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Keeping pace with the ever-expanding marketing technology (martech) landscape is a challenge for even the most forward-thinking marketer. Indeed, research suggests that 52 percent of marketers reject the “set it and forget it” philosophy, instead opting to revisit and refresh their stacks every six months in the never-ending quest for “the perfect martech stack.”

But is this a fool’s errand? Does the perfect stack even exist, except for in our own minds?

Well, let’s just say that it’s hard to reach perfection when there’s nearly 7,000 solutions to choose from. Even as they strive for the latest and greatest tools, 63 percent of marketers say that they can’t keep pace with innovation, according to the 2018 State of Marketing Report. Furthermore, only 15 percent of respondents say they are very agile when it comes to embracing new solutions.

So how did we get where we are today, with a mass of solutions to choose from (the average enterprise uses 91 marketing cloud services) and marketers eager to adopt them?

We’re Really Good at Acquiring Stuff

Marketers have been beguiled by a digital addiction – an app-driven culture that makes it easy to add software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools at the swipe of a credit card and solve whatever singular problem arises.

Writing for Martech Today, Scott Vaughan suggests this habit is taking us down the wrong path:

“The danger is that it underlines that we know how to acquire stuff, but doesn’t necessarily show that these acquisitions represent investments in business-value-creating technology and tools.” Instead, we need to “…become effective professional portfolio managers of tech that delivers increasing business value,” says Vaughan.

Breaking the Habit

So, how do you break your digital addiction? Although perfection may not truly be within reach, there are strategies you can undertake to refine and optimize your martech stack.

Keeping pace with innovation is hard. Here’s what we recommend to keep you ahead.

1.  Look to Your Competition

One of the easiest ways to identify what martech should and shouldn’t be in your stack is to discover the martech stacks of your competition. There are several free tools that reveal your competitor’s stacks, such as the platforms and apps they use to power marketing automation, advertising, e-commerce, data management, analytics, and more.

Using these insights, you can then identify any gaps in your own martech stack and find ways to optimize it so you can outperform your competition.

2.  Always Make a Case for New Martech Tools

If you thought you knew how to acquire martech, think again. Pretty soon, 73 percent of organizations will run almost entirely on SaaS, which means that eventually, you run the risk of losing control and accountability of your ever-expanding stack.

As we discussed in an earlier blog, your martech stack is like an overcrowded garage at home. You buy stuff, find you had a one-time use for it – or little at all – but keep it in the pile, just in case, until it’s quietly forgotten about. It adds up to a lot of inventory, potential overlap, and a real mess.

The same is true of SaaS purchases. We tend to buy solutions with little consideration for the larger role these purchases play in advancing the customer journey or how they may generate a return on investment. The result is software sprawl, people and data silos, and a lack of visibility into what software the organization truly owns.

But things are changing. Marketers are beginning to plan their purchases with real intention (36 percent have a methodology in place, and 37 percent plan to create one, finds the 2018 State of Marketing Report).

To help you develop your own methodology and build a stack that has a strong foundation in marketing performance, we’ve outlined four ways you can make the case for new martech tools. Our suggestions include best practices such as favoring best-of-breed tools over all-in-one platforms, assessing how data flows between the new tool and existing systems, documenting and mapping out your stack, and always having an eye on new capabilities and emerging customer trends.

3.  Trim the Fat in Your Martech Stack

Just as important as building your stack and adding new capabilities that matter to the business is knowing when to cancel a SaaS subscription (or two or three).

Perhaps a tool has lost its utility, overlaps with another, or no longer delivers an ideal customer experience. Whatever the reason, our earlier blog – Two Simple Steps for Trimming the Fat in your Martech Stack – explains more about why and how to complete this important step in martech stack management.

Why The Perfect Stack Will Never Exist

A key takeaway from each of these steps is that there’s no such thing as the “perfect stack”. A fact that marketers are already well aware of – 69 percent of those surveyed in the 2018 State of Marketing Report don’t think the perfect stack exists just yet, and perhaps never will.

That’s because each stack is different and represents a system of capabilities that are integrated to address the unique needs of your business and its customers – at a particular point in time. As such, your stack will always be a work in progress.

At no point can you sit back and say “we have everything we need to keep the business running.” To be truly agile, it pays to always be on the lookout for new tools. And this is where true innovation comes into play. The process of evaluating which apps to onboard and continuously assessing those that are working for your business and those that aren’t – while ensuring those investments are future-proof – is where innovation is realized and something as close to the perfect stack is achievable.