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The Value Dilemma: Choosing the right MarTech stack

Neeraj Pratap 0

Marketing Technology platforms are the buzz words in the marketing world today. In some cases it has been observed that marketing activities have been delegated to MarTech stacks. In many areas it is touted as a differentiator. Right? Wrong? Or a mix of both? Well, the judgement is still out. The fact is that Martech stacks are here to stay. But, the questions that need answers are – Which Stack? One stack fits all – one solution provider or point based solutions? There is a need to balance customer-centric ideas and technology-centric solutions. Self-service, Personalisation, Contextual content, Real-time communication, Geo-targeting are all customer centric ideas. Integrated platforms, Centralised systems, Automation, Economies of scale, Ease of operations and Reporting are all technology centric ideas. The truth lies in imaginatively integrating customer-centric ideas and technology centric platforms.
Today, most organisations are grappling with making the right decisions in the context of marketing technology stacks. The reasons for this are many –

  1. Lack of clarity of business objectives
  2. Lack of understanding of complex customer journeys
  3. Lack of alignment across Marketing, Sales, Customer service, Operations and IT teams.
  4. Legacy systems, disjointed platforms and multiple tools performing the same role leading to confusion
  5. Lack of budgets and in some cases a very large budget leading to random purchase of every available MarTech stack
  6. Scarcity of competent, skilled and qualified professionals to run these platforms
  7. The issue of executive sponsorship – Who owns the final business outcome and accountability or business impact?

According to Avanade’s recent global research with SiteCore, MarTech stacks are failing Customer Experience like never before. In a study of 1,440 CIOs, CTOs, CMOs and other senior marketing and IT decision makers, 60% of the companies surveyed reported losing revenue because of digital marketing technology not working properly or a lack of collaboration between marketing and IT. 95% of organisations say their CX is in critical need of improvement, but they don’t know how to make it happen.
According to chiefmartech, there are more than 7500+ different Marketing Technologies available to Marketers to choose from! Almost every day, we see new players coming in with one plug-in or solution. Even the big players are adding/acquiring products and adding to their suite to meet the ever growing needs. It is impossible for a Marketer to keep track and make informed decisions. The developments in Analytics, DMPs, DSPs, and CRMs allow for a much more sophisticated and personalised, targeted and real time communication and customer. The question is one of integration and orchestration of multiple systems in our view.
No doubt, investing in Marketing Technology is a business imperative. Marketers need to think about it differently. Next-gen communication is demanding a whole new way of marketing and a complete change in mind-set and marketing processes. Marketing Technology has to be business value generating. It needs to integrate and aide customer journeys and help discover more and more insights that will drive business intelligence and enhance customer experience across all channels and touch points.
The progression of Marketing Technology solutions has been gradual from CRM-based database marketing to automation and campaign tools to marketing platforms to the current age of Enterprise Marketing Software Suites. The transition has been chaotic and has managed to throw up more questions than answers.
Also, the Marketer is no longer a cost centre. She needs to align all goals towards meeting business objectives and generating ROI. How does a Marketer effectively navigate this complex and intriguing web of decisions? The journey starts with aligning business metrics with MarTech goals.
 Aligning Business Metrics with MarTech Goals
This must be the starting point of any MarTech discussion. In a study done by Gartner 46% of CMOs stated that new technology must lead to Revenue growth. Business might use different kinds of marketing technology platforms – DMPs, Ad platforms, Marketing Platforms, 24/7 marketing to drive real time engagement, Analytics and campaigns, Intelligence lead engagement to drive next best product and trigger next best action but all of them at the end of the day must be measurable.
 Understanding the Marketing Maturity of the Organisation
Different organizations are at different stages of maturity and it is important to understand the level of maturity state they are in before they embark on a MarTech journey. Businesses are eager to transform from ROI to ROC (Return on Customer). From fragmented and different data sources to unified single view. From dark mystery data to analysing all data points. From carpet bombing mass communication to 1:1 personal communication. From having fragmented digital presence to integrated digital presence. It is imperative to understand the maturity and then make these MarTech investments accordingly.
A Customer Marketing Maturity Framework assesses the level of customer marketing maturity of an organisation. This is measured across 6 functions: Customer Strategy, Data and Tech Maturity, Analytics Maturity, Campaign Maturity, Digital Maturity. It enables Marketers to get a realistic assessment of where they stand.

