The six guidelines are: (1) Start based on a vision, mission, strategy and goals. The technology is next in line. (2) Work together with marketing, business and IT, and choose a solution together. (3) Reduce complexity. (4) Avoid being stuck with long-term licences. (5) Pay at least just as much attention to implementation. (6) Ensure that privacy and security are guaranteed. In this article, we explain the six guidelines based on our experiences and interviews with HEMA, Randstad Group and Talpa Network. This is how you get the most out of your marketing technology.
Guideline 1: Start based on the vision, mission, a clear strategy and objectives.
MarTech’s goal is to support the business in achieving the most optimal customer experience. It is therefore important for the customer to be in a central position of a company’s strategy and objectives, as you can also read in our article “How to set up your organisation for a central customer view”. For example, have customer KPIs, such as NPS/KTV or personalised interactions, been formulated along with financial targets and have they been translated to the rest of the organisation?
If ‘the customer’ is sufficiently represented in an organisation’s vision and mission, it will be easier for staff responsible for MarTech to draw up a roadmap and coordinate it with others that benefit from a well-functioning MarTech setup. In organisations in which this is not the case, we see that choices concerning technology are made from internal functional needs per department and not from the customer’s point of view. As a result, applications are silos and are barely integrated or not at all. This has a negative effect on customer perception, which in turn impedes a uniform customer experience and the effective deployment of MarTech investments.
There is no shortage of choice for MarTech solutions. There are now more than 8,000 solutions, which, according to Chiefmartech.com, are divided into six categories.
So then where do you start? Start with the vision, mission and strategy of your organisation and use methodologies such as OKR or OGSM to make goals concrete and to be able to cascade them to the rest of the organisation. Based on this, marketing and IT can make their own translations and substantiate the choices to be made. Recently, Bas Karsemeijer (Head of Data & Analytics at HEMA) summed up this way of working well:
“We buy tools the way we see ourselves: with the customer first and value for money. We don’t choose the coolest tool. We want the perfect tool at a good price, which can be linked to our back end to provide the most complete customer view possible, and which we can pass on to other channels. The customer is always the starting point”.
Guideline 2: Cooperation between marketing, IT and business also means choosing MarTech together
A guideline that is very obvious, but which we nevertheless give an important place in this article, is cooperation. That’s because we see two main challenges:
- Many departments within companies still operate in a decentralised manner when it comes to technology with their own budgets
- Cloud services are making it increasingly easy for the business to try out new technology without involving IT
These challenges bring with them a proliferation of technology, as it becomes increasingly easy to solve specific problems of a department. This is where cooperation comes in: departments must understand that their own initiatives can affect the overall architecture. Systems may overlap in functional areas (same functionality in different systems) as well as in the area of data (which data is leading and where is it persistent?) and logic (how is the customer approach orchestrated across different systems?).
Fortunately, we are seeing more and more multidisciplinary teams that consult each other, and the testing of new initiatives against company-wide guidelines is becoming increasingly important. Flexibility is good, but it must be done in consultation. Of course, gaining support for new ideas is essential, therefore, make it clear to each other which business problem will be solved and map out the effects of the initiative. Also ensure that, after the decision is made, people maintain insight into the results. Or as Sanne van Mourik Linsen, Sr. Customer Marketing Consultant at Yourzine (at the time of the interview Sr. MarTech Specialist at Talpa Network) recently explained it:
“Within Talpa Network, which is a network of various brands, from radio to social, we always look at what is best for the network, but also for the brands. By structuring various disciplines and needs, we see that we can achieve the network effect through the alignment of business, technology and the consumer.”
Guideline 3: Reducing complexity and increasing flexibility
Due to the diversity and speed at which MarTech develops, in practice, you cannot avoid purchasing multiple solutions. But how do you go about it? The end users of MarTech software suites generally do not have a technical background, and MarTech providers are responding to this effectively. They know how to convince you of the benefit of complete solutions and before you know it you have a range of tools available that are rarely ever used, you have a great deal of overlap in practice and are not well connected technically. They also often cannot be openly integrated, which creates a lock-in situation with a lack of flexibility to work with other software and platforms (which you may not be thinking about right now).
It is often shocking how many tools are used at a company that have something to do with marketing. For example, there may be a solution within a product team to simplify deep linking, while you can also put your entire mobile attribution into this. Or you have an email tool with which you could also send push messages, whereas you use a separate solution for this. It is therefore important to get a grip on the MarTech stack, which requires ownership of selection and application.
Finding a balance between expanding or limiting your MarTech stack is important. Once you plot the list of all available tools on the categories of the MarTech landscape, it becomes clear how many providers are available within a given category. By then determining what the business objectives are and how the marketing strategy fits with this, it becomes clear which marketing channels you want to use and what is really required for this. Based on this, you can then determine what the new starting point will be, where you can reduce costs and what new needs must be met. Also dare to get rid of tools that are used or produce too little. Curious how other organisations are doing? More than 51 MarTech stacks were shared during the 2020 Stackie Awards.
