Stack Architecture: Build a Marketing Tech-Stack to Fit Your Business Objectives
Leigh Noy and Asaf Stein discuss the importance of marketing stacks, elements and methodologies, using case studies and examples.
– [Asaf] Thanks for coming to our presentation, it’s about stack architecture and how to build a customer marketing stack. I’m Asaf Stein, and I’m a technical project manager in Optimove. I help onboard our customers on to our platform, and with an emphasis on the different integrations of the different tools into Optimove core.
– [Leigh] And I’m Leigh Noy. I lead the solutions engineering activities in Optimove. This role is commonly known as pre-sale engineer or solutions architect. And as part of my job I work with customers day-to-day on mapping out, what is the best way to fit Optimove into their existing marketing stack or how to build their marketing stack with Optimum accordingly. What we’re going to talk about today is marketing stacks of course.
We’ll start with a little background on what is a marketing stack, and why is it important. And then we’ll talk a little bit about what to take into consideration when building and constructing your marketing stack. And a few examples including Optimove of course of how different marketing stacks can look like. So, what is a marketing technology stack? A marketing technology stack is the layering and interconnections of different technologies that make marketing happen.
So, it’s basically all of the different tools and technologies that you use in order to create your marketing. This starts from the back end, from where you store your customer data. It could be a data warehouse or a CDP that you use to aggregate customer data. And it ends with the actual execution of the message, the email, let’s say for example that you send out to your customers that’s very, very personalized, and includes different personalization fields that come from that beginning point, from that back end data source that we were talking about.
The reason we call it a stack is because these different technologies need to work together, so they’re sort of stacked one on top of the other. Each one has their own roles, their own responsibilities that allow marketing to happen in an efficient way. And a marketing technology stack will of course be part of your technology stack within your organization, but it’s going to be the parts that are in charge of marketing.
Now, marketing stacks are important because in today’s world you can’t really do marketing without different technologies that allow you to do marketing in an effective way, in an efficient way. You can’t really scale up and create you know a robust marketing plan if you don’t have the right technologies in place. And this really gives us two challenges. The first one is, how do we choose the right technologies to put within our stack?
And the second one, is how do they connect to each other? Who’s in charge of what? How do they pass information between them? And how do they do that in an effective way? Because even if you have all the right tools in place but they don’t know how to coordinate and work with each other, then you really can’t make anything happen. If a company chooses the right technologies for each task, for each area of need, and those will be the right tools for you, you can give yourself a real edge over competition, because you’d be able to focus on the important things in marketing.
What should you do? What communications do you send to what group of customers and allow marketing to happen in an effective and efficient way? This is a MarTech landscape map that was invented by Scott Brinker. He basically created this concept of MarTech, marketing technology tools.
And back in 2011 he mapped out the different marketing technology solutions that were out there. And you can’t really see it, it’s very, very small, but it’s basically divided into different sections. So, we’ve got mobile marketing, we’ve got targeting, we’ve got display management, and personalization, and optimization, and predictive modeling. And there are many, many different tools and options for how to create marketing, for what solutions are you going to use for marketing.
And back in 2011 there were 150 of these, and I think this is challenging enough to kind of select what tools you want to use here and which will do what. Any idea how any marketing technology tools exist today? – [Male] One thousand.
– A little more than 1,000. So, we’ve got about 7000 today. And if we look at this map it’s slightly evolved, so there are many, many, many more sections that are available here. There are tons of many different solutions, and you can see that just looking at the sections, the coloring of the different types of solutions that are out there, it’s becoming more and more challenging to select the right technology tools.
And this trend is actually increasing as time goes by. So, between 2017 and 2018 there was an increase of about 27% in the number of marketing technologies that were available out there. Only about 4.5% churned between those years, so we’re just growing. And there’s gonna be more and more solutions, and we don’t really see this trend stopping.
What it means is that it’s very challenging to select which ones you want to use, which ones are responsible for what. And there are many, many different options on how to build your marketing stack. As a result, there is no typical stack. There are many stacks that are out there, each company needs a different stack, and the stack that you need really depends on your team, how experienced they are, how tech-savvy you are, the scale of your organization, your business model, are you a B2C or a B2B, and many other factors.
