New on StackedUp: The 2019 Guide to Tech Stack Management | Check it out >

People can’t stop buying apps. Today, the average employee uses at least eight software-as-a-service (SaaS) apps and companies are spending an average of $2,884 per-employee on these subscriptions. Moving forward, that sum will continue to grow. According to the 2018 State of Marketing Technology report, 65 percent of marketers say they are planning on increasing their marketing technology (martech) spend next year.

However, rather than rushing to make a quick purchase to address a singular need (which only adds to martech stack bloat), marketers are now planning their purchases with real intention. As the report reveals, 36 percent already have a formal methodology around their martech investments, while 37 percent plan to create one.

But what does that methodology look like? Under pressure to trim the fat in our martech stacks, how do we make a case for adding the new martech tools that we need to move the needle in terms of customer experience?

Here are four key considerations for building your martech stack with a strong foundation for marketing performance and delighting your customers.

1.  Favor best-of-breed tools

The problem: All-in-one martech tools, like HubSpot, Salesforce, Marketo, and Pardot, have risen in popularity in recent years. The promise of a one-stop shop, multi-purpose platform for each marketing and revenue generating function can be enticing. Gone is the hassle of managing multiple vendor relationships, everything is unified and simplified under a single SaaS contract and invoice – perfect!

However, while these tools perform well in terms of their core functionality, they can fall short in other areas. For example, one platform may be a great customer relationship management (CRM) solution, but its content management capabilities may be found wanting. Another may be a great customer outreach tool, but miss the mark for analytics.

Aware of these limitations, we often look to other tools to solve our specific problems – adding more apps to our stacks until bloat starts to set in. To regain control and simplify things, we must  reassess our stacks, trim the fat, and reconsider the advantages of an all-in-one system (even if it isn’t what we really need).

What to do about it: The only way to break this cycle is to find truly best-of-breed tools. These singularly-focused solutions can offer lasting power that can help your business grow without creating the runaway bloat that comes with the app buying process.

The movement towards best-of-breed stacks is fast gaining traction. According to the 2018 State of Marketing Technology report, marketers are rapidly turning away from all-in-one marketing tools and embracing best-of-breed stacks – 34 percent of marketers now favor them, up 7 percent from the previous year.

A stack based on best-of-breed technologies comprises core solutions. These can include applications solely devoted to analytics, content marketing, CRM, email marketing, and social media marketing, with a healthy dose of experimentation in areas like ad technology, marketing automation, video marketing, and mobile marketing.

To avoid solution overload and lay the groundwork of a best-of-breed martech stack, read: 5 Essential Apps for Every Marketing Tech Stack.Then discover how to make those apps work for you.

2.  Consider data flow

The problem: To avoid data silos and complicated workflows, the tools in your martech stack must play well together. However, when making new purchases, only 51 percent of teams are integrating data across their tech stacks. This can negatively impact marketing efforts, leaving you with an incomplete picture of customers’ actions across the stack.

What to do about it: As you consider onboarding a new best-of-breed tool, assess how data will flow between the new tool and existing systems. Does the tool easily integrate with other technology through plug-ins or APIs? Which of your legacy systems need to be integrated with this new tool? Do data sets align cleanly across vendors? How will you use this integrated data to inform decisions?

3.  Document, document, document

The problem: The average marketing organization uses 91 marketing cloud services (and those are just the ones they know about), making it hard to get a handle on all of the tools used to drive success. Furthermore, when considering a new solution we often, inadvertently, purchase apps that may be incompatible with core systems or overlap with existing tools that are being used by someone else.

What to do about it: Bring order to the chaos by documenting what you’re buying and why. This exercise will ensure that all employees know which tools are available to them. It also keeps things in check as you onboard new tech in the future and serves as a key component when preparing new hires. Be sure to document the following:

  • The features, functionality, and use case for the app. What problem are you hoping it will solve?
  • The legacy systems and tools it will connect to.
  • The data sets it will collect.
  • How you plan on absorbing the technology into your company.

Airstack, a tech stack management tool, can help with this process by helping your teams organize and understand the tools they use and store anything anyone needs to know about any app. Alternatively, Airstack Slide is a quick and easy tool for organizing your stack and sharing your own stack page with others.

Remember to keep looking to the horizon for new trends to keep you, and your technology, relevant.

4.  Keep an eye on new capabilities and emerging customer trends

The problem: The 2018 State of Marketing Technology report also found that 63 percent of marketers feel that the martech landscape has evolved rapidly in the past three years, yet only 28 percent feel their use of technology has advanced at the same pace. This can make it hard to dedicate time and resources to evaluating the features of new technology that may benefit the business and advance the customer experience.

What to do about it: The internet is constantly evolving and bringing new ways for consumers to interact with content and brands. Keep your ears to the ground and always be on the lookout for new trends on the horizon. If an innovative new app offers capabilities that prompt an “aha” moment, pursue it, even if it doesn’t have a proven use case for your business yet.

In addition to these considerations, it’s important to remain agile and always plan for change. As you map out your best-of-breed martech stack, make sure any new investments are future-proof and can grow with your business, whether via integrations, the fluid flow of data, or regular updates.

After all, a successful marketing operation never rests. Neither should your martech stack.