[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in The LinkedIn Marketing Solutions Blog.]
Late last month, I received an email from Scott Brinker, of what I assumed was his latest summary of the martech (marketing technology) landscape. Upon first glance, I was relieved. It looked less cluttered than previous years. On second look, I realized the summary was only a partial glimpse into a larger view, magnifying one segment of an overcrowded marketplace. I don’t know what’s worse—figuring out what tech I need as a CMO, or deciding what to order from The Cheesecake Factory (for the record, they offer more than 250 menu items). Both present seemingly endless choices—of which most are just high in fat and low on nutrition!
A week later, Scott dropped the bomb: more than 5,000 companies would be accounted for in this supergraphic on the state of martech. It took me a few minutes to search and find my own company’s logo. As marketers, we were in for another year of technology overload.
Without a doubt, consolidation in the martech space is inevitable (hopefully a fate that Big Cheesecake can avoid). Until that time, what do we do to build our stack? We need help to navigate this mess. Fortunately, there are ample resources out there for marketers seeking the best technological infrastructure to power their marketing at scale. Here are five of my personal go-to resources.
#1: Review Sites
Just as Glassdoor has helped a community of employees and job seekers find the best places to work, sites like G2Crowd and TrustRadius have generated a reliable community feedback channel for reviewing software, including martech.
By digging into reviews of how the tech works, what type of service is provided, and the expected ROI, you’ll gain a real-world perspective into where you’ll want to invest. My favorite part of sites like G2 are the comparative matrices of high-performing solutions based on multiple ratings and reviews. I can quickly and easily hone-in on the top performers. In the example below, you can see the high performers in the Content Marketing category (so proud of my team!).
The key to leveraging these sites is to keep an eye on the latest reviews. You’ll want to ensure that over time, the reviewed companies are continuing to innovate, while maintaining a commitment to service as they scale.
#2: Service Integration Partners
Consider your first time building a new home or undertaking a major renovation (if you haven’t been there before, lucky you). The initial experience is overwhelming. You have no idea what to choose for finishes, for your HVAC system, alongside many other important decisions. When I took on a project like this, I was clueless. But now that I’ve done it, my friends ping me constantly, as if I were a wiki of knowledge on the topic.
Now imagine that you’ve built three homes. You’d pretty much be considered a guru. But even then, you’d likely still rely on a contractor to ensure a seamless outcome on future projects. Similarly, this is the value found in service integration (SI) partners. These guys and gals build martech palaces the world over—they can identify the right “drywall” for every use case, and recommend “toilets” that won’t clog. Home sweet home!
When building your martech stack, the proverbial “leak” can cost way more than your original investment in the tech itself. This is where bringing in experts makes sense. SI organizations like Fathom, DemandSpring and Quarry specialize in building out infrastructure and recommending tools upon which to build a home for your marketing activities. We sought out SI Partner Perkuto when migrating between marketing automation platforms last year. Their insights helped us choose tech that would complement and strengthen our keystone investment. We recapped the learnings from that exercise in this post.
A few years ago, the brilliant marketer Joe Chernov shared a metaphor on the martech landscape that’s stayed with me (though my memory’s likely to have taken liberties with it). He told me that as marketers, we need to think of tech as a solar system; the planets and their moons orbit on the same plane, but those with the largest mass—the marketing automation platforms such as Marketo, Eloqua, Pardot and HubSpot—occupy the center of the system, like the sun.
Most of these marketing automation platforms have capitalized on their established user-base by creating application marketplaces. These marketplaces feature and solicit feedback from users regarding which tools work best with their software. Salesforce’s AppExchange has led the way in creating this type of structure since its inception more than a decade ago, in 2005. Today, solutions like Oracle Eloqua feature the best apps in The Oracle Cloud Marketplace and TopLiners review pages, while Marketo LaunchPoint has emerged as a complete ecosystem of marketing solutions.
#4: Your Network
I love the saying that we often waste time on Facebook, but invest time on LinkedIn. I’m a big LinkedIn fan. It’s where I get my industry news. I follow people who I respect, I connect with people who are leaders in the spaces that intrigue me, and, to be honest, I decline a lot of connection requests from those who may not add any value to my network. But that’s what makes LinkedIn such a worthwhile destination, as a place where I can interact with people who share new ideas and challenge me as a leader.
So when it comes to choosing technology to solve a problem, who better to check with than your network? Recently, a smart guy named Ray Carroll from Engagio used LinkedIn to ask for input on the best tools to streamline a non-martech related business process. I was amazed at the quality and quantity of replies from vendors and end-users giving honest feedback on navigating the many choices in the market.
In short, there’s so much we can learn from our network, what’s working for them, and how they achieve their growth targets.
#5: Your Team
As a CMO, VP, or Director of Marketing, it’s incumbent upon you to bring the best strategy and plan to the table. But as much as you need to leverage knowledge outside of your organization, it’s important not to ignore the insights that live within your own team. Members of your team are likely engaged in their own research, or may have used different solutions in previous roles before joining your company.
What’s more is that once you land on the the best pieces of tech, based on reviews, SI partners, marketplaces, and your network, those efforts may prove useless if your team doesn’t buy into adopting your tool of choice. Any software purchase needs to be implemented, and in all likelihood, a VP won’t handle that. I have a rule at Uberflip: no software is purchased unless someone owns it internally. One owner often works best, in order to maintain accountability for team adoption, to ensure onboarding occurs, and guarantee that the software is fully utilized.
Recently, we purchased tool for creating interactive content called SnapApp. As CMO, I was a big advocate for it, but I told the vendor that they needed to sell it to the logical owner on my team, Daniel, our Director of Content and Brand. Daniel went a step further, ensuring his team was excited to use the software before making the purchase.