Perennial NHL all-star Wayne Gretzky famously advised skating to where the puck was going, not where it is right now — a phrase that has since gotten widely adopted in a martech world fraught with constant change.
Of course, this approach makes sense. If you always target the status quo, what happens when digital marketing currents shift, as they constantly do? Consider: Who today wants to build a martech strategy based on third-party cookies?
At the same time, two decades in the analyst world has taught me that nobody — nobody — in our industry really knows exactly where the puck is going, at least not with Gretzky-like certainty. So the best you can do is strengthen your core to be able to shift quickly as the martech state-of-play evolves. Think of it as a kind of “pilates for your stack.”
Three exercises for your martech Stack
If we’re talking pilates, then what you want to do is focus on your core. Here are three important muscles to prioritize in 2022.
1. Customer data unification and management
Customer data platform (CDP) technology is hot right now, and for good reason. At RSG, we evaluate thirty vendors and climbing. But the industry’s dirty little secret is that many initial implementations offer only scant value amid a dearth of robust, clean, unified customer data. Enterprises that thought their CDP would provide the essential building blocks of customer data processing have, for the most part, come away disappointed.
In 2022, focus on your broader customer data enterprise “fabric.” You’ll find it a complicated but potentially very rich tapestry. But most importantly, you need to get the base infrastructure right: Ingestion, cleaning, stewardship and identity. The good news is that more than your marketing department needs this sort of hub as well. This short briefing explains some key architectural considerations.
2. Component content for an omnichannel future
There’s a similar muscle to build on the content side of your stack. If you are pursuing an omnichannel strategy — and who isn’t? — then you will need a reliable store of reusable content components. Not just snippets of text, but base image/media building blocks and relevant data, especially product data.
Where would you find the authoritative source for all these components today? Probably all over the place, and worse, mostly stuck in a single engagement channel like email, web, or e-commerce.
Prioritize getting a handle on all of these marketing assets and ensuring that you have a common metadata regime to classify (so you can find and manage!) the individual pieces. Unfortunately, the Omnichannel Content Platform marketplace remains nascent, but savvier enterprises are beginning to step into the pool.
3. Internal capacity
The martech capacity gap (see image below) predates COVID, but the pandemic has surely aggravated it for every enterprise. RSG vendor evaluations can help you with the hyperbole gap, but capacity is a more complex challenge. For example, nearly all the large-enterprise members on RSG’s large-enterprise MarTech Council have suffered talent shortages.
I don’t have any magic wand to wave here that will close this resource gap, except to encourage you to keep working to create an attractive workplace for martech specialists. What you want to avoid is over-reliance on an outsourcing strategy. First of all, martech integrators are also short-staffed too, but more importantly, you want to keep and maintain as much learning and expertise in-house so you can move quickly as the puck gets passed around.
The case for not overskating
In some enterprises, I see the “future puck vision” justify over-buying complex marketing technology, ultimately undermining the very speed and agility you seek.
The thinking goes like this: “We probably can’t handle this advanced technology today, but in a couple of years, we’ll get there, so let’s license it now, and maybe it will push us to become more proficient.” Of course, in two years, the puck will have moved even farther. Or, to put it another way, if you can’t master an overly complicated martech platform now, you will only find it all that richer (read: more complex) two years hence. So you end up perennially behind.
RSG always advises looking at vendors representing differing points on the complexity spectrum. Ideally, you can find the right match with a system that stretches you a bit yet won’t go underutilized. Meanwhile, any technology supplier should constantly be innovating themselves, so in all likelihood, the simpler solution you adopt today will get enhanced over time. Careful diligence in a structured selection process can uncover whether that vendor or open-source community is skating towards the ever-moving puck at a pace and direction that works for you.
Real Story on MarTech is presented through a partnership between MarTech and Real Story Group, a vendor-agnostic research and advisory organization that helps enterprises make better marketing technology stack and platform selection decisions.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily MarTech. Staff authors are listed here.