MarTech 101: What is it and why do you need it



Apr 21, 2022

MarTech (or Marketing Technology) is a term used to describe a category of tools used by companies (and their marketing specialists) to achieve marketing objectives.

In smaller companies, marketers choose MarTech stacks. In bigger ones, there are specialists called Marketing technologists – a hybrid between IT and marketing departments.

In 2020, there were 8000 solutions on the market. Now, there should be well over 10.000 tools.

With so many tools and terms nowadays, it’s hard to navigate and grasp the full picture. Many companies fall into a trap of using too many tools instead of building a custom one, while some companies collect more data than their current toolset can’t process effectively.

This article will help you understand what MarTech is, how it helps your organization and where the future lies for your marketing in our privacy-first world.

MarTech covers an entire customer journey

A customer journey is a whole experience of your customer from the first point of contact with your brand to purchase – and advocacy later on. Before the internet, covering that journey from an unaware prospect to an advocate was “easy”.

Pay ad space in the biggest publications, put up a few billboards and hire an account manager to handle clients. There were fewer products and service providers to choose from and people didn’t have so many points of communication with your company.

Today, with so many channels online, you have to educate, persuade, nurture, personalize, manage… There are so many data points – it’s almost impossible for ordinary people to handle all of them effectively.

That’s where MarTech steps in. It handles data inputs and helps you make sense of it.

Of course, having over 9000 tech choices on the market can be daunting even to experienced marketers, but luckily, they fall into six categories:

Before you set up an internal meeting to discuss implementing MarTech, be aware of the fact that you’re already using many MarTech tools.

Even the platform you’re reading this on is a MarTech tool because it was made in a CMS (content management system) – and we use content as a marketing tool.

Google Analytics? Martech. Your chatbot? Also martech. Your CRM? Yes.

Everything you use to attract, educate, nurture, track, convert, delight and manage your customers can be considered MarTech software because those are the marketing objectives. You’re actively using technology to meet them.

In other words, you already have some sort of a MarTech stack.

What is a MarTech stack

A MarTech stack is a set of tools you use to operate your marketing activities. It’s like defining a set of programming languages your department works with.

It’s not even an option anymore not to use marketing technology. The key question is whether you’re using the right stack.

At some point, as your company grows, you’ll have to add more tools to the existing stack – or replace the old ones with those that solve your current challenges more effectively.

We know this might seem like Mission impossible when you look at the landscape above. To successfully navigate through it and before you decide on a new tool, we suggest you map your needs and resources:

  1. Do we need technology to handle this task?
  2. Would this piece of software bring any ROI (time or money or both)?
  3. How much of our budget can we allocate to train people to use this?
  4. Would it make more sense to try and adapt our current solutions to new needs?

Answers to these questions should be your Northstar. We’ve seen so many companies implementing every piece of technology available without setting up the core system they need technology for in the first place – marketing.

Start with marketing objectives. Use technology as assistance to amplify. Not the other way around.

An example of a marketing technology stack

Most of the SMEs start with tracking software (Google Analytics), Customer Relationship Management software (Hubspot) and Content Management Systems (WordPress).

And then there’s email marketing software for newsletters (Mailchimp). Chatbots (Intercom).

Bigger companies might implement customer service software, personalization tools, feedback gathering systems, plugins for Search Engine Optimization…

While some companies use 25 tools, some of them use well over 250.

Yes, you need marketing technologists

When the time comes to use marketing technology and handle data, marketing technologists should be first on your hiring list.

  • They can analyze your needs and consult you on picking the right tools
  • They communicate with your IT department (or your external IT partner)
  • They analyze the data and provide insights to your creative teams
  • They are well aware of privacy policies and can help you meet the regulations in collaboration with your legal department

Think of marketing technologists as a bridge between IT and the marketing department. That’s a person that translates the needs and capabilities of both sectors.

You might consider machine learning companies that build MarTech solutions

When handling large data collections, you’re going to need a professional service from a machine learning and data analysis company at some point.

First of all, because ML helps you make use of all of that data you collect.

MarTech collects, human analyzes and provides insights. But ML algorithms take your data, learn from it and automate your operations – or at least supply you with predictions so your marketing experts can make their next move with certainty.

For example, your software might get 150 customer messages per day – and over 3000 per month. Your customer support team uses templates, knowledge base articles, and pre-recorded tutorials to handle them.

But it’s manual work.

Machine learning algorithms could analyze the sentiment and content of those messages and divide them into categories. Based on that analysis, they could automatically recommend solutions to customers way faster than your support team.

