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Building a martech stack

Selecting a martech stack can be overwhelming. The right mix of products can be the make or break of an organisation’s digital strategy. Here, we share our insights and tips from many years of assisting clients with this daunting task. We also include our downloadable Martech Audit Matrix for you to audit your existing stack.

Adam Griffith

By Adam Griffith, 29 March 20229 minute read

In 2022, Scott Brinker’s famous Marketing Technology Map featured no less than 9900 martech solutions. That’s even after taking into consideration the 900 or so that were consolidated or disappeared altogether following the release of the previous landscape in 2020. Since 2011, when the first martech map was released, the market has grown by a staggering 6521% (yes, you read that right). So if you’re attempting to overhaul your martech stack and you’re feeling a little like this – 🤯 – you are definitely not alone!   

Chiefmartec's marketing technology map diagram

A snapshot of the 2022 Martech Map. Visit martechmap.com to search, sort and filter.

The degree of difficulty in reviewing or building a martech stack is compounded by the fact that, in most cases, new solutions must be integrated with existing legacy systems. Very rarely will every part of an entire martech stack be overhauled concurrently. 

At Luminary, we’ve provided consultancy to help many clients navigate their way through the labyrinth of martech solutions available, and find solutions that not only move the organisation along the path to its ideal future state, but limit the cost and general trauma experienced along the way.

In this article, we endeavour to share some of the insights we’ve gathered over more than two decades of using and choosing marketing technology solutions ourselves, and assisting our clients to do the same. But before we dive into that, let’s get clear on what we’re looking at here.

Want to get straight into conducting a martech stack audit of  your existing solutions? Download our editable matrix template now.

What is a martech stack? 

Martech is short for marketing technology, and encompasses any system or software product that a marketing team needs to interact with to function effectively. As the marketing function has grown over time, so too has the definition of what constitutes ‘martech’. Whereas it once would have stopped short of e-commerce, martech now includes solutions such as payment gateways and PIM (Product Information Management) systems. However it doesn’t extend as far as overarching business management systems such as ERPs (Enterprise Resource Planning systems). 

We typically conceptualise the martech stack as comprising three levels, with the top level being closest to the consumer/end user, and the foundational level being the most removed:

  • Experience channels – these are the solutions that your consumer interacts with directly, such as social media, email, website, mobile and voice tech.
  • Experience management tools - these are the tools that your marketing team uses to manage engagement channels. In the Brinker supergraphic framework, this level aligns with the categories of Advertising & Promotion, Content & Experience, Social & Relationships, and Commerce & Sales (e.g. your CMS, social media management tools like Hootsuite, email marketing and automation tools such as Campaign Monitor or Mailchimp etc).
  • Foundational tools – these are the tools you use to store, track and analyse data (e.g. CRM systems, Google Analytics, Azure etc.). In the Brinker framework, this level aligns with Data and Management.
3-level martech stack diagram consisting of Experience channels, Experience management tools and Foundational platforms and services.

Click on the diagram to view a larger version

The stages of building a martech stack

While the scale of a martech stack review may vary, the process we recommend typically doesn't. There are four steps we suggest you undertake in choosing the right martech stack for your needs:

  1. Determine your objectives
  2. Audit your existing martech stack
  3. Assess and analyse
  4. Define your target future state.

Determine your objectives 

There are many reasons why you might want to reassess your martech solutions. Perhaps you are new in your role as Marketing/IT Director and you want to find greater efficiencies for your organisation? Perhaps there are elements of your martech stack that are nearing end-of-life or have become unstable, or otherwise problematic? Or maybe your organisation is looking to expand or take on a new direction and you need systems that will support this?

The first thing you need to do before you start assessing your martech stack is to be clear on why you are undertaking this process. 

Six questions to ask when determining your objective

  1. Do you need a whole new martech stack, or are you just looking to replace one part of it, e.g. your email marketing system? 
  2. If you’ve been asked to review one part of your stack, would you like to make a business case for a broader transformation? 
  3. Which parts of your martech stack need to remain, and what does this mean for interoperability with new systems – and most importantly, how does this limit your choices? 
  4. Are you looking to review your whole martech stack to remove unused tech and reduce total cost of ownership? 
  5. Do you need to retire out-of-support platforms and replace them with upgraded or new platforms across the stack? 
  6. And finally, maybe you’re looking to move towards a centralised headless content management function that drives content across all digital channels, rather than just the web?

