How to improve your martech assessment game

In the first of a new series of articles exploring martech assessment and utilisation, CMO asks the experts for where the gaps exist in CMO evaluation of martech platforms and metrics for success

Dos and don’ts for evaluating martech

So what are the dos and don’ts for better evaluating martech in today’s context? An audit of what you have already clearly needs to be the first step. For this, Gartner advises periodic martech auditing over the year that catalogue a variety of data points on the technologies in the stack. 

Bloom advises documenting capabilities needed to support your business strategy, and the technologies that support them. Gartner’s own framework, the ‘Customer Technology Platform’, does this by taking an outside-in approach to solving customer experience problems rather than reinvesting in the “customer management industrial complex” that just throws more technology at the problem, he says.

Digitas CEO, Adrian Farouk, recommends measuring what matters at an organisational level to know what success looks like. The agency’s auditing tool, Digital Maturity Index (DMI), assesses marketing and customer experience opportunities to crystalise the martech platform’s purpose, such as ‘media activation’, ‘audience centricity’, ‘journey orchestration’ or ‘lifecycle operations’.

“We use this to help define the ‘insight’ and ‘activation’ use cases to assess martech platform requirements and current state gaps. More importantly, we outline the people and process requirements vital to step-change maturity to build and sustain the successful transformation of the business,” Farouk says.

Accenture Song also has a list for evaluating a martech stack. On it is being customer-led, cultivating an understanding of use cases and journeys, as well as being data-led and understanding the data required to support use cases, along with where it comes from. Respecting customer privacy and ensuring security is another must. And building an operating model to support new ways of working across IT, digital, data, marketing and security teams is vital.

“You need to understand the channels, processes and operating model more holistically. This will drive the need for your data requirements and make an informed decision on the martech stack you need,” Malaviya says. “Looking at it in isolation or silos will result in a suboptimal martech stack.”  

Accenture Song’s martech assessment framework then looks into content, engagement and consumer touchpoints, data sources, consumer data and business intelligence, platforms, activation, planning, talent, measurement and activation. “Each of these would have capabilities areas sitting within each domain. This is refined by industries,” Malaviya explains.

Capgemini director of digital experience, Konrad Dsa, believes organisations can avoid buying tech that doesn’t pay off long term by creating a roadmap that evolves as needed and is constructed with both marketing and technology input. Phillips sums it up in a simple yet important formula: Strategy, use case, technology requirements, value assessment.

It’s a similar mantra for Hook. “The one pre-requisite to ask yourself before you buy any new technology should be this: Is this going to improve what I’m doing; stop something I’m doing badly; or is it going to keep me in the same place?” he asks.

“In other words, audit your current stack and work out what you need to be more profitable, to have lower total cost of ownership, happier employees and better customer experiences. Ask if what you have got is working well for you today. If it’s neutral to positive, then I would look at incremental gain. If it’s neutral to negative, I’d be considering throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

“But the line in the sand is: What is our business direction? What do our customers want? And do the two line up? If they do, great. Then look at how your current martech stack is operating and whether it works and is fit for purpose. Do you have the right people to operate it? If the answer is again yes, then stay the current course. But if all those don’t line up, then fix that. Don’t just go buy more technology.”

Data latency and connectivity  

Data accessibility is nevertheless integral to any martech assessment today, and experts are well aware data latency is a big challenge for most businesses. To overcome this, IDC martech analyst, Gerry Murray, advises martech stacks to be built from the data layer up.

“This means a common set of services for data collection, management and activation should support all front office functions,” he says. The analyst firm calls this architecture ‘Customer Experience Orchestration Services’.

“Only data is fast and scalable enough to knit every point of customer interaction together in real time across an enterprise, no matter how big or small,” Murray says. “So, the data infrastructure must be designed as an enterprise service – along with analytics, governance, event monitoring, audience management and many others.”

Read more: Why your data culture is a direct reflection of your brand

Farouk agrees data is vital to facilitating audience-centric digital marketing programs across multiple consumer experiences.

“The uncomfortable truth is that effectiveness is intrinsically linked to the maturity of the data culture within the team[s] utilising the platform,” he says. “We work with our clients to plan how every creative campaign, media activation or piece of content will be ‘creating’ data that can be utilised in subsequent campaigns / activations. Only through the lens of this data culture can we assess the ability of the martech stack to be able to mobilise a brand’s data and content effectively.”