Not all data is useful

Machine learning companies are equipped with data analysts, data engineers and data scientists whose job is to clean the data, make great databases and prepare them for further use.

For example, users want to download your whitepaper. So they enter their contact data into the download form. However, a certain percentage of them write email addresses in invalid form.

Your email marketing software experiences many unsuccessful attempts to deliver mail. That results in poor reputation with mailing providers and it’s a potential danger to your delivery in the future.

Having data is nice. But knowing what to do with data and recognize valid data points – that’s where magic starts. Your databases are a goldmine.

Privacy first, no third party cookies

There comes a point where it’s more practical to develop a custom solution for storing and handling marketing data – and then using it to automate and improve user experience.

People are more aware of privacy today. Research shows that 80% of customers would rather purchase from companies that protect their information.

On top of that, Google has announced that it’s phasing out its support of third-party cookies on Chrome browsers by 2024.

You’re going to have to rely more and more on zero-party data and first-party data to gather insights and provide personalized experience.

To do that, you need legally compliant software with essential features.

Zero, first, second, third-party data in a nutshell

Zero party data is the data that customers give you voluntarily. You collect them through various forms, quizzes, interviews, questionnaires…

First party data is the data about your customers’ behaviors, habits, and experience that you collect through your own software – shopping behavior, app usage, website navigation, analytics…

Second party data is the data that you buy from a partner, but it’s not publicly available. This is highly targeted information that can help you tailor the experience for your customers.

For example, a charter bus service buys a list of affluent individuals and information about their shopping habits, so it targets them with specific tours.

Third party data is the data that you get from a service that collects it. But unlike second party data, these data sets are publicly available for anyone to pay and use them. For example, Facebook.

And third party data collection is problematic because the way some companies use data and inform users goes against new privacy laws.

Third-party cookies (little chunks of code stored in your computer when you visit a website) track you around the web, send that data to the publishers, and they sell it further to advertisers.

That’s why you see an ad for a new vacuum cleaner on a random blog after spending 15 seconds on Amazon searching for air filters.

Challenges for MarTech in a cookieless world and how to solve them

“Prepare for the cookieless world” articles are all around the internet. Third-party cookies are soon going to be a thing of the past. Good to know before making huge plans with data collection software and capabilities of marketing technology, right?

Howerer, this event isn’t so catastrophic for marketing departments.

First of all, advertising platforms rely on third-party data a lot because they trade your online behavior data. They’ll feel the impact because this leaves them blind.

Second of all, this will help you focus on creativity and communication – so people give you some of their data willingly.

And third, there are already tech solutions to this situation.

Server-side tracking instead of client-side tracking

Traditional way of tracking users relies on third-party cookies, tags, and pixels. These little snippets of code get sent directly from your browser (client-side) to a server of an advertising platform.

With server-side tracking, instead of going directly to the advertising platform’s server, data gets sent to your server first (thus server-side tracking).

And then you decide what data to send further and where.

  • This allows for more control and gives your users a peace of mind.
  • Client-side tracking is broken because browsers and ad-blockers block tracking. Server-side tracking remains unaffected.
  • Client-side tracking slows down your website. Server-side tracking does not.

Hyper-personalization based on zero and first-party data

While standard personalization means you address your readers by name, hyper-personalization goes a step further.

By following your users’ behavior in real-time, you could build, for example, impressive recommender systems (an area in which SmartCat has extensive experience, contact us for more information).

Combine that with zero and first party data and you can help your users get what they want, when they want it, regardless of ad-blockers and third-party cookies.

As a matter of fact, you even gain competitive advantage (and admiration from your users) if you decide to keep such data to yourself. All because you’re serving relevant content.

Content type identification and context analysis solutions

Instead of relying on advertising platforms and cookies to tell you where to put your ads, it might be time to think about other solutions and have more control.

Machine learning algorithms are powerful enough to analyze online websites, content hubs and platforms and can identify the type of content and the context it appears in. With such information, you could precisely define where you want to put banners, ads, PR articles…

In the end, this means you’ll be optimizing your ad spend budget.

MarTech isn’t going anywhere. Our mindset is shifting

We should start thinking about technology as a tool, not as an end-goal. In our vast industry experience, companies tend to integrate technology, and then base their strategies around them, when it should be vice-versa – create a strategy and then pick tools that help you achieve your business objectives.

In the privacy-first future, we’ll use MarTech to boost our creativity and enhance our capabilities to develop insights from tons of data, and of course, be mindful of our data collection practices.

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