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How to build a martech stack for this era – and whatever comes next


Acoustic’s head of product marketing said his company made major pivots at the start of last month. This is how he built a martech stack that allowed for such massive shifts.

“Beginning last month, we pivoted, and we pivoted a lot,” said David Miller, head of product marketing for Acoustic, “We relaunched whole sections of our website — brand new content — we moved faster than we ever thought possible.”

How was Acoustic’s team able to make such a massive pivot at the start of the COVID-19 outbreak? According to Miller, it was because his team had the forethought to put the right technology partners in place when they built their stack last July after Acoustic split from IBM’s Watson Marketing division and became a standalone company.

“We used content management systems. CRM integration. We had campaigns running. We built landing pages. We implemented behavior analytics — a lot of that was our own stack from Acoustic, but lots of other technologies as well.”

During Miller’s Discover MarTech presentation “Implications of a New World on Your Martech Stack and Processes,” he and his colleague Loren McDonald, Acoustic’s program director for marketing research, offered the following checklist for building out a martech stack that affords their organization agility and flexibility.

Start with an agile mindset

“We’re in a world of agile,” said Miller. Companies are having to completely revamp how they operate — and with that comes the need to reconsider both your technology and the strategies you’ve developed as a marketing or MOPs team.

“Your martech stack needs to be flexible enough to be able to pivot your strategies as they change,” said Miller, “And as they come out of this era and back to — I’ll just use the word ‘normalcy’ even thought it probably won’t be normal.”

To start, marketers need to connect with business’ management team to identify the strategy and understand what’s working versus what’s not.

“Review your marketing objectives and make sure they’re aligned,” said Miller, “You have that Northstar to point to and define those key areas where you may have gaps.”

Find the gaps

A critical point in building — and especially rebuilding — any martech stack includes a discovery session where the marketing team can identify the technology gaps.

“You need to have a crystal clear picture of what’s going on,” said Miller, pointing out that a gap analysis and technology audit, regardless of whether you own the tech budget or not, is crucial to identifying which martech is serving your needs — and who’s paying for it.

“Your financial commitments and contractual agreements all come into play with how fast you can move to get to your next stage,” said Miller. He emphasized how these numbers become even more important as the martech stack rebuild project moves forward, and your martech team is tasked with showing the ROI of its tech investments.

Take stock of your team’s talents

Will staff need to be trained on new skills? Are there going to be new roles put in place to manage new technology? Auditing your organization’s talent and determining where your skill-gaps are will take some additional marketing muscle, according to Miller. He says the skills gap is real, and that it is becoming a major trend based on the conversations he’s had recently.

Miller noted the danger of relying on a single person to address technical issues when they occur — multiple team members should be able to troubleshoot whatever problems come up.

“Identify available courses,” said Miller, “Understand what your team should be able to do, and really map that out and document that for future use throughout the project.”

The vendor shortlist

Once you’re able to identify your talent gaps, you can build your team to align with your martech stack. Having the right people in place allows you to push forward at an accelerated rate when building out your martech roadmap. From there, you can begin to work with your procurement and finance teams to start drafting RFP documents and put together your vendor shortlist.

“Make sure the vendors that you’re interested in speaking to and getting proposals from confirm receipt of your requests and confirm awareness of your deadlines,” said Miller, “It’d be a real shame for someone who might have been the right vendor to miss something up front and didn’t understand that they needed to reply back — so make sure you do follow up.”

Don’t procrastinate — sign and go!

Miller echoed the exact sentiment around demos that Real Story Group Founder Tony Byrne discussed during his keynote talk on buying martech and the process he uses to evaluate technology.

“Try and secure access to a demo environment — get your hands dirty. Get your team’s hands on the products and see what works for you,” said Miller. Likewise, Byrne advised to make sure vendors know this is part of your ask as there will likely be costs associated with a hands-on test of the technology.

Once you’ve demoed the product, read the customer testimonials and references and know your pricing options — it’s time to make a decision.

“Don’t wait. Start immediately implementing a roll out plan with your IT stakeholders, and get your marketing resources in line and trained to find the metrics — this is crucial” said Miller. You’ll need determine what to measure and make sure those key metrics are shared with your executives on a regular basis.

“They need to know where the investments have been made, and how it’s paying out.”

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