“Sixty-five percent of marketing organizations say they plan to increase their spend on martech in the next year,” according to the Walker Sands “State of Marketing Technology 2018.

Unfortunately, marketers may not always make strategy-driven choices about new technology as they struggle to keep pace with the rate of MarTech innovation. According to the same research report, just 28% of marketing organizations feel their teams are keeping up with the evolution of marketing technology.

Increasingly, B2B marketing leaders suffer from “MarTech Overwhelm Syndrome,” a form of stress caused by the growing number of marketing technologies. There are now 6,829 unique MarTech solutions available, according to Chief MarTech. The sheer volume of options can, in many cases, lead to difficulty making the right decisions about which marketing software to adopt.

A defined process for technology-portfolio management and strategic tech selection is the cure to MarTech Overwhelm Syndrome. Drawing from the methodologies of the most tech-enabled B2B marketing organizations, here’s a detailed process for identifying gaps in your tech stack and rearranging existing investments before seeking out the best tech solutions for your organization.

3 Steps to Research and Evaluate the Latest Marketing Technology

Gartner research shows that businesses only achieve 40% of the anticipated value of all technological initiatives. Poor data quality, planning and execution are the primary causes of tech-investment failures.

Analyzing your current stack and developing a plan to improve it can be a daunting task. In the steps below, you’ll see actionable steps that make augmenting your current stack with the latest marketing technology achievable.

Step #1: Create a Baseline Inventory of the MarTech Stack

Creating a baseline technology inventory of your MarTech stack is essential to understand the relative value of each investment. While developing an inventory is rarely a fast or easy undertaking, it’s an important practice to consider how MarTech investments support marketing, sales, customer success and the overarching business objectives.

Create a Technological Inventory

Collaborate with marketing, sales and customer success to create an inventory of each MarTech solution in use as a first step toward creating a blueprint. Avoid the temptation of merely creating a list. Tables and spreadsheets can enable organizations to capture important context during the inventory process, such as active users and integrations between tools.

Align Technology with the Customer Journey

By visualizing and mapping MarTech to the sales funnel, it’s possible to begin understanding how MarTech investments support the organization’s needs. Within the context of the customer journey, it’s possible to create detailed alignments of technology, data and individual processes.

Create Visualizations of Technology and Process in a Living Document

Using PowerPoint or another tool which supports the creation of visual flowcharts, take the technology portfolio inventory process a step further to visualize the alignment of software, data integration, tools and process. The goal is to understand how the existing MarTech stack supports seamless data integration and business goals. This process is generally highly collaborative and will likely require extensive feedback from members of the marketing, sales and customer success teams.

While a baseline MarTech inventory is a crucial tool for identifying gaps and opportunities for improvement, it’s also an essential key for strategic technology management and investment for the future. Your inventory should be treated as a living document and built in a format, such as PowerPoint or Excel, which supports flexibility and continual edits to reflect future improvements as software, processes and business goals evolve.

The Benefits of MarTech Portfolio Management

Sometimes referred to as technology portfolio governance, taking an active approach to managing your MarTech portfolio can lead to beneficial outcomes at every level of the organization. Not only will marketing operations leaders benefit from higher visibility and understanding of the MarTech ecosystem, but it also creates a stable baseline for strategic decision-making and data quality initiatives. These benefits include:

  1. The potential for strategic tech investments.
  2. The opportunity to improve and strengthen existing data integrations.
  3. Vendor management and cost-saving potential for reducing tech-related wastes on redundant investments.
  4. The ability to collaborate with IT experts to actively manage the marketing software and application lifecycle for obsolete technologies, information security risks and other technical opportunities.
  5. The baseline for stronger regulatory compliance with greater visibility into technology deployment and data processing.

Step #2: Identify Opportunities for Process Improvements

With comprehensive documentation in place, B2B marketing operations leaders have an opportunity to identify opportunities for improvement. These can range from opportunities to integrate or realign existing MarTech investments or time-consuming manual tasks which are opportunities for automation with new technology acquisition.

