Business Priorities are Critical to Building Tech Stacks

“It’s like you have a Ferrari and people want to drive it two blocks and twenty miles per hour.”

A familiar metaphor when it comes to high-end marketing and sales tech solutions, but delivered with passion at an informal reception to open Sirius Decision’s 2016 Technology Exchange summit in Austin, Texas. I was in conversation with a software and web design specialist, recently tabbed by his employer—an international information security vendor—to rationalize its marketing tech operations. His technical background was solid; he was learning more about marketing; and he was eager to discuss current trends: ABM and machine learning among them.

I was struck—although not really surprised—to find a technology company still grappling with some basic questions about marketing and sales platforms and solutions. He told me that the business had invested in one of the major marketing suites. And that’s when he made the Ferrari remark.

Members of business units, he said, didn’t know how to extract the full value out of the stack they already had—and they didn’t have the time or, necessarily, the skill sets to learn. He envisaged that his team, as it became more aligned with the company’s marketing and sales objectives, would need to execute for the business units.

Starting in the right place when it comes to marketing and sales tech was the central theme of the three days in Austin. Sirius Decisions, the Connecticut-based B2B marketing, sales and product advisory firm, expressed a clear vision. Business priorities first, tech second.

That’s easy to say, but in a series of keynotes, Sirius executives backed it up with hard data. Jay Famico, VP of Client-Facing Technology, reduced the priority-driven approach to some simple principles:

  • Define your brand’s business priorities (and really, “cap that at five or six”)
  • Define what those priorities mean at the functional level
  • Then do it again at the team level; if teams aren’t aligned with fundamental business priorities, there’s a problem.

Oh yes, and don’t forget the data: you need to know where it is—or as Famico put it, “Before you can connect the dots, you have to find the dots.”  The objective as far as marketing and sales tech are concerned? To go “from point solutions to an integrated tech stack.”

I had the opportunity to sit down with Ashlyn Westling, Sirius’ Director of Communications. She laid out the three stages of marketing/sales tech stack implementation:

  • Adopt: the initial investment
  • Operationalize: learning how to extract value from the investment and working on best practices. It’s here, she said, that unprepared adopters could come across “a competency deficiency or a structural deficiency.” Getting the right team and the right systems in place can be a challenge
  • Optimize: this third phase is ongoing. “You may have a well-oiled machine,” she said, “but you need to look to the future.” New technologies or business challenges are always on the horizon.

Many attendees at the conference, she agreed, were still in the first two phases.

Failure to establish a priority-driven framework can have a predictably bad outcome, as illustrated by a welter of data presented by Tony Jaros and Jacques Bégin (EVP and Chief Research and Product Officer, and Research Director, Technology and Services, respectively). They’d surveyed some 400 B2B brands to find out how they were spending money on marketing and sales technologies. For a series of operations, they compared a recommended stack—e.g. marketing automation, content management and analytics—and repeatedly showed startlingly low percentages (well under 25 percent) of surveyed brands equipped with anything close to the right gear to do the job.

They’d failed to follow the Sirius prescription, defined by Jaros as: “Align around functional priorities driven by organizational strategy.” But they probably had some nice Ferraris in the parking lot.

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