Building A Successful Marketing Stack In A Sea Of Shiny New Toys

Published: August 10, 2016

When it comes to the B2B marketing stack, we know one thing for sure: The list of technology vendors to choose from is growing at a rapid rate. In fact, Scott Brinker, Editor of, said that list grew to approximately 3,500 companies in 2016, compared to 1,876 in 2015.

While it’s great to have endless options in the marketing technology space, all these solutions bring to light a big concern for marketers: shiny new toy syndrome. Instead of verifying whether or not a solution will work for their company, marketers are implementing the hot, new solution assuming it will benefit them. But that’s not always the case, and it can potentially turn your stack into a monster, or Frankenstack.

“It’s very easy to buy a bunch of technology on a credit card these days, and it doesn’t require a lot of approval or planning,” said Justin Gray, CEO of LeadMD, a marketing automation and CRM consulting agency. “There are these different technologies that no one understands how they work together and the implications of the existing stack they have in place. It turns into a ‘What’s the coolest thing today, and can I go buy it?’ as if it yields results.”

Instead, companies such as Unit4 have already benefited from consolidating their marketing stacks to better suit their needs by focusing on key areas that need improvement, such as acquisition, conversion, measurement or expansion.

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How To Avoid Building A Frankenstack

Because of the shiny new toy syndrome, marketers have turned into mad scientists of marketing by bolting together different solutions to create one big Frankenstack. The term tends to have a negative connotation to marketers, but it can also be positive if done right. It all comes down to being strategic with your efforts and making sure there is a problem before implementing a solution.

“I feel like, today, the difference between a stack and a Frankenstack is that you have an organized strategy and architecture that brings them all together,” said Brinker.

Unit4, a provider of enterprise applications for service organizations, faced an issue where all of the company’s regions were using different tools to engage with customers. It leveraged LeadMD to help consolidate all those tools into one system. In a sense, the company needed to take its Frankenstack apart to build one, unified system.

“By consolidating those all on one platform, we were able to create a center of excellence and consolidate the data they were accessing across those regions,” said LeadMD’s Gray. “By year-end, we on-boarded just over a dozen other business units. Each one of those business units can take advantage of pre-packaged best practice programs that they want to implement.”

The company integrated Marketo with its content management system, as well as Hippo to target prospects based on content preferences. This resulted in a more streamlined process for managing client relationships, which saved the sales team time and resources.

“Generating leads is definitely the lesser study that we see in those types of consolidation or tech stack fixes,” said Gray. “It’s normally about, ‘We couldn’t perform X activity or we didn’t have any visibility into this metric or this region’s metric.’ It’s a quick operational game which, of course, leads to the demand generation game in the long term.”

Set Your Strategy Before Swiping The Credit Card

What marketers need to do is be a little more thoughtful and strategic when assessing a new solution. Instead of chasing the shiny new toy, “take a look at your strategic goals and priorities,” said David Lewis, Founder and CEO of DemandGen International, a demand generation, lead management consulting and marketing automation firm.

According to Demand Gen Report’s 2016 B2B Buyer’s Survey Report, the top three factors when evaluating a set of solutions include:

  1. Solving a pain point (84%);
  2. Deployment time/ease of use (83%); and
  3. Features and functionality (81%).

“We’re really trying to get marketing teams to start with the strategic initiatives first rather than finding a cool new tool and saying, ‘Wow, I could use that; that’s really neat,’” Lewis continued. “I like to see the horse before the cart, and then get the tools and technologies so you don’t consume time and resources on a tool that’s for an area that you’re already strong in.”

Brinker also believes starting with the customer and working backward can help make the decision process easier.

“The approach that seems to be the most rational, in my opinion, is not a data-first strategy, but a customer-first strategy,” said Brinker. “Saying, ‘Okay, who do we identify as our target market? What do we believe are the right ways to engage with these customers? What does their buyer’s journey look like?’ And that’s very much a strategic marketing responsibility. Work backward and say, ‘This is the buyer’s journey, and these are the programs we’re executing along the different points within that journey. What do we need to be able to accurately personalize/fulfill/segment those customer touch points?’”

Lewis highlighted a few examples of potential strategic initiatives. “Is the problem a need to generate more acquisition of leads? If that’s where you’re weak, then focus on your strategic initiatives, tools and technologies there to support the top of the funnel,” he said. “If measurement is not in order, then focus on the tools and technologies that tie to that as a strategic initiative.”

The next step is vetting the vendor. Marketers should ask themselves the following questions when doing so:

  • What is the total cost of ownership?
  • What will it take to deploy and maintain the product?
  • How many customers does that particular vendor have?

The latter may seem questionable. Why does it matter how many customers are leveraging the solution? According to Lewis, there is a time and place to becoming an early adopter of a particular solution, but if it means doing it on your own, it may be difficult. He suggests asking vendors for references for their customers as you would a job candidate.

“Talk to some references for the purpose of finding out their satisfaction, but also to find out what it took to be successful with that tool and if they’re successful with the tool at all,” said Lewis. This, he said, will help marketers navigate the potential of the solution before onboarding it. 

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