10 key steps to build the right martech stack


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Now more than ever, marketers are operating in a new reality that requires deeper thought, empathy, and listening, all while understanding how to deliver their company’s brand promise for today and tomorrow. As we continue to process and find new ways of working during the ongoing coronavirus outbreak and challenging economic conditions, marketers are reevaluating their entire business, trying to understand what to communicate and looking to redefine their operating models.

What’s worked in the past for marketing campaigns, emails, social strategies, and events execution now requires a massive retooling and refocusing of your efforts around bringing value to the end customer.

Whether it’s shifting and optimizing marketing budgets from print to a digital marketing mix or moving all your in-person experiential conferences to virtual sessions and meet-ups, marketers have to be even more agile and thoughtful. So as you analyze your KPIs, web traffic, customer journeys, email performance, behavioral analytics, and insights, how are you going to make that strategic marketing shift?

Many questions with different answers

In the midst of these constantly evolving times, marketers must ask themselves the following questions: “With the shift in my marketing strategy and budget, does my existing martech stack support my execution? Do I have any gaps in my execution? Do I have the right partners in place to shift with me today and when we emerge from the current crisis?  Do I have the proper skills and talent within my team to fulfill the potential of my new reality marketing plan? And lastly, what does tomorrow look like and who can potentially provide me with the proper know-how and know now?

As a marketing practitioner for over 22 years, I’ve been very blessed to work at a variety of leading organizations where I’ve asked these exact questions over and over again. To support the decision-making process — especially purchasing, implementing, maintaining and transforming many martech stacks — I’ve developed my own personal checklist which I’ve used, tested, and refined many times over. 

The Checklist

So here are ten simple steps a marketer should follow when they start building or rebuilding their martech stack.

  1. Know your marketing strategy: Before you start making martech purchases and decisions, define and understand your company vision, strategy, and objectives. Most importantly, your strategies should tie back to your customer’s journey and pains – customer centricity is a must. Try to get a download from your management team and marketing leadership and make sure you understand what’s currently working and what’s not. Last, review your marketing objectives, strategy, and budget as you form your annual and quarterly plans while defining where you have gaps.
  2. Learn, connect, and learn some more: Attend key marketing events, read analyst reports, join LinkedIn groups & attend webinars. Social and community groups are powerful channels to connect with your marketing peers and hear relevant conversations. Attending key marketing events and conferences is a great way to learn what marketers are faced with and know the vendors in the market. If you have to be virtual, articles and webinars can educate you on solutions, models, and best practices.
  3. Audit your martech stack: Conduct a gap analysis in your martech stack, regardless of if you own the budget or not. First, get a clear picture on what you have today to determine what you need in the future. Also try to understand how much your company is paying to know what the financial commitment level is and what contractual agreements are in place. Last, figure out the investment payback and the return on investment to know if it indirectly or directly saved money or generated revenue.
  4. Create a martech stack vision and roadmap: Make a roadmap of capabilities that align with your marketing strategy and objectives, charting how you can achieve those goals and targets from a timeline perspective. Next, determine what you’re able to achieve and select the key areas where you need to invest and grow or add new capabilities. Last, determine the feasibility, prioritize must-have’s and know the complexities in achieving them.
  5. Audit your talent and understand your skill gaps: Assess your team and determine what gaps you have so that you know where you’ll need some additional marketing muscle. Identify their skills, strengths, and weaknesses and then review some marketing job descriptions to see what other expertise you might need. Find courses, workshops, and learning materials that can help train and upskill your talent.
  6. Form a team and develop an internal business case: Put together a nimble working team that interlocks with other stakeholders with regular scheduled meetings and agendas. A business case is a living document designed to communicate with your management team to get internal buy-in and support. Don’t boil the ocean with deep dive details — executives will only want to know the timeline, cost, and why you need it. If there any project outcomes such as increased percentage in revenue or cost-savings metrics, add it to your business case.
  7. Pull your martech stack together: Work with your procurement and finance teams to start drafting an RFP document and make a short list of your top three to five vendors who have the capabilities you need. Communicate with all the vendors to ensure they understand the RFP and know the deadline. Establish good relationships with your finance and procurement partner since you’ll be working closely to get the best deal and make sure funds are available.
  8. Get expertise to help: Technical expertise is super critical at this particular stage. Get recommendations from your community groups and create a separate RFP for agencies or consultants who will help with your implementation. Past experience in knowing to how implement and work in various environments is important to avoid delays, so getting the appropriate members on your team trained is an important phase.
  9. Work with vendors: Schedule multiple demos, get access to the environment if possible, and get testimonials & references to make sure the vendor you’re choosing is right for you. Demo, demo, and demo some more. If available, get a demo environment that will allow you to see the UI and functionality of the product. Also get testimonial and client references if possible within your industries or close to your business (minimum of 3 to 5 references). Most importantly, understand the pricing options and see if they fall within your budget. Vendors will work better if they know what your budget range is.
  10. Sign the contract: Make a decision to implement a pilot or complete a full implementation. Don’t wait weeks or months — start immediately implementing your roll-out plan with IT (if you have) and training your marketing resources. Also, determine what to measure so you have key metrics to share with executives to demonstrate whether it’s a success or a failure. Last, over-communicate with your marketing stakeholders and management teams to ensure they know where you are and how the investment is paying out.

Tomorrow is coming — are you ready?

Whether you’re just beginning to your build your martech journey or continuing what you started prior to the crisis, think about one more question: “Are you ready to engage with the new customer journeys that tomorrow will bring?” It’s time for marketers to step up and lead this change, both externally and internally in our respective organizations. Happy marketing!

As part of our Brilliant Basics series, check out more topics relevant to today’s changing environment. In the meantime, you can also watch our webinar “Building a Martech Stack From Scratch” on demand.