You can't try every single marketing tech tool out there, but you can build a smart tech stack that will best serve your business.
To say there aren't enough hours in the day to master marketing technology (martech) is an understatement. If a full-time marketer spent one working hour with every martech solution on the market, they'd do nothing but try tools for the next three years.
What's more, signs indicate that the martech tub will continue to fill faster than it drains. While last year's newcomers represent a 27 percent year-over-year increase in the total number of tools, only 4.5 percent of 2017's tools were no longer on the market in 2018. In other words, the pool is only going to get more crowded from here.
So what's a marketer who's already stretched thin to do? The answer isn't to give up entirely, nor is it to default to the trendy tools; it's to understand what you need and why.
Why martech matters
Marketers understand digital's growing dominance better than anyone. Think of martech tools as the flight instruments that help companies navigate this new airspace. Marketers who don't bother to invest in them are flying blind, conducting uninformed campaigns and delivering limited feedback to the crew.
While it might be tempting to think instruments are only visible to those in the cockpit, consider what the low-tech customer experience looks like. Now consider what those in the flight tower see: pricey activations without attributable results. No wonder 69 percent of marketers turn to martech – it improves their return on investment, according to Ascend2's Marketing Technology ROI Survey, while 40 percent use it to improve decision-making. No matter their objective, 92 percent of respondents say they've been "very" or "somewhat" successful in achieving their objectives with martech.
Understanding martech's popularity, however, isn't the same as knowing how to invest in it.
Get started on your suite
Any effective martech suite – no matter the number of tools it contains, the company’s industry or the user's chosen channels – contains three types of tools: audience, activation and attribution.
1. Audience tools: Comprehensive customer profiling with behavioral segmentation
Audience tools must strike a tough balance: concisely summarize data while providing serious granularity. The best tools offer both self-serve functionality and automated reporting.
Look for tools that can sort audience members by demographics, interests or influencers. You'll also want something that provides a bird's-eye view of customers' online conversations, giving marketers the ability to search by sentiments, keywords, hashtags and more. AI-based tools can automate audience trend detection and monitoring, categorizing consumers by the sentiment expressed, topics frequently discussed, demographic data and more.
2. Activation tools: Contextual intelligence about consumer preferences
After marketers know who they're talking to, their next goal is reaching those people. Activation tools tailor marketers' messages according to each customer's preferences and stage in the sales funnel. Customers are demanding brands do the latter well, with 81 percent of consumers telling Accenture they want brands to know when (and when not) to contact them.
One simple step every company can take to show customers it knows them is email personalization. Choose a platform that allows you to schedule messages, A/B test emails, track open rates and link clicks, and more. More advanced tools focused on multichannel personalization can help you target not only users' inboxes, but also their mobile app notifications or even specific devices like vehicle dashboards.
3. Attribution tools: Integrate on- and offline data
More than ever before, consumers' online and offline actions are two pieces that can only be understood as part of the whole. Which attribution tools are right for a given company, however, heavily depends on its product and promotional channels.
Marketers who put a heavy focus on web and social channels should find tools that use link tracking to show which web properties and pieces of content are delivering. Good attribution software can create custom maps and reports, and integrate with popular platforms like AdWords and HubSpot. Other metrics your software should track include clicks, average revenue per user, organic and nonorganic installs, and interactions after app installs.
Companies that conduct offline sales, in particular, should look for a tool that can associate online actions with those customers take in the real world. Look for software than can leverage location and device data to tie anonymous online actions to purchases, thereby giving marketers a full view of the path someone took from site to store.
Don't forget about integrations
Whichever tools you choose – the average enterprise uses 91 separate cloud marketing software platforms – it's critical to ensure that the solutions play well together.
When researching tools, ask about their application programming interfaces. Some platforms integrate with many other marketing technologies; others work only with software produced by partner companies. A few even charge extra for use of their APIs.
Between APIs, feature sets, costs and implementation challenges, marketers have a lot to think about when making martech choices. Keep those functional buckets in mind and research diligently, but don't worry about trying every tool: The only wrong answer is to avoid martech altogether.