We have all seen the showcase case studies martech vendors use to highlight the capabilities of their systems. The reality is the chasm between this promise versus what is actually implemented and what actually gets adopted by the organisation can be vast.

Adrian Farouk, Digitas

Data latency is reflective of the broader technical integration issues apparent with increased martech utilisation and sophistication.

“We have all seen the showcase case studies martech vendors use to highlight the capabilities of their systems. The reality is the chasm between this promise versus what is actually implemented and what actually gets adopted by the organisation can be vast. This magnitude of disappointment defines perceptions of the platform,” Farouk says.

Gartner has identified three ways to evaluate martech integration. The first is integration type, or understanding and finding the right fit between a manual process, a batch import, a prebuilt connector, a tag or SDK, Bloom explains. The second is matching the integration of technology to scope and need. For example, CDPs largely focuses on marketing, while iPaSS/ iSaaS has enterprise-wide impact. Then there’s the integration team itself driving collaboration between business and technology functions.

It’s for this reason Holcombe advises including technologists in your assessment to ensure the chosen platform will be able to speak to other organisational platforms. Because if you want to do something particularly intelligent, you can expect to need integration with line-of-business systems.

“Invest in middleware and your ability to communicate between different platforms. Don’t assume out of the box APIs will give you what you need,” Holcombe says. “There will probably be low-hanging fruit with out-of-the-box capabilities that will help you show momentum and speed without huge technical heavy lifting. But what you will notice is the very insightful, high-value stuff unique to your organisation will need that integration work.

“Unless you’re buying a platform specifically built for your industry or tech stack you have invested in, it’s very unlikely a suite of ready-made APIs can drive those higher-value use cases. It’s also worth considering platforms your vendor says work well with their offering or the vendor has integrated with before. There are knowledge bases you can then access and good API documentation to help accelerate that process.”

Metrics for success

As to success metrics CMOs can employ to measure up prospective martech systems, the consensus is again to ladder them up to business imperatives. Digitas has defined two axes: ‘Potential Risk’ and ‘Potential Value’.

“‘Potential Risk’ should evaluate factors such as the business complexity, technical complexity and cost of operation while ‘Potential Value’ can evaluate business impact, brand value and customer benefit,” Farouk says. “Once defined, these metrics can be used to prioritise proposed features, requirements and the eventual roadmap based on these axes.”  

Dsa advises landing on one metric of the highest importance, then making sure the organisation is achieving it.

“With retail and B2C, it’s most likely increasing sales; for an online retailer, it could be increasing loyalty and repeat purchases. For B2B, it’s most likely to be led to sales measurements while for a subscription business, it may be reducing churn and increasing life-time value,” he says. “You get the most success out of martech when you align to a key business metric and measure against it.

“Broader business measures are also important: Return on investment from marketing spend, NPS score, responsiveness to customer action, the ability to execute business-critical use cases and the adoption of the tool across the organisation.”

Ross comes back to capability as an input into martech evaluation metrics. “How is it operated and what's your capability, which parts do you actually bring in-house versus which parts do you request of others?” he asks. “Often, there is an over-reliance on agencies. Then what happens is a dilution of ROI because the agency isn't given clear guidance on what it is the client wants from them. Some processes can and should be brought in-house. So I’d ask, what's the organisation’s capability to be effective within the stack?”

Hook has witnessed the chasm between martech / project metrics and business metrics. “You might have a business failing or losing customers. So while those martech or project scorecard metrics might be going up, the business might be going down,” he says.

“The closer you can get the martech metrics and business metrics together, the more inspectability and observability you have on how that’s helping transformation.”  

Triggerfish’s approach is to employ scorecards similar to the ‘Entrepreneurial Operating System’ and Rockefeller Habits for scaling up an organisation.

“It’s about saying what is the three-year plan, one-year plan and quarterly plan for the business, and a scorecard, which is a combined set of metrics for everything from purchasing, finance, distribution, customer service, marketing, campaign efficiency and the business itself,” Hook adds.

Next must-read: In part 2 of our series on martech assessment, we explore how marketing leaders build the organisational capabilities necessary to long-term martech success.


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