If you’re a marketing leader that has a hand in buying and deploying technology, you know that the martech landscape is vast, complex, chaotic and challenging to navigate. But you might also have a similar view as you look inward to your own martech stack. It’s a line of questioning that I frequently get from clients: How do I make sense of all the different marketing tools and services that are in place? How do I ensure that the tech I have aligns with marketing and business outcomes I need to achieve? Similarly, how do I maximize the use of the martech and justify the not-insignificant amount of money I’m spending on it?

A common practice that’s emerged over the past few years that marketers use to help answer these questions is visualizing and communicating the martech stack. The approach has been popularized by competitions like the Stackies, which bestow awards upon enterprises for creating compelling, high-design graphics that map out key marketing technologies and the business drivers they support.

Entering a competition shouldn’t be your first and foremost objective for visualizing and communicating your martech stack. But I do think there’s a great deal value that can be derived by going through such a process. It forces you to take stock of your stack, providing a mechanism for thinking critically about how martech supports your customers, internal marketers, partners and overall business goals. It also helps you think about martech’s upstream and downstream dependencies within the broader business tech ecosystem and identifies potential gaps or areas of future investment.

Here are four tips for engaging in a successful martech stack visualization exercise:

  • Inventory your martech stack before visualizing it. It may be tempting to start grabbing vendor logos from the internet and throwing them in a PowerPoint deck or InDesign layout. Before doing that, make sure you set a baseline of all the marketing technologies you have in place to give you direction when you’re staring at that blank canvas. Gartner clients have access to a toolkit to conduct a martech audit, which can also help you identify power users and evangelists.
  • Anchor your visualization in a clear organizational framework. The traditional marketing funnel is a good place to start as a way to group how your martech stack supports your needs. But for many organizations, these tools enable experiences well beyond conversion. Consider the full customer journey as you map out your diagram.
  • Emphasize function over fidelity as you develop the artifact. It’s obvious that the winners of the Stackie awards dedicate design resources to give their graphics an edge. But especially for your first prototypes, worry more about its ability to convey how your stack supports the business. As the artifact matures or becomes more complex, there is definitely value in having someone with design savvy take it to the next level.
  • Get feedback from your peers and constantly iterate. One other reason why you should focus on function over fidelity is that your stack will evolve over time, especially as you get feedback from other team members and executives. Build in flexibility so that your visualization can be easily updated as tools, capabilities, journeys and objectives change.

Ultimately, marketers tend to excel at promoting the business externally and delivering business results but can fall short on marketing the value of marketing within the organization itself. As Chris Ross and Ben Bloom pointed out in a recent research note, marketing leaders must become better communicators internally (subscription required). A stack visualization is an effective tool to help evangelize within the enterprise how martech enables capabilities that deliver on customer expectations and drive value.

We’re digging deep into this topic of evangelizing martech in the enterprise at Gartner’s 2018 Digital Marketing Conference. My colleague, Noah Elkin, will be hosting a must-attend panel on Tuesday, May 15: “Selling the Stack: Drive Marketing Success Through Martech Advocacy”. He’ll be joined on stage by key marketing technology leaders, including David Hsu from CA Technologies, who will share how they effectively elevate martech across the organization.

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