Marketing Stack From Hell

Steve Jobs thrived at balancing the complexity that drives powerful computational systems with the simplicity required for utility. “Simple can be harder than complex,” Jobs said. “You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”

For retailers, mountains are marketing stacks. Even in small organizations, a stack’s silos of specialization can’t help but make tactical advances at the expense of strategic insight. As retail organizations scale and spread across channels, atomization scales too. Each retailer is unique, so I want to be careful not to overstate, or understate, the degree to which retailers complicate their worlds. But how can retailers make technology investments while balancing the long-term view of the total cost of ownership in the age of cloud technologies with no capital expenditure benefits? Moreover, how do retailers balance risk and change management in an already frantic innovation environment?

The big marketing clouds own the mainstream messaging for the space across much of the industry, but there has been a dramatic shift in recent years toward point solutions. Many brands opt for short-term investments in emerging companies to augment their larger investments in CRM, data management, advertising and personalization. Here, there’s good and bad news.

First, the good news. Embracing quick changes without heavy investment or long-term payoffs empowers retailers to solve niche challenges with agility. Indeed, many challenges can be met by specific vendor solutions that can be quickly deployed inside today’s marketing stacks. Of course, the real key is the retailer’s ability to make sense of what they need so they can source a solution from the 4,000-plus vendors in the Martech LUMAscape.

Now, the bad news. It’s very hard to create sustainable competitive advantages when your vantage point is dominated by the challenges of the moment. Meeting the immediate needs of today’s marketing stacks limits our visibility into the total stack and its holistic capabilities. Managing a sprawling ecosystem of vendor arbitrage often has greater opportunity costs than you realize. And while I’ve always believed that “the big don’t eat the small, the fast eat the slow,” there are times when slowing down pays off.

According to a survey by CMO Council and RedPoint Global, only 3 percent of respondents felt all of their automation, engagement and deployment tools were fully connected, with data, metrics and insights traveling freely between different technologies. Put another way, 97 percent of those surveyed face marketing stacks from hell because they’re planning technology investments for systems that aren’t nearly as functional as advertised.

Kobie Fuller, the former chief marketing officer of Revolve Clothing and partner at Upfront Ventures, laid out his view of the future marketing stack. Fuller’s advice is worth circulating widely. The moral of the story is that you can’t ignore short-term thinking, but at the same time you have to be realistic about strategic outcomes and your organization’s ability to sustain those outcomes.

If you’re like most retailers, you talk about personalization as the differentiator for your business. But in reality, the scale challenges of personalization are all about a marketing stack that’s bookended by data and insights. The first step is slowing to a pace where you can distinguish between the short term, where agility is everything, and the long term, where strategy is a matter of placing scale bets. But even if you’re moving at the right speed, the best friend of a marketer in growth mode is an ecosystem that offers continued optionality. Building that ecosystem means first doing the hard work of making things simple.

Marketing Technology vs. Marketing Strategy

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

Coming into the second annual All About Marketing Tech virtual conference, one question has come up again and again: Are you just buying marketing technology, or are you empowering a marketing strategy?

We are in an age when marketing technology can let us do amazing things, as you’ve seen me and all the editors and writers here on Target Marketing discuss many times. But they’re all tools, and even the best tool is only useful when you have a plan to use it.

Kids at Santa’s Workshop

It’s like when you were a little kid, and “Santa’s Workshop” came to school. Did you have these? The school would bring in a vendor to sell Christmas presents for the kids to buy for their families? (Come to think of it, it does seem a bit exploitative now that I type it out …)

Anyway, I remember one time seeing a tool that I thought looked so cool, so I bought it for my dad. It was this handheld thingy with slim little nails and a plastic tube with a magnet. The nails would go in the tube, and you’d push the top down to drive them. It looked so cool! But I had no idea what it did.

So I bought it for my dad anyway.

He smiled and accepted it, and I don’t think he used it once. In retrospect, it was probably for hanging wall paneling, which we never had.

How to Empower a Marketing Strategy

One of the things I’ve heard from multiple speakers heading into this show is that marketers sometimes buy technology a lot like I bought that nail thingamajig for my dad. They wind up with a cool looking tool, even when they don’t have a plan for how to use it.

And beyond the plan for how you’re going to use it, you need to have plans for how to integrate it into your marketing processes, train personnel to use it and plug it into your existing tech stack.

Tomorrow, All About Marketing Tech will introduce you to new marketing technologies — six of them, in fact — but also help you put together the marketing strategies that really determine what technology you should be investing in to begin with.

Andy Markowitz will talk about why marketers win or lose in the age of AdTech and MarTech convergence.

Jerry Bernhart will show you how to find the best marketing tech talent.

Peter Gillett will lead an international panel of experts on how the EU’s GDPR regulations will impact your tech stack.

Beerud Sheth will show you how to build an AI chatbot that doesn’t suck.

PLUS: Mitch Joel of Mirum, Rob Pinkerton of Morningstar, Samuel Monnie of Campbell’s Soup Company, Jonathan Levey of Flexjet and more!

So, if you want to know more about cutting edge marketing technologies, how companies are building strategies to be empowered by technology, how to find the people who have the skill and vision to use those tools, how to avoid one of the biggest fines your company would ever see and more, be sure to register for All About Marketing Tech, happening live from 10 AM to 3 PM EST tomorrow.

If marketing technology or strategy is a part of your job, or part of the job you want to have, you can’t afford to miss it.