I’ve noticed a new trend emerging at marketing conferences, a new slide that is becoming part of the standard operating procedure when marketers are asked to present a case study or to share stories about their marketing experiences.
I call this slide … The Stack.
My first memorable exposure to The Stack was at a small conference in San Francisco hosted by Bizo (which was shortly thereafter acquired by LinkedIn). It was in a 45 minute presentation by David Karel that was actually dedicated solely to the discussion of the various marketing technologies leveraged by the Bizo marketing team. It was, quite honestly, the most interesting and enlightening presentation of the day and soon inspired an infographic called Our Marketing Stack @ Bizo.
Most recently, at the SiriusDecisions Summit in Nashville I saw multiple iterations of The Stack. In the sponsor-driven case studies that took place early on in the conference, before the analysts took over the podiums, top-drawer marketers shared case studies detailing how they worked with those sponsors (most of which were technology vendors) to drive results. All three of the case studies I saw featured The Stack, and the success stories were very real and quite impressive. Audience reactions to The Stack typically consist of a mix of admiration and envy… If only I had that technology stack, all my problems would be solved!
The thing is, though, I feel like there should have been some sort of warning label or disclaimer before the presentations:
Warning: The technologies about to be presented in the following slide can be dangerous, and can be responsible for the waste of thousands of dollars and man-hours that could have been applied more effectively on other projects. The presenters are professionals that plotted out strategies to leverage these resources to their full potential, and did their due diligence in the evaluation of their need for these tools. They also followed through with all training around use of these tools, and around the integration of these tools with other technologies in their stack. Don’t try this at work without the proper preparation and guidance.
Is The Stack slide helping to fuel the explosion in marketing technology investment? Could be, as we marketers look up to the marketers at these shows that are actually driving revenue and claiming they needed these technologies to do it. And much like the gearheads that are looking to peek under the hood of that rebuilt vintage Mustang at the car show, we ache to see the details around the technologies that our most successful colleagues are using … as if just having those technologies drove their success.
A little over a year ago I wrote a series of posts on the role of the marketing technologist and the explosion of investment in marketing technologies. Part one was called The Rise of the Marketing Technologist, and in it I wrote that “…technology is not the answer, it’s a tool that can be used to enable a successful program. In the wrong hands however, that tool is not worth the investment.”
So often, strategy is the missing ingredient in any kind of technology decision. Many marketers bought into the promise of marketing automation, for example, without giving any thought into how to actually use it for anything other than sending email.
Plan what you want to accomplish, and then see how your technologies can support the achievement of those goals. Do not look first at what the technology can do, and then decide how to take advantage of that cool feature that you saw in the demo. My ANNUITAS colleague Jennifer Harmel wrote here that marketers need to avoid “… shying away from a strategic idea because they think … marketing tool can’t do it. You know how it’s not a party until a glass is broken? Well, it’s not a marketing strategy until you stump the marketing automation platform.”
To sum it up:
- Decide what your goals are.
- Create the strategy that will help you to achieve that goal.
- Invest in the technologies that will support your strategy.
- Don’t invest in the technologies that you do not have the resources to fully support. Even if they are really sexy, and all the cool marketers are getting them.
As I wrote in the blog post People, Process and Content … Then Technology, technology is not the beginning of the strategy, it’s a tool that supports your strategy. It is the road “…we choose to drive on after we have planned our trip. If you pick the wrong roads, you take twice as long to get there – if you don’t get lost. The key to any successful marketing technology deployment is to know where you want to go, plan the most effective route, select the drivers and gas up the car before you hit the road.”