, function together, and be efficient. And so your MarTech stack is anything that's part of you getting your job done. And why it's such an important part is that generally you have more platforms than you're actually using, you're probably not using them efficiently, and you might even have duplication because different departments are using different platforms to do the exact same function.
What tools do you need in your MarTech stack?
Reid: So that also means you have to evaluate all those pieces that you've got in place. How do you know at a macro level that what you've got is the right stack? How do you know if it's up to snuff?
Ron: Sure, and really, it's requirement's driven and goal-driven. So, if your marketing platform is meeting your goals and meeting your requirements, then it is the right thing. We're very requirements-driven, and that's how we evaluate those technologies through those requirements. I think a lot of folks just start saying, "Hey, I need a marketing automation tool." And then they start doing demos and getting out there. And just what happens is you get sales folks who are just awesome at demos, and they'll lead you right down the happy path, and what's important to do is get those requirements and have them stick to the requirements so that you're actually getting a demo of the features and functionalities that are true to your job and going to help you meet your goals.
Reid: Yeah, that's one of my favorite parts of our conversations oftentimes is understanding what those requirements are in a true sense. And like you said, I always thought it was funny because I think any listener right now probably knows exactly what you're talking about is... Because we've all been through it, you've been through a demo, and they go, "And here's everything that it does." And you're like, "Oh, this sounds amazing." And then you haven't been thinking about all the while what it doesn't do, what you really need it to do. There's a lot of tools out there that also will do 50 times more than what you really need.
Reid: And so when we talk about then what's up to snuff, I also want to dig into the idea that how much is too much or what are things, are you really going to use it all? Because there's a lot of different versions of does it work or doesn't it, but there's also, is this the right cost effective one? Does it actually add more costs that you didn't know would happen when you put in a particular tool, you need three or four other things, or like you said, the happy path of, yes, it does this, but what they didn't tell you is if you do X, Y, Z, and the moon is setting in the East is when that works that way. So talk a little bit about, and elaborate more on getting your marketing tech stack right-sized for your organization.
Ron: Yeah, and again, I'll reference back to the requirements. That's key. And everybody wants to jump into demos because that's the exciting part. You get to get all those whizzbang features that are essentially going to help you and your life be better when it comes to marketing, promises that it'll make. And really, what you should be focusing on is the things that you actually need to get accomplished because maybe you don't need that AI or artificial intelligence-driven feature. What you just need is it to send out some emails based upon some few simple triggers. And so really understanding that helps you keep focused, and yes, some of those AI and what they don't tell you is because they were so slick at those demos is that it's really a lot more complicated than what the demo presents.
Ron: So when you're going through that, when you actually get your feet wet into it and look, and it's like, wow, you actually need to hire somebody. That's those hidden costs you were referencing. So back to basic requirements, getting those things, that's the hard part. Getting all the stakeholders together, getting those requirements gathered, and understanding what it is we're trying to solve with this. Do we have the business case? Do we have the buy-in and then being able to go out and do those demos? That's really what's going to help you get it right-sized. Because you're going to include your budget as part of those requirements, you're going to include the problems that it needs to solve and the goals that it needs to meet.
What is MarTech Consulting?
Reid: So I'm going lead the question a little bit here, lead the witness, I guess, is that expression, because why might someone want someone like you? Why would a client want someone like you, with your objectivity, help lead that process for them? Explain why that's important.
Ron: Great question, great question, and I talked about when I was talking about myself is, I'm a marketing technologist. That means I speak both marketing and IT languages fluently. And a lot of times, even when I'm dealing with a brand and I'm talking about technology, I'm standing between the marketing team and the IT team. They both have their own specific desires and wants, and needs. And sometimes I'm translating between the two. Sometimes I'm acting as a referee. That is what happens sometimes is that you have a little bit of friction between IT and marketing because their goals are a little bit different. So having somebody like me in there is not just a matter of leading you through the process, but also guiding those two teams, making sure we're both on the same page, making sure that everybody's needs are getting met.
