Building your b-to-b tech stack, part 2: It's not for beginners

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When the first Lumascape was shared by Luma Partners in 2010, it listed a few hundred marketing technology companies. The latest version shows nearly 5,000 brands, now in an epic struggle to stand out and be part of the mission critical tech stack of modern marketers. Clearly, not all of these brands will make the cut as increasingly sophisticated practitioners seek out a handful of tools that will yield the ultimate triumph–measurably effective spending of marketing dollars.

In part 2 of my interview with Receipt Bank Chief Marketing Officer Eric Eden, we dive deeper into the challenges of budgeting and staffing for your foundational tech stack as well as additional tools he's deployed of late. Most of all, you'll see that you need to approach this with precision, recognizing that none of this software runs itself and that a wide range of expertise is required to optimize performance. If you missed part 1 of our interview, click here.

Are there difficulties tied into budgeting and securing funding for tech?

My experience has been that if you're not honest with the leadership team about what a project is going to cost, then what basis do you have to go back later and say, "Well, we spent the half-million dollars on the software but now we realize we need to hire five people that are going to cost us another quarter million dollars a year for the next three years?" The best thing to do is be upfront, really look into it and ask what it's going to take to run every piece or system of software.

The best way to think about that is to ask other users of the systems when you do reference checks. "Oh, how many people do you have that manage this system? How much of their time does it take?" And if you ask people that about marketing automation systems, commonly they'll say they have three to five people managing it full-time. It's not that hard to uncover.

That must make it harder to get approved, right?

Yes, when you're honest about the entire cost of the investment it raises the price tag. It makes it harder to get approved, but it's better to do that up front, in my experience, then to look back and say "We didn't plan it out correctly. And now we need to do it because we're committed." If you do that, then people just have bad feelings, like they were tricked. Either you weren't smart enough to look into it, or you're playing games with them. You don't want that bad feeling in people's stomachs, particularly with finance executives. They want you to think through these things upfront as part of the due diligence.

How do you manage different integrations on a more complex tech stack?

It comes down to being able to visualize and make sure that data flows are working all the way to reporting. And having multiple sources of data, multiple layers can be very valuable. But all integrations are not created equal. People say they are integrated with Salesforce but you have to really drill into that. What does that mean exactly? What exactly does the integration do?

Can you provide a specific example?

Yes. When I was at Cvent, the integration between Cvent and Salesforce was that if someone registers for an event via Cvent, Cvent would push it into Salesforce that the person was registered in their Salesforce record, which was great. And it did do other things. But too much can be left up to the imagination if you're not clear on what "integration" means. Is it a two-way data flow, back and forth? Is it one-way? Exactly what fields can be updated? There's a lot of room for interpretation there and that's really why you need someone who is savvy with systems, even security. If you have a security breach and someone gets in one of the systems and they realize they can get from that system into all the connected systems, things can get really scary, really fast.

What does it take to get the integration right?

You really need somebody who can who can architect this, think about the reporting, think about the data flow, the integrations. It's not a simple thing. It takes a completely different person to run the campaigns, someone more creative who can work with the sales teams and get their feedback. And you need someone who can run reports and do the analytics. And these are all different profiles. So, you need to have various people within your marketing organization who can sit on top of the marketing technology. If you're going to be successful, you can't just hire one of those flavors of people, you really need a group.

What other marketing technologies or integrations have been useful?

Online surveys are a favorite way of mine to get qualifying data against the marketing database. I've used tools like Qualtrics, where you run an online survey. Their survey responses can go into Salesforce and feed a lot of their qualifying fields. Also, I'm a big fan of webinars. I've used systems like On24 which can feed into your marketing automation system and Salesforce. Then there are social media tools. One of my favorites is Influitive, which is an advocate marketing program where your customers can be advocates or ambassadors for you. You can do referral programs with them, where the referrals automatically flow into Salesforce. I'm also a fan of live chats with lead forms.

There are so many options. How do you narrow the list?

Yes, there are a bunch of things you can play around with. One of the things I always tell people is: You have to figure out what it is you want to achieve, and then find the systems that will help you achieve that. If you set out just to build marketing systems, you could build forever. Pick and choose systems that would be helpful for your particular organization, for your particular goals. You can't master every system, you have to just pick your battles.

What's your biggest frustration currently?

A level of difficulty comes when you have very long sales cycles, because you will have a lot of touches from marketing and sales in this cycle, then it's very hard to make attributions. You know, who killed the professor in the library with what? So, you get into debates and even the sales people who close a sale often can't say what actually caused the sale to close. I always try to encourage people to figure out ways to shorten the sales cycle, there're a lot of good reasons to do that. Attribution is one of them, cash flow is another. Training of the teams is also a big "gotcha." There are a lot of good intentions, but you're doing some very complicated technical things with junior teams and sales and marketing working on those systems and things can get fouled-up pretty easily. One way to manage it is to have reporting that shows where and when gaps happen. If you do that you'll see: there will be gaps, because it's complicated. These aren't simple processes. The bigger the scale, the more chances for problems there are.

Any advice that people may not think about?

Don't undervalue the process of negotiating the agreement and the terms of software. Of course, always try to get the best price and check references. You also want to be asking, "Can they include extra support? Can they give you free certification passes for your team? Can they throw in extra things?" That's where a lot of the rubber meets the road, because these systems are very expensive. And it is worth it to really take the time to get competing bids from vendors. Get the best deal possible, because if you do it right, you're probably signing a multi-year agreement, you'll live with it long term. Take the time to get a really good agreement up front.

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