Do you really need all these MarTech platforms?

Do you really need all these MarTech platforms?
By Daniel Knauf
Mar 8, 2022

Marketers are challenged today to deliver amazing digital experiences. The bar has been set by companies like Chewy, Etsy, USAA, and Costco (all in the top 5% of the Forrester CX Index 2021). To create these experiences, you need technology that can talk to one another, provide insights, and automate processes. Businesses are challenged across the board to build out the right MarTech stack that balances the needs of their customers with the needs of their organization.

Organizational silos—sometimes the result of multiple acquisitions—and other organizational complexities can result in duplications and inefficiencies. Teams spend too much time stitching together the data to build a single view of their customer to truly power personalization efforts and the elevated experiences that consumers expect. The right combination of platforms and services, which can scale as your business evolves and grows, is needed to manage large changes in traffic volumes, customer demands, successful marketing campaigns, and more.

Technical debt and inefficiencies

Overlapping technologies in your MarTech stack are problematic for a number of reasons. At the surface level, there are obvious cost duplication concerns. Diving deeper you see team efficiency concerns due to a lack of standardized processes around solving tasks. And then ongoing challenges to migrate, merge, and de-duplicate—which can cost teams valuable time and resources.

Technical debt is also something that needs serious consideration. If you have truly duplicated systems, you are accruing debt at a rate of 2x. Partially duplicative systems, though accruing debt at a lower rate, are still incredibly costly to your business in both the short and longer term. Technical debt can hinder your abilities as an organization to operate efficiently and at the high level needed to compete in a dynamic market—increasing time to market, impeding agility, and resulting in a fragmented customer experience, not to mention the direct hit to your revenue stream.

It’s imperative to look at the type of technology you truly need—as opposed to what a certain stakeholder may want—and evaluate it alongside your current stack. Most organizations have individuals with specific expertise in a certain solution or a particular loyalty to it because they were responsible for that investment and have a vested interest in gaining value from it. There is also a common tendency toward chasing the new, shiny object that promises to deliver on a higher level of experiences for your customers or power elevated personalization efforts. Be aware of these common pitfalls during your evaluation period.

Who owns marketing technology?

Most organizations find themselves ripe for rationalization because of silos and a lack of clear ownership. That said, organizations may find themselves heavily aligned to one group or another. If you're a CMO, CXO, or CDO then the drivers for MarTech rationalization center around enabling your team to deliver customer experiences and differentiate offerings efficiently and at the speed which markets, and customers, move. There is also a significant focus on scaling personalization efforts across the entire stack, innovating quickly and bridging any gaps in digital capabilities on the team.

If you're an IT leader (CTO, CIO, etc.) you're seeking products that enable the business with minimal overhead and lower accruals of technical debt. You gravitate to products that meet data compliance and safety requirements, working to stay within your organization’s risk appetite by eliminating any tools—be it point solution or platform—that create governance issues. Increased value is placed on technologies that scale with the needs of the business without having to re-tool.

In truth, MarTech—and the choice of which platforms should exist in your stack—needs buy-in from a variety of stakeholders across your organization to successfully execute on your vision. This starts with a cohesive strategy that places the customer, and their experiences and journey with your brand, at the center. But how can your organization start to move beyond the basics of a MarTech stack (web, CRM, channels, data/insights) and get to a place of differentiation powered by the right marketing technology

  • Start with a robust understanding of your customers—their patterns, behaviors, preferences, and opportunities for engaging with your brand. Differentiation will come with how close you can get to understanding who your customer is and how you can meet them where they are—that doesn’t always mean more tools.
  • Lean into the right tools that underpin your strategy. Platform products that stitch together relevant data using automated and AI-based models can save a lot of time and effort deriving insights about your customer. Getting the same result from point solutions is possible but often takes more work to glue it all together.
  • Recognize not every company needs deeply personalized, 1:1 experiences. Nor do they need to race to build a MarTech stack capable of delivering on them—know your customers and your business and invest according to your strategy.
  • Get your foundational basics fine-tuned and ready to scale. And if your tools can't scale, it's important to swap them out (or combine, etc.) before expanding. Expanding too quickly often results in unnecessary technical debt and wasted time and resources.

Optimizing your MarTech stack

As organizations grow in size and MarTech scale, they tend to naturally increase the number of tools in their stack. Organizations of any size may find themselves overwhelmed by the number of tools in their toolbox. There isn’t a magic number and less isn’t always more. The point that really matters is how easily the tools can be integrated. Organizations can deepen silos by creating points of value between their tools and workflows. And although governance is important—it is often relied on too heavily as the band aid to making these integrations work.

Having the right skillsets within your teams is also crucial—but often not an intuitive balance. You may require more skilled individuals the more tools you add to your stack due to the nuances of how each tool is used, integrated, and distributed in the organization. Though a platform approach might seem more costly, you can reduce the number of unique interfaces and manual effort. Tools may cost money, but team labor is often a far more expensive investment. Striking the right balance is a big opportunity for cost and efficiency savings, particularly long term.

Evaluating your options

Adobe is one platform provider that has put significant effort into solving the challenge of achieving differentiation through a smarter use of tools. Adobe provides unified, actionable real-time customer profiles. This includes unifying data across any Adobe Experience Cloud product and many other point solutions that integrate. Not an all-or-nothing platform, Adobe solutions scale and build on each other as they are incorporated into the stack. Although we are platform agnostic, our 13+ year Adobe partnership has given us the insights and experience to evaluate relevant features for any of our customers who select Adobe Experience Cloud.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Daniel Knauf, Chief Technology Officer

    Daniel is an expert in modernizing and transforming technology delivery teams with more than 20 years of experience.  View bio

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