And it’s important to find the right stack that meets your business objective when you’re trying to build your marketing stack. There are also many different approaches on how to build different stacks, and how to look at these stacks when designing them. We like to kind of take your marketing stack and split it into three different layers.
On the bottom we have the data layer. So, this is where data sits of course. So, you’ll have your data warehouse or e-commerce platform, basically the source where you store your customer information. On top of that you’d have your CDP or single customer view, basically where you aggregate all of your customer data according to each individual customer, on the individual customer level which makes it something that we can actually use for marketing.
And then we’ve got CRM tools that will utilize this information, and we’ve got data modeling tools that will create segmentations, highlight actionable insights, create different predictions, start processing this data to enrich it and make it even better for us to use for marketing. Then we have the campaign management layer. And the campaign management layer we’ll take this data and will create audience out of it.
So, we need a segmentation tool. We also need a campaign management tool, ideally a cross-channel marketing automation tool that will connect to the different channels you use and manage the different communications across them. We also need to have some sort of analytical tool, we need to have dashboards so we can measure, what have we sent out? Did it work or not? Can we improve it?
And ideally, some sort of optimization platform that you can use to optimize these automatically. On the last layer we have the actual execution. So, these will be your email provider, your push provider, the social networks you use. It could be SMS, it could be real-time campaigns on your website, in your mobile app. You need to think about, how are you assigning promotions to different customers?
Now, if you notice here in parallel to all of these we’ve got real-time, real-time is optional, so some companies use real-time communications and some don’t. If you do, this is something that we’ll need to think about in all of the different layers. And I can think of many, many other tools that I can add into this chart. So, I can have a BI and reporting layer, and I have my actual content.
So, I need to have a content management platform. But basically, if we split it into these kind of three different layers we can start thinking about what solutions we’re going to use when we build our stack. Another important factor to take into consideration is that there are many different stakeholders that will use this stack. So, in the data layer you’ll probably have the BI team and the data science team and the IT team making decisions regarding how to use data.
You’ll have your planning team, the planning layer, the customer marketing layer, which will be used by marketing and leadership to look at the different reports and tools on how this marketing is operating. Marketing will also live in the execution layer, where you’ll also find design team creating the different templates that are sent out, the different content pieces that you send out to your customers.
In Optimove we try to kind of delete these lines between the different separations, we like to call it democratizing data, making data accessible to marketers without a dependency on different teams, but you’re always going to have all of these stakeholders that are interested in this marketing technology stack. What we see in many cases during the sale cycle with Optimove is that companies approach this process of creating their stack when they’re not really prepared.
And it’s very important before you go into this process to analyze, what are you trying to do? What is your end goal? How is this going to fit in with your existing marketing? Which is why we’ve come up with a few points that are important to take into consideration when building your marketing stack.
– So, now we’re going to talk about actually building your marketing stack. We’re going to talk about two main approaches, a few things to bear in mind, determining factors and a few final things to consider. So, the first dilemma you’ll encounter when approaching building your marketing stack is, are we going to go single vendor or are we going to go best of breed?
So, I like thinking of single vendor as a jack of all trades, master of none. It’s benefits are you only have to manage one vendor relationship, and the tools you get will probably complement each other rather seamlessly coming all from the same vendor. On the other hand, it’s rather expensive and it might be better suited for large organizations with big marketing budgets, not so much for startups and small-to-medium organizations.
It’s also putting all your eggs in one basket, which isn’t always the best approach. On the other hand, we have the best of breed option, so it might be a bit harder to put together and it requires more work and more research, but at the end of the day it just gives you a degree of flexibility that you will not find with a single vendor solution. It gives you the opportunity to curate a combination of technologies that will really fit your needs best out of all available options out there.
