9 signs your martech is a mess

Mark Pollard

4 minute read

Many companies come to us for help because they’re not getting the results they need from their marketing programs. With clusters of interrelated issues, companies often find it hard to pinpoint the problems. This leaves them feeling as if their martech is just a mess.

When we investigate, we often find a big source of frustration comes from a gap between the capabilities of their tech stacks and how they actually use them.

How common is tech frustration?

Sixty eight percent of martech leaders continue to face challenges using their stack to its full potential, according to a new Gartner study, 2020 Marketing Technology Survey: Cost Pressures Force Martech Optimization and Innovation. It found respondents use just 58% of their stack’s full breadth of capabilities, citing challenges with cross-functional collaboration, a sprawling array of martech solutions and a lack of a solid customer data foundation.

With utilization challenges being so common, we also see many common signs in the ways they reveal themselves. So, we came up with this test to help you diagnose just how big your marketing technology mess might be.

9 signs your martech has become a mess

If you answer “yes” to more than two or three of these common symptoms, you’re likely working with martech that you outgrew, doesn’t scale up to your needs, or isn’t living up to its potential.

1. You’re using 50% or less of your martech’s capability. It could be your email platform, your content management system, CRM, or some other part of your stack, but you either don’t know everything it can do, you don’t know how to use it or you don’t have the data or integrations with other systems to make it work.

2. Only a fraction of the people who should be using your platform have access to it, and even fewer of them actually use it.

3. Your organization operates two or more major platforms–but you’re not exactly sure where, how, or who’s in charge of them, and those platforms don’t talk to each other.

4. You’re frustrated at how long it takes to do simple data tasks. You might be able to figure out quickly which geographic region is underperforming year over year, but when you try to segment out the email addresses in that region for targeted messaging, your entire database team has to figure it out.

5. You rely on processes that were originally intended as temporary workarounds. Up against the need to “get it done” you created some inelegant hack to solve an immediate problem with the intention of cleaning it up later, but it’s now become standard operating procedure.

6. Your processes aren’t documented. Your technology has evolved over time without a written strategy or details around the “hows and whys” of your systems and integrations.

7. You haven’t standardized things like field names and aren’t sure which one is right (such as “FName” versus “FirstName” versus “First Name”) or have fields with the same names in multiple places populated with different types of data attributes.

8. Your standard procedure for solving technology problems has been to patch with homegrown solutions. This happens when your IT staff are overloaded with tickets for fixes, repairs, and other work, and nobody has the time to look for a solution beyond the next patch.

9. You fantasize about starting over from scratch. It’s a tempting proposition. But keep reading to find out why that might not be the best approach.

Common causes of a martech mess

As we said earlier, you’re not the only one who is looking for solutions. But the best place to start is to figure out how your tech got into this mess in the first place.

Our experience working with companies of all sizes and tech configurations shows us the following conditions often result in tech distress:

1. Siloed purchase decisions: Silos are almost inevitable in an organization. They aren’t inherently bad, especially if you can reach across them to integrate data use and decision-making. But they can also lead to bad technology procurement decisions.

2. Restructuring/employee turnover: This happens when the only person who understands how the platform works leaves the department without training a successor.

3. Tech infrastructure issues: This was a huge problem back when most technology platforms were hosted on-site or bolted onto in-house technology. But even cloud-based systems aren’t all plug-and-play. Incompatibility issues arise when purchase decisions get made without consulting with the people who will have to work with them or make systems talk to each other.

4. Organic growth over the years: Sometimes it’s not so much that the wrong technology got purchased but the entire tech stack becomes unwieldy after so many systems have been added to respond to changing needs within the company.

Why it matters

In our experience, the longer you live with these frustrations the harder it gets to pull yourself out. You need more than the right combination of platforms to create an effective martech stack. You also must develop the right processes and work with people who can use its features to meet your business needs. All the pieces have to fit together so that they function effectively now and evolve as business needs change.

Admittedly, this “perfect world” scenario isn’t very common. Just about every organization has a tech stack made up of some legacy technology, some good choices, and likely a few clunkers that you learn to live with.

Understanding the signs and what caused your tech headaches is just the first step to creating an environment where people, processes, and technology work together harmoniously. The next step is finding solutions to your martech mess. How to do that? See the next blog post in this series!

Trendline Interactive

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About the Author(s)

Mark Pollard

Mark is a Principal Consultant at Trendline Interactive. He is the author of Salesforce Marketing Cloud for Dummies and uses his knowledge of the inner workings of ESP software to bring together the technology and data required to execute the delivery of successful email strategies. Mark resides in NJ with his wife and kids, where he can usually be found staring into a screen of one kind or another.

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