Ron: And that sometimes is that person doesn't exist necessarily within brands. And they don't have a marketing technologist, they have somebody who's focused on IT, and they have folks who are focused on marketing, and they just don't meet in between. So having someone who's kind of neutral who's there to make sure that everybody's needs are met is why somebody like myself exists. I think Red Door was actually fairly ahead of the curve when we decided that we needed a marketing technologist at Red Door, and it took us a long while to find it. In fact, I gave up my job leading the DevOps to become that marketing technology lead. And that was really an evolution for Red Door. And we found time and time and again that nobody really has this position. They don't have somebody who understands both sides of that. And so it's really unique. And now, although they are getting more and more folks who are specializing in marketing technology, is still fairly rare.
Reid: Well, and again, I think the part of it being the objectivity that you have not being from within their organization to play that referee. And I want to go back to something you'd said earlier to expand on it a bit, which was the competing interests or expectations of marketing and IT, or technology. You mentioned, obviously, marketing is there to, if they spend something that should yield new customers and new sales, increasing sales, LTV, all sorts of things, but from an IT standpoint, talk about they have to reduce costs and make people more efficient. The metrics they're measured by are totally different. So talk about how that creates conflict between those two?
Ron: Sure, so really marketing wants to move at the speed of business. So everything should move fast. It should move fluid. Marketing wants to be able to do things without IT involvement. So reducing their cycles of content campaigns launched, etcetera. IT is focused on the things that are important to them. Things like security, data privacy, PII, meeting things that marketing's not worried about, meeting things like GDPR or CCPA, data privacy compliance.
Reid: They are if something goes awry.
Ron: They are. The one that ends up being accountable is IT. It is in the IT realm of a system where a platform is installed. And so they're worried about maintainability, like, "How much is this going to cost me to have people there to maintain this platform?" They want scalability. Okay, all of a sudden if we grow by 30%, can these platforms handle this? So they're coming from that aspect. And so that's where marketing's like, "I need this," and IT was like, "I'm not sure it's really worth it that you need this."
Ron: And so a lot of times you won't have them on the same page and getting them to understand. And that's why I mentioned business cases. If you have the business case that this is proven to, then it's just a matter of guiding folks to get to that same point. I would say that, and this is not completely unfair of IT, they're the more reluctant ones, marketing's more willing to jump in than necessarily IT. And IT, by nature, is conservative in the sense of they're going to make small incremental steps versus necessarily wiping out a platform unless it's proven insecure.
Reid: Yeah, well no, that's what I think where you see a lot of times they start building out their own fiefdoms as marketing starts to hire developers and technologists and things into their group to isolate IT into their corner and marketing into their corner. And I think that is typically not good for the organization as a whole, because of things like what you're talking about, like GDPR and privacy and security or not to mention in enterprise, large enterprise, they may have already bought licenses to something in one place and then redeployed in another. So keeping track of all that kind of stuff is unnecessary costs. How, as an organization, if you're now sitting at the CEO level, trying to play the business referee part of this, how should they be thinking about getting these groups aligned as it relates to again the MarTech stack?
Ron: So I would probably recommend the best way to do that is through a MarTech stack audit. And so what you do through that is essentially go through and audit your entire stack. What are all of those - and in any case, an average of 90 platforms-that are being used? And making sure that you're interviewing all of the right departments for that overlap, for that duplication. And then, once you understand and identify those platforms, then you go through and understand their features and functionality. Is there overlap? Is there duplication? Are there actually holes within your MarTech stack? Because there are folks that have concentrated on specific areas or specific channels. And so making sure that you're looking for those things as you go through that MarTech audit. Once you have that MarTech audit, then you can put together a roadmap. That roadmap allows you to where you are now, where you want to be, what to eliminate, what to add, to get you working in both IT and marketing together. Seriously, the CMO and the CTO should be best friends. They both use a lot of technology, and they're at the same aim for their means.
Reid: Yeah, and I think having the roadmap starts to allow you to prioritize how you want to fold certain things in, how they're going to integrate over time. The challenge that I know also to be true though is that technology is always changing. So as you... How do you keep a roadmap consistent with the time? If you're looking at a five-year roadmap and now you're in year one or two, and things have changed, how do you keep alignment as we progress?
Ron: You should be reviewing your roadmap at least once a year. And understanding that, I've mentioned Scott Brinker. And the reason I did is because the figure you quoted, 7,000 different marketing technologies, he puts together a technology landscape every single year. It comes out in April. Next one's due, will probably put us in the 8,500 platform realm as it continues to grow each year. And so understanding that there are more platforms coming on, the categories are changing, how things are evolving. You should be reviewing that on a yearly basis to understand where you are. And it's also why putting together a visualization of your marketing tech stack helps that get communicated throughout the enterprise.
