3 ways to ensure your marketing technology stacks up

Putting together a marketing technology stack can be exciting, but with so many vendors and so much functionality, it can also be overwhelming. Columnist Jim Yu has some advice to guide your tool selection.

The Marketing Technology Landscape has now reached nearly 5,000 vendors, with options to suit a wide range of marketer needs. Depending on your point of view, the number of new vendors and tools available — which grew by 40 percent within just one year — is either incredibly exciting or very daunting.

According to Foundation Capital, technology spend by CMOs will increase 10x in the next 10 years, from $12 billion to $120 billion. For the CMO and digital marketers tasked with developing a marketing stack, this can be anxiety-provoking; the landscape is overcrowded and fragmented. Benefits of various vendors may appear to flirt across categorical needs, providing all-encompassing but spotty support.

And with so many options available, it’s easy for marketers to get confused.

Rather than spending hours walking through product demos, many marketers are either choosing to stick with the same tried-and-true marketing stack or brazenly adopting the “latest and greatest” technologies, regardless of their fit with the existing stack or department needs.

It’s more important than ever that marketers take a thoughtful approach to building the marketing stack. The digital realm in which brands compete is projected to become significantly more congested. Marketers must strategically engineer their marketing stack with a host of solutions that navigate through the noise and deliver solid ROI.

In this article, I share three simple tips to help ensure your marketing technology decisions stack up.

1. Visualize your stack and get a holistic view of your technology landscape

Before even getting to the detail of which tools and platforms to include in your marketing stack, it’s advantageous to step over to the whiteboard and engineer your marketing stack.

As evidenced by the annual Stackies Awards, there are endless ways to visually organize the stack. Some marketers build out a flow chart, while others tackle the stack with a circuit board design.

The team at Cisco (above) has designed a marketing stack with a circular flow that is partitioned off by customers, partners, sellers and data operators. Wiley, on the other hand, takes the approach of assigning technology to specific strategies, like social media and lead generation.

Digital marketers are beginning to hone their focus on the online channels that best attract, engage and convert the right customers. Do not fall prey to thinking of these platforms as individual tools. Rather, match the capabilities of these tools to key marketing and digital trends that feed into the greater strategy of what your marketing operation looks to accomplish.

Hence, it is also important to ensure you understand what you currently have. This includes doing a complete audit of your current technology providers to ensure your current investments are providing the return on marketing investment (ROMI) required from them.

This includes looking at:

  • platform usage versus license agreements and numbers.

  • upgrades versus incremental performance.

  • functionality and ease of use.

  • speed and reliability.

  • point vendors (tools) versus comprehensive solutions (platforms).

  • workflow (process) versus performance (reporting and analytics) solutions.

  • wider company adoption versus siloed departmental usage.

  • onboarding, training and ongoing support.

  • integration and multi-functional reporting.

  • data sources (first-, second- and third-party sources) versus data accuracy.

2. Use data as the source of truth that powers your marketing stack

Digital marketers now have access to more data than ever before to help them understand how their marketing performs and stacks up to their competition. By leveraging both historical and real-time data, digital marketers can discover what technology will perform best for them.

Data and analytics should be pivotal to the development of your marketing technology stack — all the way from initial development to integration and activation. However, the key to success of your stack is not solely dependent upon the volume of data. Technology providers must have enhanced capabilities that allow marketers to process unstructured data so that it can be broken down into structured data sets that provide actionable insights.

It is vital that marketers begin to utilize machine and deep learning technology to uncover data insights that connect the dots across multiple digital marketing channels and uncover opportunities to improve overall performance. As many companies do not have unlimited access to a large data science team, they are beginning to use machine deep-learning technology instead to analyze many complex and dynamic data sets. This can, in turn, power initiatives such as real-time optimization, predictive analytics and personalization campaigns.

Using deep learning to identify patterns in data in real time also allows marketers to understand new trends — including customer, competitor or market changes — and quickly turn these insights into action.

To build efficient, long-lasting marketing technology stacks, it is important to shift focus from simply gathering and mining data to creating new deep learning models that serve as your marketing source of truth.

3. Prioritize technology that integrates and activates

Narrowing in on the right tools begins with identifying the concrete parameters that will be used to determine a consideration set for the marketing stack.

First and foremost, identify strategy, goals and the most significant metrics that will impact the company’s success. Marketers should also have their available budget set in stone. Disqualify any platforms that do not meet these qualifications specified by you and your team.

By identifying these factors ahead of time, choosing a vendor becomes significantly easier, as the consideration set is reduced. This also removes flashy platforms that may dazzle but not serve the fundamental needs of the company. Again, the bigger picture and focus on performance are essential. Data, deep learning and automation will empower marketers to integrate, accelerate and scale operations in a logical and intelligent manner.

Make objective evaluations of the platform you are considering to ensure that it meets your department’s and brand’s needs to its fullest capabilities. Consider whether it is merely a tool with some elements that suit your needs; whether or not the features are truly practical for consistent use; and if your company will fully utilize them. These considerations will help you choose the best tool for your team — without requiring an extraordinary budget to retain.

Finally, identify the benefits offered by existing platforms your department intends to continue using — this may be because of a continuing membership arrangement or because the platform is central to existing capabilities. An effective marketing technology stack uses best-of-breed platforms intelligently, maximizing the individual potential of each technology, thereby creating a system that is greater than the sum of its parts.


Building a solid marketing technology stack will allow you, as an end goal, to optimize all your digital assets for the user’s buyer journey. This will fuel massive returns on engagement and conversion rates. In its current form, the tech landscape is primed for consolidation around enterprise-standard technology that moves the digital marketing revenue needle. Organizations are already beginning to redesign their organizational structures around marketing revenue centers that align on common KPIs, including profitability and ROI.

Don’t be left behind.


[Article on MarTech Today.]

Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.


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