It’s also not as costly. In single vendor you’ll probably need to implement a whole set of products all at one go, while in best of breed you can kind of plug them in as we go and when we need them. It does have its downsides. You will be managing multiple processes, multiple vendors, multiple points of contact. This can be challenging when you have a large marketing stack with a large amount of tools in it. The tools themselves that you choose might not complement each other out of the box like they would coming all from a single vendor, so it’s on you to kind of take that into consideration and think how everything has got to be connected.
All that being said in today’s API and micro-service fueled world, single vendor is becoming a less common place and best of breed is really taking its place. So, a few things to think about, things to bear in mind before approaching building your marketing stack. The first one is to be thoughtful. Now, by being thoughtful I mean a lot of marketers today tend to choose the easy route, and instead of sitting through hours on top of hours of product demos and doing their thorough research they just stay with the same tried and true stack or just go with the latest, trendy, hip technology without thinking about how these tools cater to their specific needs.
So, I think marketers today should take a patient and thoughtful approach towards building their marketing stack. The next one is to visualize your stack. So, before we even start thinking about specific tools we need to step over to the whiteboard and make a blueprint of our marketing stack. So, there are endless ways to visually organize your stack from circuit boards to flow charts, clustered by marketing functions or organize around the customer journey.
There is no right or wrong way here. And I will show you some examples later in the presentation. The next one is to focus on the big picture. So, don’t fall prey into thinking of each of these specific tools as specific tools. Try to think of them all as part of one big system and adopt a more holistic point of view. The final one is to think long term.
So, our marketing stack is dynamic, it’s not static, it should and it will change over time. So, when approaching building your marketing stack don’t only think about what you need now, but try to envision how you see your marketing operation scaling into the future. Some determining factors we wanted to talk about. The first one, is the company stage of maturity, where are you?
Are you just the founders? Have you made your first sales and marketing hires? Maybe you already have constantly growing sales and marketing teams. So, where you are as a company is going to have a tremendous effect on your marketing stack and naturally on your budget as well. The next one is your team and talents. So, you need to understand who your team is and what their talents are. Because, technology or any tool as great as it may be isn’t going to accomplish anything for you unless you know how to leverage analytics.
So, make sure you spend enough time and money in teaching your team not only on how to use the tools technically but also on how to leverage analytics into insights and into actions. The next is your existing tools. So, what have you done for me lately? That’s a question you should be asking every tool in your marketing stack continuously, not only when you’re investing in new ones, and you should have the numbers to back it up.
So, make sure you continuously audit every tool in your marketing stack and see how it fits in your overall vision. Next is the scope of the funnel of the customer experience you’re trying to create. So, you need to understand your customer needs. Build your customer journey, determine exactly how it needs to be, and then map out technology to align with that and not the other way around. And finally, your business model. So, are you B2B, are you B2C?
Everyone has the same overall goals and increasing revenue, increasing efficiency, but the value you find in specific tools will probably differ based on your business model. So, assuming most of you here are from a B2C world, you’ll probably find much more value in tools that support your customer journey and enable you to send out a highly relevant, automated, personalized messages every step along the way.
While from a B2B perspective you might find more value in tools that help you nurture a lead through a sales funnel for example. A few final things to think about before building your marketing stack. So, the first one is to align with IT. Now, coming from an onboarding project manager point of view I can’t express how much I feel this one is important, because if you aren’t aligned with IT then you might just be creating a mess that they’ll have to clean up after you, and this happens all the time.
So, get IT involved in the process from the get go and make sure they’re involved especially when you’re thinking about the different tools, how they’re connected, how they’re integrated, and how data flows between them. Next is to create a use case wish lists, so map out different use cases and scenarios before even thinking about specific vendors. What do you need and what would be nice to have? So, a lot of marketers like making their needs wish list out of gaps and holes they see in their current marketing stack, and their wants from things they’ve seen around the market and think might be valuable to them.
The next step is to take these wish lists and test the vendors against them. So, this could be a formal RFP, it could be a live use case demonstration, it could even be just a list of questions that came up internally and you send out to the different vendors. But don’t skip this step on these use cases, and understand the implications of fulfilling or not fulfilling them. Final one is to understand R&R roles and responsibilities.