Ron: So an understanding if somebody needs to do something, they can go to that visualization, understand the platform issue that they should be using, versus going out and finding their own. If your enterprise is big enough, that's where it happens when you get duplication. It's like, "Oh, this person's using Tableau, this person's using Looker, or this person's using Domo." And understanding that you've got duplication in your visual BI tools is a way to take a look at that, realize, "Okay, we probably need to be on a single platform."
Reid: Yeah, so that is that visualization in and of itself is worth its weight in gold because of just like what you're talking about is not to mention that the shadow systems that are out there or duplication, but I think if you get multiple data visualization things, people are making decisions differently, and it affects the business as a whole. And then there's the other dimension of purely just the cost level. Why have three different tools that if you consolidate it, you get better pricing, more implementation, have one person or one group who knows to use the same one platform versus hassle in three different platforms. There's a ton of benefit to having this on an ongoing basis at a financial level.
Ron: It's so complex, Reid, that there's actually platforms out there that monitor invoicing and things like that. Just to understand if there's overlap in platforms, because it's so complex. So they're looking through your invoicing just to see if department A has got a BI tool and department B has got a BI tool, or you're using two different social listening tools. It's that complex, and that unwieldily, it really is.
Reid: Or how many choices you probably have that you don't even use you're paying for, you think someone's using it, and like, "Oh, we haven't used that in three years."
Ron: Or you can understand your investment in a totally. And how much are you investing in marketing technology as a single line item? It's a hard thing to understand.
Reid: Yeah, so this is why this is such an important episode for people listening, because this is something that in real applications saves the organization a lot of money and a lot of frustration, not to mention from a staff frustration standpoint. But go into the other areas of the C-suite, the CFO or someone like that who would uncover some of this waste. So hopefully, our listeners really get a good sense of why this is something that... A journey, a never-ending journey really though that they should embark upon. So any parting words, Ron, for making that case for why a CMO, which is traditionally, our listeners are your senior-level marketing folks, why they should embark upon this journey?
Ron: Yeah, because it is evolving. It's a good time to be a marketer because there's all this exciting technology, and you want to try new things out. And so what happens is that something gets tried out, ends up becoming a tool in the toolbox. And so I think going on the journey, reviewing that, doing platform evaluations that are requirements-driven allows you to be the most efficient you can be for your enterprise. In other words, that just helps you do a little conversion rate optimization on your own marketing strategy.
Reid: That's right. Absolutely. Technology is fun. I think it's become a very fun part of the marketing process, has inspired a lot of creativity,, I feel now, particularly when we get into ABM platforms and one thing to clarify for people too, MarTech all the different tools that we have, people get these things confused about, "Well is this a CRM platform? An ABM platform? An SFA?" All these different tools out there, just having someone like you out there to translate that for them. And to recognize some of those features are part of another product you already have. So we just turn those on. You don't need something new. And then when you start to get these technologies consolidated in a meaningful way, again, creativity flourishes at that point. So it can be a lot of fun.
Ron: I would say, just as a bit of advice, you don't need to jump in feet first. You can do a bit of toe-dipping. And I would say pick your biggest platform and just makes sure you're using all the features and functionalities that come with that. That's a good place to start. And that would be my best advice is because you don't necessarily need to replace something, but if you want to be the most efficient, be the most effective, look at that one piece of marketing technology that you use every day, make sure that you're actually fully using it because nine out of 10 times, you're probably using 60% of the features and functionalities. All those features that sold you on that platform are probably still sitting dormant.
Reid: Yeah, and the evolution of integrations too. Some of these then form partnerships with other technologies. You're not always aware that something has changed in a tool that you know and love. A year or two down the road, they've been acquired, or they've found a new partner and integrated in certain ways. So those are great. Yeah, like you said, sniffing around some of this stuff and maximizing what you already have makes a big difference. So hopefully, that's a tip that our listeners also take to heart and properly put to use because that's a freebie right there. Just check out what you've already got going on. So anyway, so Ron, thank you so much for joining us. I really always appreciate our time together.
Ron: Yeah, it was great to be on Reid.
Be sure to check out show notes from this episode, as well as our whitepaper covering the ins and outs of MarTech and, as always, subscribe to the Marketing Remix and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts. Until next time!