Your disjointed tech stack is damaging your customer experience

‘Damn it, Jim, I’m a marketer, not a systems integrator!’ Star Trek‘s Dr McCoy might have protested. In today’s digital business environment, marketing leaders find themselves often managing a ‘stack’ of dozens of different apps to track their customer’s journey. Scott Brinker explains.

I'm a doctor not an engineer Star Trek

Scott Brinker 150 BWEarlier this month, ntegrity released its 2019 ‘Australian Digital Success Report’. The study revealed that the largest challenge companies face with their martech is knowing what to invest in. This is a consequence of having more than 7000 platforms, softwares and technologies to choose from. So, how do you select which tools to use? How do you get them to work well together? How do you empower the full marketing team – and for that matter, the rest of the organisation – to take advantage of this toolbox? 

It’s overwhelming, right? The martech marketplace has exploded over the last five years and in turn, has created a complex marketplace of often disparate solutions. We’re starting to see a shift in how companies orchestrate software and piece together their tech stack. 

The best of both worlds 

Traditionally, marketers have had to choose between a best-of-breed approach to software, or opt for a suite approach. Best-of-breed platforms are limiting when it comes to integration challenges, and while a suite approach generally handles integrations better, it might not offer all the best solutions you require. As a result, each approach contains its own benefits and potential defects. When it comes down to it, marketing technology should ultimately be evaluated on how it improves the customer experience. 

However, the choice between best-of-breed vs suite is being replaced by a platform ecosystem model, essentially providing the best of both worlds. This is the revolution that has been happening in the martech industry in recent years. It’s this idea of opening up suites to plug in solutions and specialised capabilities from other vendors as well. 

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To integrate, or not to integrate

‘Does X integrate with Y?’ is a deceptively oversimplified yes/no question. One-off integrations are useful if most of the tools you need already exist within your product suite, but they can get complicated fast and become difficult to troubleshoot. As your business grows, your needs will inevitably change, and the tools that worked for you originally might not be enough to keep you up and running. You’ll need to supplement your original product suite with more outside tools – and that means more integrations.

According to Blissfully’s 2019 SaaS trends report, the average business of 100-250 employees typically has 99 SaaS subscriptions. Almost every SaaS product today has APIs that let it exchange data with other applications. A platform, however, plays a more active role in coordinating how multiple products work together.

You can picture a platform as a hub, with spokes connecting other products to its centre. The hub binds those disparate products together and orchestrates them in a common mission. A platform creates a stable centre of gravity for your tech stack. For marketers, this means there is less risk of lost customers and
 poor insights of siloed data. 

Adopt and communicate from day dot

The Australian Digital Success Report revealed the second largest challenge companies face with their martech is training staff on how to use the technology, highlighting the need for ongoing training. A tech stack is only effective when adopted and absorbed by those using it. 

In the decade of SaaS, cloud-based platforms and freemium/trial go-to-market models, software adoption now skews towards an agile approach. The risk that comes with an agile approach, however, is the need for communication. Teams that implement agile without clearly communicating their strategic plan – and how it will benefit users – are at risk of seeing low adoption. Clearly communicating the value that a new tool or app is expected to deliver to users will encourage them to adopt and absorb the technology across your organisation. 

Where to from here? 

If you’re just launching a business, it can be tempting to start small and purchase a contained set of basic tools in a software product suite. But if you plan on growing your business – and I bet you do – the tools that get you started are not the tools you’ll need down the line. To truly solve for future growth, you need a way to easily connect different tools in one central place, without custom integrations that require a full-time employee to troubleshoot and maintain.

Enter the platform. Not only do platforms make data more readily available throughout your company, but they also enable non-developers to create and maintain advanced, interconnected ecosystems of tools. In the future, we’ll see businesses using more kinds of software, not less, that all need to work together. It’s why we’re evolving HubSpot from an ‘all-in-one’ suite into an ‘all-on-one’ platform. This development means we’re providing our customers the flexibility and autonomy to choose the integrations that work best for them (and their customers). 

Scott Brinker, VP of platform ecosystem at HubSpot; editor at chiefmartec.com

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Image credit:Darwin Vegher