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Getting over three mar-tech hurdles: are you ready?

Mar-tech is expected to thrive throughout 2016. How can marketers prepare themselves for the challenges that will accompany these advancements?

Good news for marketers and marketing technology vendors: mar-tech will continue to be hot in 2016. It’s still a huge area of investment for marketers, IT departments, vendors, and industry investors.

Like most things, with great opportunity comes great responsibility. We move from a market of discovery to a market of optimization, as more companies adopt marketing technology. And ownership of that optimization rests squarely with marketers, with support from the vendors.

But as mar-tech becomes more mainstream, new challenges will arise. In order to reap the benefits of mar-tech, it is important that marketers embrace the challenges that will come with it.

1. Choices abound for the stack

Most marketers don’t have one mar-tech solution, despite the many claims of many vendors to provide a one-stop combo of platform and services. The “stack” is usually compiled of a number of different vendors that are either loosely or somewhat integrated.

This market is so overwhelming for marketers to sort through and understand. I just worked with a client who literally had a request for proposal (RFP) with 25 firms in the first round. It was too difficult for the team to understand the differences between the vendors without diving in.

Similarly, the marketers I work with are focused more on integration, data management, and process optimization – defining “who does what to whom, with what technology, when and for what purpose?” as opposed to focusing on the technology itself.

Vendors will need to start adding real value to these kinds of integration and optimization opportunities. Real value goes beyond the suggestion to upgrade; it means truly understanding the marketer’s business needs and being realistic about functionality and integration.

While the number of vendor choices will likely not decrease significantly, it will also not likely grow a lot this year – and I think that is a good thing. Let’s all focus together on optimization rather than new market entries. Investors also seem wary of finding a breakout company in this space, so we may see more point solutions emerge as angel-funded startups.

The new challenge:

A challenge for marketers in 2016 will be understanding when and how changes to their stack will make sense. Most of us are past the point of starting a stack. Therefore, it’s time to think about optimizing stack structure, rather than doing an RFP.

Perhaps 2016 will be the year of “stack mentality” – the adoption of the stack as a core component of marketing success, with its own set of management processes and growth needs for the organization.

2. Services blend with technology

A few technology companies have improved their service offerings in the past year – Alliance Data’s Epsilon, Experian, and Merkle come to mind. Going forward, marketers will have opportunity to streamline the stack or improve the integrations by working with technology providers that have service teams in-house or partners that are certified in the product. A recent implementation project for a retailer resulted in a re-stacking, which basically involves revisiting the stack components and identifying gaps as well as vulnerability in order to create opportunity.

The new challenge:

This year’s challenge will be balancing the need for new functionalities with the data integration gaps, and connecting them in ways that create amazing customer experiences. Revisiting the current stack may be a better bet than an RFP, especially if you can utilize experienced service teams to accelerate the adjustments and new functionalities you need.

3. Talent, talent, talent

If you’ve been working in mar-tech, you are ahead of the game. With more mar-tech decisions being made at the C-suite or even higher levels, marketers will need to have mar-tech experience and technology management expertise in-house. This could create great opportunities for many folks who have been managing databases, leading implementation projects, or improving connections between data-driven channel software platforms for email, campaign management, social publishing, and content marketing.

The new challenges:

Challenges in this area will include:

  1. Dusting off your resume and acquiring the skills you need to take advantage of this rising need.
  2. Starting to groom your teams to step up and fill the gap in your current marketing organization.

These skills are no longer a nice-to-have; they’ve become imperative in order to improve the mar-tech knowledge and expertise at nearly every brand company. While valuable, point solution management knowledge is just not going to cut it in the coming year.

by Stephanie Miller