“Everything’s fast now and it’s totally unreasonable,” says comedian John Mulaney. “The world is run by computers. The world is run by robots. And sometimes they ask us if we’re a robot just because we’re trying to log in and look at our own stuff!”
Marketing teams face the opportunities (and temptations) of more channels, more content, and more technology. And thinking about how it all works together to deliver a consistent, effective customer experience can lead to more headaches.
If you’re feeling like your marketing technology is making you work more not less, or you’re struggling to keep up with the speed of business, it’s time to take a step back and think about what your technology is doing for you, your business, and your audiences.
One way to do this is by mapping your marketing technology to determine how your choices about technology, people, and processes can deliver more effective marketing.
See how Balsam Brands integrated technologies help them achieve faster turnaround times for getting photography onto their e-commerce site.
In this article we’ll look at why mapping your technology is a good idea, what to include in your map, some models you can build on, and what to do next.
What is marketing technology?
Marketing technology, or martech, is software that facilitates and executes marketing activities. Marketers use it to work more efficiently, communicate more effectively, and measure their efforts. There are many categories within marketing technology and thousands of vendors.
The combination of technologies that you use to power your marketing efforts is known as your “martech stack.” Martech stacks are kind of like snowflakes — no two are the same. Depending on your unique needs, your martech stack could include any number of technologies and impact various departments and functions within your organization.
What you need to map your marketing technology
Just like a map (or navigation tool) you’d use on a road trip, a marketing technology map helps you get where you need to go via the most direct, effective route. Whether you have two or 200 marketing systems, mapping is a worthwhile exercise. Here’s why.
Facilitates collaboration and efficiency. Marketing encompasses many roles, channels, and tools. Mapping your technology stack helps your teams understand what’s going on around them and how everyone can work better together. For example, you may be struggling to get your team to agree on where digital assets live, how they move between tools, and who’s maintaining them. If that’s the case, get your key stakeholders together and start mapping it all out on a whiteboard. The visual will help reduce confusion caused by varying terminology and allow all parties to see the big picture before determining priorities and diving into an action plan.
Eliminates redundancy and exposes opportunity. Mapping your marketing technology provides you with a bird’s-eye view of all the systems you use and how they (and your teams) work together. This is beneficial because it allows you to easily identify where duplicate efforts and bottlenecks exist. Whether between systems or your systems and people, there’s likely overlap or inefficiency that you can remedy. And of course, the mapping process is a great way to expose untapped opportunities, such as a chance to automate a manual task or share data between tools.
Lays the groundwork for business continuity and scalability. The scale and complexity of marketing technology can feel overwhelming. A map helps you document the current state of your stack and where you’d like to take it. It gives your teams context for how their work and tools fit into the larger context. And since employee turnover is an unavoidable reality for all businesses, an actual documented map ensures information doesn’t leave with the people who developed it.
What to include in your marketing technology map
When you’re ready to create your map, use the list below as a starting point for what to include. You’ll have to decide what’s most beneficial for your organization, so don’t be afraid to customize this information. The goal is to create a framework that brings visibility to the interplay between your technology and people.
To start, take inventory of the tools your business uses. It’s always a good idea to check with stakeholders from various marketing, creative, and sales teams to ensure you’re not overlooking any systems. Typical technology examples include:
- Content marketing platforms (CMP)
- Digital asset management (DAM)
- Brand management
- Marketing automation
- Marketing resource management (MRM)
- Product information management (PIM)
- Creative management platforms (CMP)
- Project management
- Social media management
- Web content management (WCM)
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Sales enablement
- Multichannel marketing hubs (MMH)
- Email service provider (ESP)
- Mobile marketing platforms (MMP)
- Custom or internal systems
The tools are there to make your people more effective and efficient. However, your tools are only as powerful as the people behind them. Think about all the people that come in contact with your technology and the role they play. Here are some common “people categories” to consider:
- System owner: This person owns the day-to-day administration of the tool and helps execute the strategic vision for its use. Depending on the particular marketing technology, you may have different system owners for different tools.
- Core users: These are the people who use the tool to accomplish their work. It’s also helpful to capture who your “power users” are, as these users will offer the most valuable insights and feedback during the mapping process.
- Decision makers: This group includes stakeholders with the power to help move an agenda forward. Depending on what you learn during your mapping process, you may want to make some changes. Having people with authority to move your agenda forward will come in handy, so keep them informed and stay aligned along the way.
- Supporting players: These people include representatives from non-marketing departments and any other martech influencers. IT representatives that are familiar with technical limitations and opportunities of your tools usually make their way on to the list. And depending on how far your technologies reach, you may even want to think about adding customer service, engineering, or even finance contacts to your list.
Label the relationships between your people and technology. When brainstorming, also think about if there are any existing relationships, processes, or workflows (manual or automated) that you could improve upon.
- API: These involve using an application programming interface (API) to develop a custom connection with functionality that supports a specific workflow.
- Out-of-the-box connectors: These are add-ons to an existing solution and ready to install as is.
- Managed integrations: These are customizable middleware solutions that offer more flexibility than out-of-the-box connectors.
- Process: Not all tools are connected technically. Some may be connected via your team’s processes.
Marketing technology map models
To help you start thinking about your own marketing technology map, below are some models. We’re big on digital asset management (DAM), so these examples focus on digital assets. Use it as a starting point, inspiration, or template to make your own. Build a powerful stack and you might even win a MarTech Stackie Award like Sargento!
