The risks lurking in the shadows of your marketing tech stack

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By Sean Brady, President of Emarsys Americas 

When did technology become a total focus, rather than the means to an end, for marketers?

The influx in both availability and quantity of consumer data over the past two decades has pushed us as marketers to become more data-driven in our strategies and tactics. However, over time, “more data” turned into “too much data” and we turned to technology for help, racing to assemble the perfect tech stack for our organization in order to get ahead of the competition and deliver a “personal touch” in our communications at scale, across customers’ preferred channels.

In our race to create this so-called perfect tech stack, we’ve leaned heavily on technology solutions. And, as technology capabilities have grown, so has the complexity involved in using it to the point where marketers are feeling overwhelmed, resulting in a widening gap between implementation and adoption of functionalities. Research from HubSpot shows that marketers now often use between six to 10 different tools to manage campaigns and data. It’s reached the point that instead of having a tech stack, we’re all-consumed by it.

When the tech becomes too much

Some marketers wear a complex, towering tech stack as a badge of honor – but it’s really nothing to be proud of. First, the costs of all those niche tools and point solutions add up. While each piece may be affordable on its own, when the total running cost of a tech stack is calculated, it is often far more than marketing leaders imagine. In fact, nearly 60% of marketing budgets are allocated towards the integration, maintenance, and management of various technology tools.

It also means marketers lose a sense of some of the value elements of their job role – the strategy, content, and creative elements – to instead tend to their tools, platforms, software, and widgets. So, rather than spend their time on marketing activity, many have become tech integration managers or data facilitators. Not only is this frustrating for many marketers and a demotivating shift away from what they envisioned for their careers, it’s also inefficient and steals away time and energy that should be applied to creating content that actually converts, delights and retains customers.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly in our time of data breaches and hacks, is something many marketing leaders don’t often consider: the risk these tech stacks introduce to the business. As new technology is brought in by the marketing team, it’s not always vetted by the company’s IT department. Nor are the methods used to integrate it or the various data management systems and processes behind it all. This is Shadow IT, and it breeds vulnerability and risk for the organization.

So, what should marketers do?

Software should be doing the hard work of ensuring marketers are able to meet company objectives, not standing in the way of them and the profits and growth they facilitate.  While we need technology to do our jobs better, we don’t need a myriad of different – often redundant – tools that devour our time cost more than the results we’re getting from them, and prevent us from delivering the truly personalized interactions our customers expect.

The first thing to do is understand the overall goals and objectives your marketing team wants to achieve. Whether it’s to drive engagement, retain existing customers, or find untapped sources of revenue with programs, such as abandoned cart campaigns, you must first identify your goals and then establish a strategy for each goal. All too often marketers get their hands on the tech and then map goals to each tool. That’s how you end up with a massive tech stack that overlaps in features and cripples your efficiency.

Once objectives have been identified, marketers can then move on to developing the specific strategies that will help their organization achieve these goals. To do so, they must first understand what technology will be needed and how it can best be scaled. Doing so will help to identify which tactics will best align with the bigger picture – understanding that technology is the marketer’s tool to bringing goals to fruition.

Next comes the self-audit. At this stage, marketers should take an in-depth look at their tech stack and analyze what it can achieve and, most importantly, how it can be improved and simplified. You can identify whether your current set-up is working well for you without a third party by asking questions such as: Are you effectively executing an omnichannel marketing strategy? How many tools does it take? How much time are you spending managing your technology? How much money are you spending on your entire tech stack? Are members of your team spending their time managing technology? Or are they leveraging tools to be more strategic and creative?

Many will reach the conclusion that they need to partner with a unified marketing platform vendor – and choosing the right one is where the hard work really starts. However, if you go in already knowing your goals and the tools your marketers need most to achieve them, you will be able to cross off many vendors from your list early on.

Once you’ve narrowed down your list of prospective partners, it’s time to bring IT into the process. Too often I see unnecessary relationship roadblocks between marketing and IT departments; this is your greatest opportunity for collaboration. Work with them to champion an official platform and software approval process that is both as swift as possible for your team and as controlled as possible for IT and the security of the organization. Marketing and IT should also be the leading advocates of customer data security, and together you should find the platform that will keep your most valuable asset – your data – safe.

Overhauling an overgrown tech stack, once and for all

Marketers today have the incredible advantage of leveraging technology to deliver exponentially better experiences (and results!) than ever before. But if your team relies on cobbled together tech stacks, you’re probably experiencing more headaches than successful outcomes. Taking the time to address this will help to ensure your marketing team has more time, more energy, and more strategic thought-power to focus on better ways to deliver exceptional customer experience.

About Sean Brady

As President of the Americas, Sean Brady works to deliver the most innovative marketing technologies driving business results for organizations. In this position, he drives sales of Emarsys’ B2C marketing cloud across the U.S., Canada, and Latin America. His U.S.-based team enables commerce-based businesses to grow their revenues by delivering multichannel data, real-time analytics and predictive marketing technologies to maximize customer value.

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