The only way to future-proof yourself — in life and in business — is by cultivating flexibility and optionality as a core competency. In the modern marketing technology stack, this capability translates to modularity: the ability to seamlessly swap out technology without being tied down to anything that falls short of new demands.
In working toward developing this ability in your martech stack, you will probably start to analyze, assess, and rethink certain components and capabilities that you find. Regular critical assessments are necessary for adjusting to current and future needs, which is why approaching these assessments within the correct framework is so critical.
Finding the best-fit solution is the process of determining and aligning objectives, team skill-level, use cases, tactics, and necessary capabilities over a profile of the ideal technology. Lack of alignment that drives you to under-tool will inevitably create frustration and hamper momentum, while over-tooling creates excess costs paying for under-used technology.
Phase One: Establish Marketing Objectives
Before you do anything, the most critical activity you should undertake is laddering out marketing objectives directly from the brand-wide commercial objectives.
By ensuring the executive team of your shared vision, you’ll be more likely to gain buy-in when the time comes to assess funding for new technologies and initiatives. Positioning marketing objectives as levers that can be pulled to drive the brand-wide objectives will clear the path (at least somewhat) for getting your team the tools, talent, and time it needs to transform the digital experience.
To start, find the intersection points between brand-wide objectives and marketing objectives.
Commercial objectives are the keystone of any organization, offering focus, alignment, and a north star for functional activities across the board. But not all brands have centralized objectives. Even for those that do, not all marketers have easy access to them. Encouraging strategic thinking in the organization can sometimes be the first step to kicking off a productive conversation between marketing and its executive peers.
Example Commercial Brand Objectives
- Company/Brand Reputation
- Net Profit/Revenue Growth
- Risk Mitigation
Each brand objective can have several possible ways that Marketing can drive them, and strategically mapping those out can be a critical part of rationalizing Marketing’s activities and spend in the future.
Example Marketing Objectives
- Marketing Efficiency
- Customer Experience
Phase Two: Align on the Tactics Necessary to Achieve Those Objectives
In any conversation about planning, things would move from the highest-level goals down to the strategy level and lower down to the tactical level. But today, we’re not telling you how to plan for the future — we’re simply describing how to use moments that are already baked into your planning phases as an opportunity to think not only about team KPIs and OKRs but also to set expectations around your current and future technical abilities.
Once you know your business-level objectives and the departmental objectives that feed the machine, you’ll start to ideate tactics — the many programs and campaigns you could run to move the needle, likely a mix of the tried-and-true with some amount of new initiatives or approaches.
Some marketing tactics are better placed to enable certain objectives than others. Choose the ones that will have the most impact for you. For example, below we’ve laid out a schema that maps tactics onto objectives as framed by lifecycle stage.
This is a fairly intuitive step that is often overlooked, especially by less technical marketing leaders. To put it simply, if you were a military genius, you wouldn’t plan for battle without an exact munitions inventory and headcount. You’re the marketing genius, and your best-laid plans will fall short if you don’t inventory your capabilities upfront.
This is the perfect time to be innovative and to consider new-to-you or even new-in-kind tactics to reach goals. These tactics make for good indicators of the technical capabilities that should be factored into stack considerations, which in turn can give you insight into the viability of a certain tactic.
For instance, you might say that you want to launch x-tactic in Q1, but on closer inspection, x-tactic requires several net new capabilities, and, digging deeper, you learn that said capabilities require dedicated technical personnel that you don’t have. On the other hand, you might discover some capability buried in your stack is exactly what you need to execute a planned tactic, and without a regular capabilities audit, you may have paid for an unnecessary new tool.
At this point, break down each tactic into tasks and milestones toward final execution and measurement. Determine the capabilities you need to make these things happen. Make a note of which capabilities are essential, which are incredibly helpful, and which are just nice-to-haves. At the rate that technology is moving, the nice-to-haves are becoming must-haves with greater frequency than ever, so it’s nice to keep a record of most-likely candidates of near-future must-haveness.
Phase Three: What Technology Will Make It Happen?
Be honest about what you need and don’t need. Consider your objectives:
- What available tools do you need to achieve your objectives?
- What exactly do the tools enable?
- And what do the tools require to have an impact on customers?
Your selection of marketing tools should represent your team’s capabilities and objectives.
All tools have different requirements for what they need to work, which in turn defines the types of organizations and objectives for which they work best.
Every tool type will exist on a spectrum of maturity and complexity, with different capabilities that may or may not work for your team. Not every brand will require the same tool capabilities. Here are the most common customer connector tools most marketing teams deploy.
Not all brands need advanced technologies for every end-channel, and others might need a little extra. All marketing leaders should think critically about the capabilities they really need to achieve core objectives, increase utilization, and reduce waste.
In the end, you should have the tools for the job — no less, and as close to no more as possible. You should also be in a position to anticipate near-future needs, and — with a modular tech stack built around a smart hub — you’ll be able to easily swap out pieces to seamlessly transition from current to cutting-edge whenever the need arises.
Click the link below to download the Pre-Work Checklist for Setting Criteria for Customer Connector Marketing Tools and How-To Checklist for Setting Criteria for Customer Connector Marketing Tools for tools-for-thought designed to offer guidance and suggestions to help narrow the search and establish an early-stage capability-requirements list.