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How to Effectively Choose and Manage Your MarTech Investment

The MarTech world has exploded. In 2011, there were only 150 martech solutions. Now there are over 9,932 solutions available to industry professionals. There are more solutions now than ever before, but companies face two main challenges regarding selection. 

Investing in a new MarTech solution is completely off the table for many companies. They have already chosen a solution, and their teams have been running with it the best way they know how. Now is not the time to switch it up. For others, the sales pressure in the market is making their decision that much harder. Every MarTech company is marketing itself as the best possible solution, and it’s becoming almost impossible to sort through the noise.

Understanding the MarTech market, your business, and how the two integrate is key to picking and managing a solution. But rather than trying to go at it alone, outside agencies may have the experience and expertise you need to be successful. Digital experience agencies excel in deciphering marketing promises versus platform realities and helping companies get the most out of their current investments. So, let’s dive in. Where do you start, and how can agencies help?

The Sales Pressure Is On 

All the big MarTech platforms — Adobe, Acquia, Salesforce, and Sitecore — claim to do the same things. While there is a lot of parity across these platforms, there are important differences, too.

Marketing materials and conferences are generally good places to learn about the brass tacks of major digital experience platforms (DXP), but they don’t explain how platforms work for individual companies. For example, Sitecore has a proprietary system for measuring engagement called the Engagement Value Scale, and implementing that system is a foundational requirement for measuring A/B tests and personalization. Some companies may find immense value in that system, while others may not need it. But figuring that out can be incredibly difficult — especially when MarTech features are marketed for everyone. 

Today, there’s not only an endless array of MarTech choices but also a further set of decisions around optimization within each choice. It takes experience working across these platforms to understand all the nuances. Implementing martech can be overwhelming if you’re trying to create a system, optimize it, and meet your company’s core marketing needs. This is why bringing in experienced outside help could be extremely beneficial. 

Step 1: Assess MarTech Solutions

Before you decide whether to bring in help, you should identify and prioritize the use cases you want to address and then methodically examine how MarTech features relate to those cases. This means diving deep into the developer’s documentation and ensuring your team understands how implementation will work. The MarTech ROI needs to be worth the startup cost, and platforms are always more difficult and expensive to implement than what demo videos will lead you to believe. For example, some demo videos may lead you to believe that functionality is automatic when, in fact, it is anything but. Oftentimes, it takes time and effort to implement the technology — and that’s the real cost driver. 

Because agencies have cross-platform and cross-industry experience, they can help guide you through the nuances of different platforms and provide insight into what it takes to execute a solution. Additionally, they can discuss the value proposition of each potential MarTech investment along with pros and cons that may not be apparent to someone who’s unfamiliar with the technology. 

Step 2: Determine What You Actually Need

To effectively implement a MarTech solution, you’ll likely need a few components. MarTech needs are generally tied to digital marketing maturity — the more mature a company’s digital marketing becomes, the greater its need for technology to enable it. At a minimum, most companies need a content management system for their websites; a marketing automation platform for email, SMS, and other multichannel customer relationship management; and an analytics tool to measure performance. 

Modern platforms tend to be multifunctional, which is a huge plus. Digital experience platforms such as Salesforce’s Experience Cloud and Acquia’s Marketing Cloud include multiple components (e.g., content management, analytics, marketing automation, personalization decision engines, customer data management, etc.). Using a digital experience platform with extensive capabilities can make integration easier, as those tools are designed to work together.

Although these platforms are highly customizable by design, integration still requires thoughtful engineering. You should turn to an agency partner to assess your component needs. A partner that has seen other companies’ successes and failures with similar platforms can offer valuable advice that dramatically accelerates the success timeline and avoids headaches.

Step 3: Know What to Watch Out For

Choosing the right MarTech solution is only a small part of the equation. Maybe you’ve already selected a solution but are having trouble reaping the full benefits. The biggest barriers to effective implementation tend to revolve around people and processes. These are the most common roadblocks:

  • Poor Governance. Without governance in place, MarTech platforms quickly become messy and cluttered. This hinders capabilities and slows progress. Poor governance can apply to the coding standards, taxonomies that organize content and assets, naming conventions, audience/segment definitions, data management, platform and data hygiene, training, process documentation, etc.
  • Underfunding or Understaffing. There are no “magic button” solutions; implementing a MarTech solution isn’t a one-time effort. MarTech solutions require ongoing management and maintenance from your internal team. Entropy is an overlooked risk that needs to be managed. As soon as you finish building something, it will degrade without maintenance. This could be due to poor hygiene within the platform or external factors (e.g., code libraries becoming deprecated). Knowing these potential pitfalls ahead of time will help keep your MarTech solution up and running. 

Step 4: Upskill Team Members 

A common mistake many companies make is underestimating the investment needed in people and processes. Too often, they assume their new tech solutions will be automatic from the start. At the end of the day, MarTech platforms require a lot of work to set up, and the ideal MarTech solution involves building a strong internal team. 

Here are ways you can develop and leverage your team:

  • Use developer resources. Most tech platform companies offer extensive product training resources: on-demand video-based training, in-person training, and developer documentation. Salesforce’s Trailblazer program is a great example of this.
  • Build sandboxes for your technology platforms. Create a place where teams can try things out and build their competency in a low-risk environment.
  • Prioritize. Trying to do everything at once can overwhelm your team and slow progress. Prioritize the capabilities and audiences you believe will drive the greatest return.
  • Empower your engineers and lead developers. They may not be the most vocal people on your team, but they can often find ways to enable capabilities without investing in new tools. Most companies don’t fully leverage the capabilities within their MarTech stacks, and they may not even realize what capabilities exist. Your engineers can help you identify and activate those underutilized features.
  • Practice effective governance. Ensure that roles and processes are well-defined. This will make it easier for your team to use the technology you invested in.
  • Encourage a test-and-learn mindset. It is easy for teams to become paralyzed when they think everything must be perfect before deploying. Your team will rapidly improve their competency, efficiency, and efficacy by executing small tests frequently and adapting programs based on learnings from those tests.

Finding the right MarTech solution for your company in today’s climate can seem daunting. Whether you feel stuck with your current MarTech platform or confused about which solution is best, an agency partner to help you assess your needs, avoid roadblocks, and develop your team. This will help you find a sustainable long-term solution.

Get the support you need. To navigate the complex world of MarTech and unlock your company’s potential in today’s challenging landscape, contact us.

Partner with Barefoot

Tim Lemke

Tim Lemke leads the experience technology discipline at Barefoot, which is comprised of a team of solution architects, marketing technologists, application developers, and business analysts. He and his team are responsible for transforming creative concepts into connected, cross-channel digital experiences. This includes technology solution design, platform implementation, custom code development, marketing automation, content authoring, personalization, and email deployments. He approaches work from an experience-first perspective, meaning he focuses on the user and shapes the technology solution to create an ideal experience for that user rather than letting technology dictate the solution.

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