All of these considerations will impact how deeply you need to go into reviewing your martech stack, and the approach you take in relation to stakeholder consultation and the framing of your assessment of the existing stack.

Conduct a martech stack audit of your existing ecosystem

Once you’ve determined your objectives – and the scope of your review – you’ll need to document the tools and systems your organisation currently has in place. Even if you’re just looking at a specific area of your martech stack, don’t forget to audit the tools and systems that are integrated with and affected by the products you are focusing on. If you’re looking at moving your website to a new platform, you will most likely need to look more broadly than just your CMS or DXP, as in most cases an organisation’s website is inextricably linked with its martech stack. 

To help you collate your analysis of your existing martech stack, we have put together a downloadable Martech Audit Matrix template. This matrix will help you consider all of the possible tools and systems that may be impacted by your review, and what factors to consider in determining the appropriate course of action for each one.  

If you’re not sure what martech solutions your organisation is currently using, you may find a useful starting point in tools like McGaw’s Tech Stack Builder or Builtwith Technology Lookup but note that these are very web-centric and will only give you top-level information that is publicly available.

Assess and analyse

The next step is to look at each of your marketing tech solutions to assess whether it’s the most appropriate solution for your organisation’s needs. Specifically:

  • Are you paying for features that are being under-utilised? And if so, could you downgrade to a cheaper solution or a more basic licence? 
  • Are there gaps in functionality that need to be filled? 
  • How much are you paying for each system? 
  • Are there any solutions that could be consolidated or scrapped to avoid unnecessary duplication? 
  • Are different teams or departments within the organisation using different tools to perform the same task? 
  • Are there any tools that are underperforming or not meeting the organisation’s needs? 
  • Are any of the tools no longer supported by their vendor? 
  • Are there particular pain points with the existing stack that need to be addressed?

The best way to answer these questions is to speak with the relevant stakeholders within the organisation. Interview key users of each of the systems as well as heads of departments. Try to think broadly about who may be affected by changes to the martech solutions in question. Do you have teams performing a similar function in different geographical locations? Or teams that are adjacent to your marketing function, for example sales, fulfilment, IT or HR, who may be impacted? Make sure you have a full picture and understand how the wider organisation makes use of martech tools.

Define your target future state 

Armed with a clear understanding of how your existing martech stack is performing, you will be in a good position to start looking at where you need to add, remove, consolidate, upgrade or make improvements. At this point you will need to start outlining your ideal future state and shortlisting potential new martech architecture solutions.

Your future state roadmap needs to take into consideration not only any new functionality you might want to introduce or scale up, but the tools you might need to support that functionality. For example, there’s no point investing in the Rolls Royce of personalisation engines if you don’t have an effective way to capture the data that will drive it.

With such a mind boggling number of martech solutions on the market, how do you go about creating a shortlist? A good first port of call can be analyst sites such as Gartner, Forrester or G2. These sites will give you an idea of who the major players in the market are and how they compare. Also, don’t be afraid to consult Google for comparison pieces (such as this one on Sitecore v Kentico Xperience), but be wary of agencies that push a certain platform over others.

The shortlisting process is not an easy one, but there are several factors your can draw upon at this point to help you narrow the field of martech options:

  • Where is the vendor located? Do they offer local support?
  • What is the tech stack (e.g. Azure/AWS, Java/.NET)? Does the product integrate with systems that are already in your martech stack?
  • Does the vendor have runs on the board in your field? Do they have a leaning towards B2B or B2C? Look for case studies specific to your industry or sector.
  • Can you get an idea of price? (This can be difficult for enterprise software.)
  • Do you know anyone in your network using that product who you can ask for direct feedback?
  • Can you find agencies that work with more than one of your shortlisted products?

Once you’ve got your shortlist/s down to a manageable number, it’s time to start contacting vendors for demos. You might then create a further shortlist or initiate a more formal procurement process. 

If all of this feels too overwhelming, you can always ask a trusted agency, martech advisor or tech selection analyst like Gartner, Real Story Group or Forrester to conduct research on your behalf. And of course, please feel free to reach out to us at Luminary for assistance with your selection process.

Looking to compare Content Management Systems? Read our blog post ‘How to choose the right CMS’, complete with a downloadable CMS Comparison Matrix.

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