At the 2017 MarTech Conference in May, six companies were awarded “Stackie” awards for their marketing “stack” — the integrated system of tools and technologies that powers the marketing efforts of an organization.
What can marketers learn from the winning stacks, and what do the submissions tell us about the future of marketing technology? I reviewed the six winners looking for trends and insights.
A successful marketing tech strategy isn’t about size
The stacks varied in complexity and size. Informatica, one of the six winners, has a fairly streamlined stack, with 10 total tools (one of which is the company’s own website). On the other end of the scale, Cisco and Microsoft’s winning stacks each included roughly 40 tools.
Reviewing all of the winning stacks might make you want to investigate tools that are new to you. I had the opposite reaction — seeing Informatica’s sleek, simple stack made me want to rethink how my team’s existing marketing technology can work harder and do more, to create a stronger, leaner stack.
The future of MarTech is in the back office
I think it’s interesting to compare how marketers are using technology in 2017 against how we were using technology in, say, 2010. When social media and content marketing were just becoming buzzwords, the focus of the technology was on getting in front of customers with the newest, hottest platform. Now marketing technology has gotten more sophisticated, with a deeper focus on understanding the ROI of all that marketing activity. As Allocadia CMO James Thomas says, marketers are now focused on both the “run” side of marketing (the financial planning, reporting and results), and the customer-facing “do” side of marketing.
“Within our business we really need to stay laser-focused on our financial outlook and manage sales productivity,” says Aprimo’s vice president of marketing, Ed Breault. “I report to our CEO, CFO and board of directors, so it is critical that I manage and forecast opportunities accurately. This includes health checks for every opportunity and having actionable insights for our sales reps so they can perform at the top of their game and manage their time wisely. Getting to the right data, meaningful data, fast is something I am always looking to improve.”
No MarTech vendor is an island
Several of the Stackies winners are, themselves, marketing tech companies. Not surprisingly, each of these tech companies incorporated its own technology at the center — Allocadia, Microsoft, Aprimo and Cisco. Aprimo’s Breault says “we drink our own champagne. Our own technology suite is at the backbone of our marketing stack.”
But even the biggest martech vendors aren’t islands. Each company integrates its technology with many additional partner tools to create a complete ecosystem.
That’s a lesson for every marketing leader: Running a successful marketing organization isn’t about finding a silver bullet; it’s about understanding the diverse mix of tools that can best serve your needs, your industry and your customer. The difference between successful and stumbling marketing organizations is how well they use all of those tools together to create a cohesive customer experience and deliver the best data back to the marketing team.
Scott Brinker, chairman of the awards, writes that Microsoft’s stack “demonstrates how a heterogeneous, best-of-breed marketing stack can be conceptually cohesive — orchestrating a diverse set of technologies in a coherent architecture. Note that multiple major platforms from Adobe, Marketo, Salesforce, Sprinklr, and, of course, Microsoft itself, are being used together, each for its relative strengths in context, and they are all augmented by a range of more specialized marketing technology solutions.”
Design was one of the variables that stacks were judged on. While the design of a slide about your marketing stack might seem irrelevant, I think the stack design is about telling a cohesive story. Do your tools and technologies all work together to achieve clear goals? If they don’t, it would be hard to design a beautiful, clean slide to summarize your stack.