Laurie Klausner, Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at Entuity, was recently tasked with creating a baseline inventory of her organization’s global MarTech stack to iterate the technology continually. Klausner says,

“We looked at them all. We looked at our marketing stack, how it fit in, and then made a decision based on cost and effectiveness, obviously.

We aren’t trying to boil the ocean. We try to focus on doing a few things well. Lead generation. Channel enablement… We are constantly thinking about tweaks, not overhauls.”

The following questions can enable organizations to discover processes and circumstances where MarTech may not be serving the organization’s strategic objectives fully:

  • Which tools lack data integration or methodologies for data validation?
  • Which software or processes are the sources of data quality or data privacy concerns?
  • Which technologies lack a consent or consent removal mechanism for data processing?
  • Which processes or platforms contribute to duplicate data?
  • Which processes contribute to significant manual efforts, such as manual lead data verification or manual lead upload to the customer relationship management (CRM) tool?
  • Which processes act as a roadblock to business goals, such as event data management procedures which delay lead follow-up?
  • Which areas of the sales funnel are associated with a lack of cross-channel transparency, or difficulty performing measurement and optimization activities?

When technologies or vendor relationships are the source of data quality issues or significant, repetitive manual efforts, there’s an opportunity to realign technology with your organization’s processes for more efficient outcomes.

Before removing a tool, understand your options and implications. In some cases, it may be most efficient to create an integration between existing tools to streamline data flow. In other cases, areas of the funnel which lack transparency or processes which act as a roadblock may necessitate the acquisition of new MarTech solutions.

Step #3: Enhance Existing Processes with the Latest MarTech Solutions

If you’ve identified needs which are best served with new MarTech solutions, understanding how to proceed can be challenging. While you have the advantage of acquiring software based on strategic need, many areas of the MarTech landscape are crowded. Before you’re paralyzed with MarTech overwhelm syndrome, consider taking a strategic approach to research the best solutions for gaps in your process.

6 Sources to Consult Before Any Martech Investment Decision

The following is a loose process you can use to guide your own buyer’s journey, but it’s by no means a hard-set industry “best practice.” You’ll want to combine various information sources in a way that provides you with a well-rounded view to make educated decisions and profitable MarTech investments.

  1. Read Expert Research Insights. Source expert insight from firms such as Gartner, Forrester and IDC.
  2. Participate in User Groups. Before investing in a MarTech platform, attend local user groups to gain insight into the technologies which power the stacks of B2B marketers at firms with a similar customer journey.
  3. Follow Industry Influencers. Source insights from leading experts such as David Raab’s Customer Experience Matrix blog and Scott Brinker’s ChiefMartec.com.
  4. Collaborate with Current Software Vendors. While your existing vendors may not always have an entirely unbiased opinion on the best MarTech platforms, they can often offer insight into information around integration, customer support, uptime and other technical details.
  5. Leverage Vendor Content. Take advantage of vendor content offerings to assess which potential MarTech partnerships offer high-value, consultative content which demonstrates industry insight and transparent solutions that may fit your needs.
  6. Participate in Demos. Schedule demos, or engage in one-on-one discussion at an upcoming tradeshow to better understand how proposed solutions and vendor offerings may align with your organization’s needs.

Creating a High-Value MarTech Ecosystem

When evaluating potential MarTech solutions, integration should be a primary point of consideration. If a possible solution doesn’t offer reliable and straightforward integration with your existing core systems such as the marketing automation platform (MAP), CRM and content management system (CMS), it’s likely wise to reject it without further consideration. To provide value to the B2B marketing organization, a MarTech solution must seamlessly integrate into the core technologies, as well as the technologies and systems which immediately surround it.

While creating custom integrations is possible, it’s often costly, time-consuming and prone to error. Without data quality and insights marketers can trust, the MarTech system is just a series of low-value, standalone tools for completing tasks. When solutions support end-to-end integration, demand marketers can achieve full-funnel visibility and the opportunity to perform real-time performance optimization.

Need help identifying ways to improve the effectiveness of your MarTech stack? Get the newly revised “Marketing Tech Blueprint Workbook” to learn how to illustrate and analyze your tech architecture for smarter marketing decisions.