There is also the consideration of whether to choose make or buy solutions. Providers can usually meet the needs to a large extent, but in some cases organisations are looking for a very specific solution for which there is no suitable provider on the market. In these cases, a company can opt for a tailor-made solution. This can be interesting, but it requires a great deal of knowledge, time and budget and offers less flexibility. For this reason, this is only interesting if providers cannot offer what you are looking for and you have the resources available, unless the built element is a strategic asset for a company. Micha Luyf, IT Director Randstad Group, agrees:
“We are building less ourselves than before. It’s the things we want to be distinctive in, things that are not available on the market, that we build ourselves. If not, we don’t. That avoids unnecessary complexity and costs of development and management.”
The MarTech Manifesto by Frans Riemersma can help you quickly create value with your plan. This manifesto indicates an order of complexity (in functionalities and implementation). It helps to start simple and end at a more complex level when there is no other way. Often brands start the other way round. The manifesto consists of four starting points and two principles for both marketing stack owners and software developers.
Guideline 4: Avoid unnecessary licence fees
Due to the rapid developments in providers, legislation and differences in countries, it is important to remain flexible. Today, you may be looking for a mobile-attribution player, and six months later new legislation means you have to look for other acquisition opportunities. For this reason, avoid being stuck with long-term licences that no longer reflects the latest developments. You can financially benefit when taking out a long-term contract, but this limits the flexibility that marketing requires.
It is also good to look at the payment models of the various providers. For example, for a start-up it may be beneficial to make a deal based on domains, brands or numbers of users, while a media company may be better off making deals based on reach. Think carefully about the areas in which the company can develop and adjust your choice or agreements accordingly. A flexible agreement with a supplier also offers companies greater opportunity to test and try. There are some cases in the market already of companies that start a project with the idea that if it does not work, they can simply replace the software. This is extremely valuable: with so much new technology, trying and testing is a no-brainer, and stimulates innovation. In this way, a new initiative no longer has to take months to achieve results.
Finally, when signing a contract, check what is covered by the licence fees. If, for example, a significant part of the licensing costs of a suite solution, such as force.com, is based not only on the number of users but also on the data that is stored and processed around your customer view, we recommend storing your source data elsewhere, such as in a public cloud. This can help you save on costs.
Guideline 5: Pay at least as much attention to implementation
Proper implementation of the MarTech stack is as important as the choice of stack. Implementation involves data integration and control, central decision layer(s) and channel orchestration. Clarity on how to implement the MarTech stack is crucial for its successful use.
With prominent vendors such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure and AWS, a cloud platform is increasingly forming the heart of the MarTech stack. With their Platform as a Service (PAAS), these providers offer the building blocks and integration capabilities for an open (integrable) and central playing field for data, analytics, enrichment, automation and governance. Applications that are still missing, such as an email engine, e-commerce and SAAS point solutions can then be connected to the heart in the cloud. One example is that you create models from the PAAS that can’t be created, or only to a limited extent, with suites, and control cloud and channel applications with these decisions. This is how you get more out of your MarTech stack. You will also be able to connect new applications more flexibly or get rid of them.
The components of these clouds offer you the possibility to monitor the automated access to data sources, transformations and data quality, for example, by checking the accuracy of tables, speed, cost, privacy and security.
Micha Luyf, IT Director Randstad Group:
“We have looked closely at integration issues. We think it’s important not to have vendor lock-in in the future, but to be able to do data migration. On a global level, we are creating a data ocean to which local data lakes can connect. Ownership is local; the consumer remains the owner of their data.”
Guideline 6: Ensure privacy & security in your MarTech
Privacy and security by design means that systems and procedures are designed from the outset with privacy and security as the guiding principles. This includes principles, standards, awareness, tools and checks and taking into account laws and regulations. If you take this into account from the start (design) to the start of production, you get the maximum security and confidence from your stack and avoid redesigns, contradictions, reputational damage and fines. After the implementation of your MarTech, you can monitor your data, identity and access management of people and applications, among other things. This requires a holistic approach, resulting from cooperation between IT, legal experts, a Data Protection Officer and the business. In the event of major changes, there must also be someone who can carry out a Data Protection Impact Assessment (PIA).
Essentially, it comes down to the following six elements. The following figure shows the interrelationship of the domains of data, MarTech services, access, usage and the cloud and/or on-premise environments.
Make sure that the people involved are informed from day one. That starts with the intention, the why and the how. If you connect them too late, you run the risk of having to redo work because the intention is (partly) not permitted.
With these six guidelines, you can put the customer first in a thorough way by using the MarTech stack that fits your situation. By starting from a central vision (1), ensuring a holistic collaboration (2), being careful with long-term licences (3), limiting complexity (4), paying sufficient attention to implementation (5) and taking privacy and security (6) into account, you get the most out of your marketing technology.
Would you like to read more about choosing new MarTech? If so, read the DDMA white paper “Choosing new MarTech: this is how to do it”.