There’s no such thing as the “perfect” marketing technology stack. But that isn’t stopping today’s companies from trying to build the best one for their business and marketing needs.

In fact, Forrester Research predicts that U.S.-based CMOs will spend over $122 billion on martech and related services by 2022.

Yet the explosion of possibilities for assembling a martech stack makes it difficult to know where to start, much less how to build one that affords agility and flexibility. One need look no further than Scott Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic to see just how many martech companies exist today — and the practically endless combinations that can be created with those solutions.

So, how can marketers and their technology counterparts craft the ideal stack to connect teams, eliminate inefficiencies, automate workflows, and establish a single customer view? Here are five actionable steps to get started.

Step #1: Visualize and categorize existing martech tools
Evaluating an existing martech stack from top to bottom may seem like a tedious task. But examining each solution and its current purpose(s) — both the big (marketing automation systems, email service providers) and small (chatbot providers, A/B testing tools) — is the only path to realizing a more efficient martech stack that improves output and ROI in the long term.

This process can be streamlined by creating a martech stack visualization that provides a digestible means to see what’s powering your organization’s day-to-day efforts and overarching marketing strategy. As Gartner Analyst Bryan Yeager noted, “A stack visualization is an effective tool to help evangelize within the enterprise how martech enables capabilities that deliver on customer expectations and drive value.”

Creating a stack visualization doesn’t necessarily require investment in graphic design. However, it should provide a comprehensive breakdown of the existing marketing technology configuration and how each solution solves a particular pain point or aids one or more use cases.

Step #2: Determine the efficacy of each marketing solution
The cornerstone of any martech stack evaluation is the ability to quantify the operational impact each technology has on the organization. To determine this impact, ask the following questions:

  • What are the explicit use cases that each technology is supporting? And are those use cases being sufficiently met?
  • Are there any redundancies across technologies? If so, does it make sense to move some processes from one technology to another, or can they complement each other to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts?
  • Does each technology align with the skillset of the individuals who need to be using it and getting value from it on a day-to-day basis?
  • How does it manage customer data? To what extent does it unify data for customers and prospects? Does it account for privacy?
  • Is it worth buying or renewing the contracts for existing martech tools based on the return on marketing investment realized from each solution?
  • Has the technology kept up with my evolving and growing business needs? Is this a solution that will carry us into the future?
  • Which technologies, if any, haven’t met expectations to date based on the use cases and challenges it was meant to solve?

The answers to these questions can help marketers take a fact-based approach to eliminating redundant or inefficient technologies and selecting new solutions.

Step #3: Determine the operational efficiency benefits of each marketing solution
While everyone expects their marketing technology will ultimately lead to improved marketing outcomes, it should be considered a secondary measure of its overall impact. The operational benefits of these tools should be paramount – meaning, the enablement of better, more efficient ways of working. To determine the operational efficiencies driven by a solution, ask if it:

  • Helps the marketing team get things done faster, in a more intuitive and/or automated way?
  • Eliminates steps in a process to get to the desired outcome?
  • Allows marketers to rely on fewer non-marketing resources – internal IT, agencies, consultants – to do their job?
  • Reduces the gap between having consumer data and acting on it?
  • Makes testing and trying new things smarter, less risky, and more scale-able?
  • Gets the marketing team closer to always interacting with my customers in a timely, personalized way in every stage of the customer lifecycle?
  • Accommodates changes in marketing strategy, data sources, and channel mix without bogging down the marketing team in time or excessive fees?

When evaluating new and existing tools, marketers should make sure they can answer “Yes” to every one of these questions.

Step #4: Decide if best-of-breed or one-size-fits-all is right for you.
When it comes time to figure out which martech tools to preserve and which to ditch altogether, there are several other factors to keep in mind.

For instance, if investments have been made in a marketing cloud suite, it will be important to assess the merits of the semi-siloed software within the suite, including whether or not they provide an actual single customer view, and if they all, in conjunction with one another, truly enable the best possible customer lifecycle orchestration strategy for the business.

Marketers should also be wary of tools that don’t have a single user interface where they can access all first-party data and activate it when and where they need to.

Step #5: Audit martech stacks regularly
Finally, martech stacks must be routinely appraised to ensure the organization is getting a positive return on investment from individual tools and the stack as a whole. As customer journeys become more fragmented and privacy regulations get steeper, it’s critical to be on the look-out to ensure there aren’t:

  • Gaps in functionality that prevent marketers from successfully connecting with individuals in real time and in a consented manner to comply with data privacy laws.
  • Issues causing missed revenue opportunities (e.g., customer profiles in your database failing to incorporate data from other systems in your marketing technology ecosystem)

The quicker CMOs understand which solutions actually provide value to their operation and aspirations, the sooner they can eliminate the weak links in their martech stack and turn their attention to the right mix of solutions that will drive their business forward.

Read more: New Isn’t Always Better: A Case for Evaluating Existing MarTech First