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I’ll Bet Your Martech Stack Is as Underused as Your DSLR Camera.

In the effort to deliver better customer experiences, it often feels like our technology is holding us back. But what if the answer lay in your existing B2B martech stack —if you could get past “auto mode” and use the breadth of its capabilities? 

For example, I used to think of myself as a pretty good photographer. I had a good Canon camera and some beautiful lenses. And I knew how and when to use aperture priority mode. Even so, I frequently found myself looking through 200 shots to find one good one, then spending a pile more hours editing that “good one” in Lightroom. With all that technology, why was the process so manual and time consuming? 

I finally decided to up my game and take a class on how to really use my camera. I was shocked to discover how much functionality I was leaving on the table! There was a lot more I could do, and do efficiently, by just fully understanding and using what I already owned. 

In talking to marketing leaders, it seems like many are in the same boat with their marketing technology. In our survey of B2B tech enterprise marketing leaders, 54% reported that their marketing stack does not effectively support personalized marketing. But in a recent study by Gartner, marketers reported they only use 42% of their martech stack capabilities—down from 58% in 2020—suggesting that the problem may not lie in the tech itself, but how it’s being used (or not). 

Here are three common ways B2B martech platforms are underused—and what you can do about it.

Martech challenge: Stopped after solving the first problem. 

I originally bought my DSLR camera to take pictures of my son’s swim team. Now, years later, he’s not swimming anymore and what made my swim pictures great doesn’t work for landscapes and portraits.

Likewise, martech purchases generally happen for a good reason. We talk about “shiny object syndrome” (buying something new because it’s new), but in my experience marketing leaders are far more rational. They must present a financial case for the expenditure based on some observable business need. 

The problem is that this initial need gets all the attention. 

To streamline the sales and implementation process, vendors focus on solving the priority issues and often avoid additional capabilities that might be distracting. Good intentions to revisit these features get forgotten when the next urgent issue comes along. A gap forms between the value the company is getting from the technology and the value it could provide—and continues to widen as the vendor adds new capabilities. 

A gap forms between the current value you’re getting from the technology and the value it could provide. 

Pro tip: Make learning about your current martech platforms a regular event.

With customer expectations constantly evolving, the B2B martech stack can never be “set it and forget it.” The best way to make sure you’re not missing key capabilities of your martech platforms is to make a habit of revisiting what they offer. There are several good ways to do this:

  • Capability demo. If you’ve had a technology for some time, getting a “capability demo” might be in order. For example, a few years ago, I had a great demo of how Gong could improve our sales effectiveness. We purchased the product and used it in that way for my tenure at that company. Recently, I sat in on another Gong demo and discovered they had added some truly exciting brand tracking capabilities. Not only were we not using those capabilities, but to fill that need, we likely would have looked somewhere else, seeking out and investing in a new solution, rather than getting more out of what we already had.
  • Customer conferences. These events provide an opportunity to learn about a company’s vision and see demos of their products’ latest capabilities. They can also be great venues for connecting with other users to see how they are leveraging the technology. However, many companies can’t attend these conferences regularly, or are unable to send employees with the right scope of responsibility to get the most out of the experience.
  • Roadmap review. If you don’t have regular meetings with your account team about a technology you have significant investment in (and you should, but that’s a conversation for another time), set up an ad hoc conversation to talk about how upcoming features can help meet your needs. A custom conversation can really extend the value you get from your current platform. It’s worth an hour or two of your time. 

Martech challenge: Wasteful processes have become normalized. 

I got my camera right before my son’s team went to State. So I educated myself narrowly and simply figured out ways to get the job done. I even convinced myself that it was faster to sort through hundreds of pictures than to learn how to produce the result I wanted in fewer attempts. 

The same thing can happen with technology implementations, especially when there’s pressure to quickly show results and justify the expenditure. For example, companies might use the vendor-supplied templates because they can “get you going.” Or do manual data loads between platforms “just to start.” But over time, those early decisions become the norm. People move roles, new priorities arise. It’s suddenly a couple of years later and no one even questions the way things are done. 

Pro tip: Conduct a martech stack audit.

Perhaps you’re looking for the best way for marketing to support a business outcome. Or you’re wondering if you can improve an inefficient process. Either way, a martech stack audit can reveal opportunities to get more out of your existing platforms. 

For example, an Iron Horse client was manually loading forms from their website and 3rd party publishers into their marketing automation platform. That’s how they’d always done it. No one thought too much about it since they were growing rapidly and meeting all their goals. The fairly straightforward data integration we identified and executed allowed the company to redeploy 3.5 FTEs to more valuable work that supported growth. And, they ended up with more accurate and timely data in their marketing automation platform.

A fairly straightforward data integration allowed the company to redeploy 3.5 FTEs to more valuable work that supported growth.

Many companies avoid auditing their martech stack because they don’t know where to begin. There’s not really a right answer here—pick what works best for your company and just start. Do you have a team with some extra bandwidth that could kick this off? Are there activities your teams do that are so painful they do everything in their power to avoid them? Are there areas where you already know slow processes lead to lost opportunity? 

Don’t forget to capture your before and after metrics and share your learnings with other teams that could benefit from them.

Martech challenge: Seeking an all-in-one solution.

When I finally decided to up my photography game, I went to a fantastic program called ASOP—Austin School of Photography. On the first day, I was sure they were going to tell me my nine-year-old camera lacked the necessary features. Andrew, the instructor, told me the body of my camera was great—it was the “kit” lens that came with it that was the problem. To get the results I wanted, I needed to learn how to use all of the features of the camera body and invest in a few specialized lenses geared toward my needs.

Lately, I’ve read several survey reports that indicate companies are leaning toward “all-in” martech platforms. I certainly understand the appeal of a single, more fully functional and integrated platform. But it’s unlikely that any all-in platform will meet the majority of a company’s martech needs. Many companies end up with a strong, but standard, backbone for their stack with disconnected platforms and processes surrounding it. Compromises are made, and we go full circle back to “wasteful processes that become normalized.” 

Pro tip: Build your stack around the buyer’s journey.

Just as marketing programs must be designed to connect the dots in support of the buying journey, so do technology stack and data integrations. Not having key integrations in place reduces efficiency and productivity; it also produces incomplete insights and creates a poor customer experience. But that doesn’t mean you need to connect every piece of marketing technology in every way possible.

The trick is to start with the buying journey, and build and connect the technology stack to serve the journey. What technology or data integrations would you need to create a smooth experience for the buyer, each step of the way? For example, we recently worked with a company to synthesize eight different internal and external intent signals to provide better quality opportunities to sales. With that automation in place, our client was able to build an analytics dashboard they could use to tune the program.

The Iron Horse insight.

Making better use of your martech stack delivers internal benefits—cost savings and better program conversion from timeliness and insights—and that is clearly a valid objective. But I actually think the real winner when you make better use of your martech platforms is the buying group. With the right technology used the right way, buyers and customers can become “known” throughout the journey, leading to more personalized offers, less re-requesting of form-type information and a better buying experience.

 

Iron Horse CGO Monica Behncke with her DSLR.
Me taking photos at my son’s meet.