Building Your MarTech Stack Into an Ecosystem
One of the biggest challenges in MarTech stack development is determining which technology categories and products should be incorporated as the stack evolves. Marketing teams are under tremendous pressure to do more, produce better results, and to incorporate the latest technology in the hopes that it will increase competitive differentiation. With more than 8,000 marketing and marketing-related products to choose from, marketing teams are overwhelmed by choice and are finding it difficult to find the pieces of the puzzle they need.
There are a number of sources available to discover new products (CabinetM, Capterra, G2 Crowd, Trust Radius) but narrowing down a category of vendors is challenging. Product reviews are marginally helpful since the way a product performs is often environmentally specific and dependent on interconnectivity with other platforms.
The Current Vendor Process
In the good old days, we had the option of picking up the phone and calling vendors to ask questions. But if we do that today, or download a whitepaper, we end up getting thrown into the vendor’s formal sales process which means talking to an inside sales rep who will want to schedule a qualification call, then being passed to a qualifier who in turn passes you to the demo person who finally passes you to a senior account executive who will attempt to convert you into a customer. At the same time you are moving through this process, someone in the organization will have triggered a nurturing campaign and you will be bombarded with emails encouraging you to sign up for a trial.
I’m not passing judgment on the process. We all use some variant of this. What I will say is that this is only manageable if you are dealing with a very short list of vendors. I once downloaded a report about the CRM landscape without realizing that all 40 vendors listed in the report had sponsored it. Within one week of downloading that report, I wanted to hide under my desk and throw my phone and laptop out the window.
Vendor Strategy Realized
So what should you do? At the heart of every MarTech stack are one to three anchor platforms. These platforms typically fall into one of five categories: data management, marketing automation, CRM, ecommerce, and analytics. They provide the backbone of the marketing technology infrastructure. As the foundation of the MarTech stack they are mission-critical to the overall marketing technology strategy of every company.
Implementation and operation of these platforms require a significant resource investment as well as a large financial investment. Given their importance and the amount of the marketing budget they consume, it is vital that companies ensure that they have a good working relationship with their anchor vendors and a good vendor support infrastructure in place. Most companies are diligent about doing this. There is, however, so much more, that anchor vendors can provide:
- First, they can work closely with you to assess how much of their functionality is actually being leveraged. Many times, an untapped function of the platform can address a need better than buying an additional product.
- Second, they are a great source for helping qualify new products and new categories of products. Most anchor vendors have a robust partner ecosystem where vendors and their integration capabilities have been pre-qualified making it easy to narrow down the list of potential candidates. They can also help connect you with each vendor organization and assist you in bypassing the sales process until you are ready to dive deep into a product.
- Third, and most importantly, they are constantly working to stay ahead of the technology curve. They should be your first call when someone asks you about where a new technology should fit into your technology strategy. Chances are they have already figured that out and can help you think about how to apply it to your environment.
The Next Stop: Ecosystem
One of the things that we have seen with our CabinetM users is how closely they track their anchor vendors’ roadmaps and how much they factor that into their long-term technology strategy. Many of our users also actively engage with their anchor vendors to help shape and influence the priority of the key features that they need. This is a natural, symbiotic relationship where both parties benefit greatly. Vendors need clients to validate their product direction, and clients with a voice end up with the features they need.
If you aren’t already doing so, I encourage you to transform your client/vendor relationship into a strategic one that gives you the ability to tap your anchor vendors’ expertise in helping you optimize and expand your existing stack and map a long-term technology strategy. Don’t keep your vendors at arm’s length—bring them inside and make them a part of your team. You’ll find it so much easier to optimize what you have and to plot your course for the future.