A business keeps up with the latest marketing strategies by adopting a full stack of marketing and sales tech. But to fully optimize this technology, team members must have a handle on the role each solution plays in their organization.
Sheryl Schultz, one of the founders of marketing tech management platform CabinetM, recently told me: “Twenty-nine percent of a company’s marketing budget (on average) is spent on technology. As organizations buy more and more tech, they find they don’t have a reasonable way to track, manage and collaborate around it.”
Schultz sees businesses using anywhere from 75 to 250 products in their stack. The layers in the stack cover any number of functions, including email marketing, lead generation, CRM, analytics or project management. Some products serve functions across multiple layers – for instance, a CRM solution or marketing automation (MA) platform – which makes these tools “anchor platforms.”
Obviously, the stakes are high in understanding the uses of each tool, and how the stack is organized. Businesses need to know the costs and functions of their marketing tech stack, as well as the proficiencies of the professionals who use them. This becomes even more complicated for an organization following a merger or an acquisition.
CabinetM recently released an eBook, Merge Your Stacks, to address this frequent situation. Authored by Schultz, the book builds on best practices detailed in last year’s guide, Attack Your Stack., written by another CabinetM founder, Anita Brearton.
Reducing needless costs
Because such a large portion of a marketing budget is spent on tech, there remains an opportunity to curb spending on underused tools. This opportunity is even greater following a merger because each entity comes in with its own stack.
Rationalizing each product in these stacks helps managers identify which tools aren’t being used. As part of a merger, best practices call for a close evaluation of redundancies.
Another helpful tip is to review all contracts and regular payments to tech vendors, where businesses can ask if they are using the products they are paying for. In some cases, they’re paying twice for a solution that can be shared across a newly-merged team.
“Typically, in mergers and acquisitions, they ‘press pause’ on people in charge of evaluating the same products,” Schultz said. “The potential for two contracts being purchased for the same product is huge. And you also want to know what’s been discarded.”
In Schultz’s experience, companies can trim upwards of 20 percent of their budget in six to 12 months, after reviewing these contracts and redundancies.
The people behind the tech
When businesses keep inventory of their stacks, they should also take account of the people within the organization who use a particular product or are trained to do so. It’s one thing to have a solution in place for a specific marketing task, but what’s the point in having it if there isn’t someone around who’s proficient in operating this intended function?
“Everybody is aware that marketing has a bit of a revolving door,” Schultz explained. “Marketing ops, especially, is in high demand. Imagine you have two or three companies coming together. Some of the organizations we work with have been doing merger and acquisition for two or three years and have yet to reconcile. First, they look at the people, and how to reconcile that.”
The workforce, however, needs to be tied to the individual tech products that each employee operates. Following a merger, organizations need to hit the ground running.
“They need to get smart really fast in M&A around who they have in the organization,” said Schultz. “What skills do they have and what are they missing?”
She added, “Knowing who can use what informs training and hiring.”
Keeping the stack intact
Technology stacks follow the metaphor of vertical construction, with much the same vertigo surrounding its failure to stand up if it isn’t built properly. Tech stack rationalization contributes to a solid foundation by identifying potential vulnerabilities.
“We like to say that every customer stack is a snowflake,” Schultz stated. “The way they come to it is completely different from another company. But in the end, they’re all trying to do the same thing – track, visualize, report and collaborate.”
The complexity and uniqueness of each stack is further complicated by unique use cases developed in-house.
“Each company we deal with has a large amount of homegrown tech,” Schultz explained. “You can’t just look at what you’ve bought, but also understand what you’ve created. For instance, your business intelligence software might be sending data to marketing automation, but you’ve homegrown the connection.”
Schultz insists on the human touch in this evaluation process. “You have to have conversations with people using these products,” she said. “You might have one person using a product, but it might be critical to the stack.” She also recommends a “sunsetting plan” for products on their way out of the stack. With each product, those managing the stack articulate the functions of the product’s use as they relate to objectives within the department or the organization as a whole.
“It’s complex when two organizations merge,” said Schultz. “You have to be sensitive to the needs of both organizations, and also rationalize, so the stack works going forward.”