  1. Customer Strategy:

Having well defined customer goals is key. Customer strategy is central to any solution. Clear customer segments need to be identified. The segments must be aligned with business objectives. A detailed understanding of the segment behaviour needs to be articulated and incorporated as a key input in the customer data. Also, the sources of different data available in the enterprise must be mapped and the quality of data must be assessed.

  1. Data and Tech Maturity:

A clear data stewardship program needs to be a part of the framework and creating an organization wide data governance process and appreciation of data quality to every stakeholder in the organization is key.

  1. Analytics Maturity:

Align with organisational objectives and KPIs. KPIs to analytics is very important. There is a need to develop an analytics framework & solution that aids decision making across acquisition, retention, and customer growth across marketing, sales, operations, finance, HR and they need to work in tandem to help achieve the business and customer goals. There is a need for a shared business agenda and outcome within the analytics and realistic assessment of current state of collaboration for data-driven decision making in the organization.

  1. Campaign Maturity:

With the advent of technology in marketing, it is often said ‘imagine doing marketing as if it were customer service’. There is a need to build a ‘sense and respond’ culture with the customer facing team to realign marketing process for campaigns across touch points. Again, a clear assessment of how the different departments need to work together ‘to-be’ statement from ‘as-is’ state posting campaign automation is key.

  1. Digital Maturity:

Customers expect a unified experience across different digital channels and even the difference between offline and online has blurred. Ensure that the digital channel is built into the enterprise strategy. Seamless integration of digital with offline channels and vice-versa and tracking digital interaction while personalizing digital experience is key to this transformation.

  1. Understanding, Aligning and Collaborating with Key Internal Stakeholders

It is often mentioned ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. The CEO-CMO-CIO combine must build a culture of collaboration and alignment. The combine must fire together to create a robust and successful MarTech stack. The customer feedback loop, the organization feedback loop and the market feedback loop must be extremely nimble, quick and development sprints have to be short, course correction has to be immediate and experiments have to be endless.
All of this is not possible if the CEO-CMO-CIO do not collaborate. For this a culture of collaboration, interdependencies of KPIs, governance mechanisms have to be embedded in the operating processes.
Designing a MarTech evaluation framework
As mentioned earlier, there is no one size that fits all. Each organisation will have to embark on its own unique MarTech framework, maturity and journey. The means and tools will be different but the end objective is the same – Driving business value through customer centricity.
The Customer Marketing Maturity (CMM) assessment and MarTech Evaluation framework is just the beginning but it will put in context organisational needs vis-à-vis business goals. It is a long journey and calls for leadership, collaboration and culture change. And whether organisations like it or not they will have to embark on this journey. The change must start at the top but it has to resonate down the line, because that’s where the rubber meets the road. A Customer Marketing Maturity (CMM) and a MarTech Evaluation framework need to be guiding principles and not written in stone. It will need to be malleable and must factor in complexities and evolutions in technology or change in business strategy.
In this entire process, the most underestimated effort is Change management. It is relatively simpler to change technology and systems but to get people to change their behaviour or habits is a fundamental challenge. The leadership will have to drive this. Aligning senior management, communicating effectively the need for the change, getting people to collaborate and then drive this change resulting in a successful implementation is the biggest challenge in this evaluation and decision making process.
And finally, what do Marketers want from their MarTech stacks? They want simplicity and business results. They seek flexibility to add, delete and modify the architecture to stay current. They need to be able to measure business impact and they are willing to pay the right price for the right value when customers can feel the difference in their pre-purchase and post-purchase ownership experience. That’s when Enterprises will value the MarTech stack they have invested in.