So, whichever way you choose to visualize your marketing stack, whatever flow you’re going with make sure you know which tool is in charge of what and when, and that there are no gaps and holes between them. Now, I want to show you a few examples of how different companies visualize their marketing stacks, and we’ll finally get to how Optimove fits into all of this.
So, this first one is the Stackie Award winner this year. That’s right, there’s an award ceremony for marketing stacks. It’s by BlackRock, an American investment management company. And I think this one’s really impressive. First of all just on a visual production point of view, but also because it kind of captures the cyclical process that BlackRock uses to iterate on their strategy, on their marketing, and on their execution.
So, the four different parts of MarTechtropolis, you have for example at the top Discover City which is all about defining the opportunity and the value and the user. So, we’ll have analytics tools and data visualization tools. To the right we have Concept Park, about defining of the direction or idea, brainstorming tools and wire framing tools. Planville at the bottom is about assembling your team.
So, we’ll have different project management tools and collaboration. And finally, Do Town, which is self-explanatory, it’s all about execution. So, you’ll have online management, marketing automation tools and so on. This next one by Microsoft is a different approach. This is the Stackie Award winner from 2017. So, what Microsoft basically wanted to do here is to create an efficient and highly scalable marketing-to-sales automation platform.
So, what you have here is a continuous loop from marketing to sales to post-sales marketing, all within three layers of Gartner’s pace layering model. It’s also interesting to see that there are a lot of Microsoft tools in here not surprisingly, and also it’s really easy to see the roles and responsibilities in this way of visualization.
You know which tools is in charge of what part of the process. And what are the next tools it connects to? This one is a good one to show that marketing stacks are dynamic. As we said earlier, they’re not static and they change over time. So, this is the Cisco’s Stackie Award winner from 2017, and this is their Stackie entry from 2018. So, you can see that they’ve added some products, they removed some products, they tweaked a bit of the organization of their whole foundation layer.
So, this one really shows us that even the bigger organizations aren’t afraid to continuously try to improve their marketing stack from year after year.
– Before we kind of finish, we’re all here to talk about Optimove. And this is an example of Optimove’s system architecture, or a basic high-level one. And it’s kind of parallel to that example that we were looking at earlier with the different layers.
So, we’ve got the data layer going into Optimove. This beautiful circle here in the middle is Optimove of course. Data can come from different sources, it can come from your data warehouse. It can come directly from your website or mobile app in the form of real-time events. It’s then processed within the system of course, so we act as a sort of a CDP, we have our segmentation model and predictions that are generated, and the data is really processed to generate an optimal marketing plan.
What customers should be targeted, with what communication, through what channel and at what time? We also need to connect to the execution layer. This can be internal solutions from Optimove like Optimal and Optipush, or can be third-party tools that are already integrated with us or are not yet integrated with us that will connect to Optimove to execute the communication.
And of course we’ve got the promotion system connecting to Optimove for automatic promotion assignment. But even looking at Optimove as a whole, and even once you’ve selected a single provider, a single vendor for example, Optimove, there are still many configurations that are available. With Optimove we call it different solutions to the same problem.
That problem is personalization. So Optimove core, our core offering we’ll take care of our customer data platform and segmentation, predictive modeling, different analytical tools, cross-channel automation, optimization, and will all happen in one place. But then you need to decide, do you want to send out scheduled messages only or do you want to add real-time messaging as well?
What channels are you going to use. And for those channels, what providers will you use? Will you use internal solutions like Optimal and Optipush, or a third-party integrations? Will you create your own integrations to internal tools that you already have? And there are many different configurations that are available here which are also important to take into consideration. So, to summarize this session we talked a little bit about marketing technology stacks, why are they important?
They can really help you strive and succeed and have a benefit over your competitors when working more effectively and more efficiently. There is no typical stack out there but rather many, many different combinations that are available. When building your stack it’s important to create a wish list, decide what you want to do before you actually go ahead and complete it.
And then test vendors against that wish list and define what are the roles and the responsibilities? Who’s in charge of what? And how does the communication happen? And then we looked at a few examples, different sizes, different shapes, different combinations which we hope could give you some ideas for your own marketing stack.