The content hub
This model puts your DAM system at the center of content activity. Upstream from the DAM system is where designers, marketers, and project managers are creating assets. Downstream from the DAM system are the distribution channels and people who share the final assets to make up the customer experience.
The martech stack
Martech is about the convergence of marketing, technology, and management. This model, inspired by Red Wing Shoes, focuses on the technology and how it supports a richer customer experience with efficient marketing operations and reliable business analytics. Use this model to document a high-level picture of the existing marketing technology and for discussions on where new technology will impact your customer experience, operations, and analytical ability.
The digital content lifecycle
The content lifecycle model helps your team think through how content flows through your organization, from ideas to experiences, and eventually into preservation. Below we focus on the different technologies that are involved throughout the process. You could apply a similar approach to the teams involved throughout the content lifecycle. Creating and publishing an asset isn’t always linear, so don’t be afraid to throw some arrows on the map to show where the process deviates from the linear flow.
How to map your marketing technology
Now that you’ve seen some models, it’s time to map your marketing technology.
1. Define the goals of your martech stack map
Write down the goal or goals of your marketing technology map. To determine what these are, it’s helpful to back out of company objectives. At the highest level, what does your organization want to achieve this year and into the future? How can your martech stack support these objectives? Also engage stakeholders in the departments or teams that your martech serves, as you’ll want to consider their goals when formulating your own.
Documenting your goal or goals will keep you focused and provide guidance on who to involve and how large the map’s scope should be. Some common goals include:
- Increase productivity: Find those high-frequency, manual processes and automate them.
- Improve the customer experience: Document your customer’s experience and the people and technology delivering it.
- Reduce costs: Identify and eliminate duplicate tools and contracts, zombie systems that people forgot about or no longer use, and any products that are underperforming.
- Increase revenue: Shorten time to market and optimize the buyer’s journey.
2. Compile a list of current technologies
Mapping out the different technology and people can be overwhelming. The checklist below will help you think about the most popular categories of tools and which systems you should include on your list. As you make your list, you can include other information, like the data available for assets and the owner of the tool.
Creating the list with stakeholders from other teams can help uncover the tools you don’t interact with frequently. You may also want to account for the owner and users of the system to help understand current and future opportunities for adoption.
This example spreadsheet is not exhaustive of all of the potential systems you might find at your organization and should be updated to include your company's specific technologies.
3. Create your map and define the linkages
Use the information you gathered up to this point to guide you in creating your map. Use a whiteboard, sticky notes, or a digital tool to lay out your map and all the connecting pieces. Some questions to ask during the mapping process:
- What is the workflow process?
- Who executes the step?
- What system is involved?
- What decision is to be made?
- How does each tool interact with or link to adjacent systems?
- What manual processes or pain points currently exist?
- Are there skill gaps with your teams?
- How is success measured?
4. Identify opportunities to add, replace, remove, and integrate tools
Now that you have your marketing technology map, you can identify opportunities for improvement. Give attention to potential areas of waste, identify the technology gaps that are impeding performance, and explore all measurable improvements. You may have a long list of ideas, so prioritize them and consider the business impact, customer impact, and the level of effort.
5. Take action
Now’s the time to act on your first opportunity or opportunities. Start with a manageable list, ensure you have the right people in place, and then get going! Typically there are opportunities for the taking across these three areas:
- System integrations/connections: What systems did you determine can work better together? Remember, your martech stack doesn’t have to be silos of disconnected tools. The technologies you use should work together to bring efficiency, automation, and speed to your operations. For example, if a DAM system is part of your martech stack, connect it with the tools your designers use, so they have immediate access to your brand’s digital assets. Or connect it with your product information management (PIM) system to ensure that your product listings not only have updated SKU data, but accurate product images and visuals. Again, remember your goals, and prioritize from there.
- Data sharing: Redundant and manual data sharing is time intensive and prone to error. You identified which systems work or could work better together. Part of this is understanding what information you can share among them. For example, when you retire collateral and materials, are they still “living” on channels and with other teams and systems? Investigate and implement solutions to automatically share this knowledge and automate removal of assets across your systems. Or leverage tools with artificial intelligence (AI) or automation capabilities to share data, such as usage rights or product details, across systems.
- Workflows: Improving your internal and external workflows is an ongoing endeavor. However, by tackling the biggest impact areas first, you can work wonders for your bottom line, team morale, and productivity levels. Want to iron out workflows between your teams? Figure out which combination of tools and integrations will help you get there. Whether that’s by reducing manual work and disjointed tools or improving collaboration, approvals, and communication, layout the steps needed to implement change and achieve your map goals.
Resources to help you map your marketing technologies and take action
This doesn’t have to be an overwhelming project. Breaking it up into manageable tasks will allow your teams to take these concepts and apply them in a way that they can act on. The process of creating the map can be just as valuable as the map itself. Be sure to revisit it regularly (say, every six months) as people, teams, and tools change. And don’t go it alone. Here are a few resources to help you along the way:
- “Attack Your Stack” e-book: Get an in-depth, practical guide to building and managing a high-functioning marketing technology stack with this free e-book.
- CabinetM: If you’re looking for a simple tool to help you assemble your martech stack, check out CabinetM to map, track, and manage martech use and spend.
- “Level Up Your DAM Strategy” webinar: If you have a DAM system, check out this webinar for more information on how integrations can better power your teams, systems, and processes.
- Experts: If you don’t have the bandwidth or you feel overwhelmed by this entire mapping process, there’s help out there. Our team of martech consultants are eager to help you navigate the process and help you design your martech strategy.
Note: This article was originally published in February 2019 and has been amended to include additional information and updated graphics.