5 Questions To Ask Your Agency About Martech

Chances are you’ve done plenty of research in selecting your martech tool set. There are so many tools to choose from (over 6,800 on the latest Marketing Technology Supergraphic) that it is understandably overwhelming. But, have you thought about how your marketing agencies should be supporting or aligning with your Martech Stack?

Our friends over at Chiefmartec.com go through a herculean effort to catalog and categorize this ever expanding landscape (Nice job Anand Thaker!). Similarly, the team at Agency Spotter is categorizing all the marketing agencies with almost 15,000, and now you can filter your agency search by the Martech they support. Those give us a good starting point, but even now selecting the martech tools and agencies that best fit your unique needs is difficult and time consuming.

I’ll wager you’ve spent a lot of time comparing features, functions, pricing and terms. We tend to focus a lot of effort on the What and Why.

What does the technology do and Why do we need it?

But, how much time have you spent thinking about the How and the Who?

How is this technology going to be implemented and maintained and Who is going to do it?

Let’s change our perspective: Instead of marketers selecting technology, today let’s be technologists selecting marketing tools. What questions should we be asking internally and of our agency partners?

Scott Brinker at Chiefmartec.com says a proper understanding of “what kinds of services are going to be required to implement, operate, and maintain the software” are a key factors in the overall cost and success rate of every MarTech implementation.

Here are 5 questions to ask your agencies about martech that will help you better understand the technology side of the MarTech puzzle.

1. How will your Martech stack integrate or overlap with my Martech Stack?

So you’ve chosen the tools to use internally, but odds are your agency will recommend additional tools that they prefer or require as part of the relationship. Pretty quickly this creates two difficult scenarios: Overlapping tools and unintegrated tools.

First, if there are overlapping tools, what happens?

It’s inevitable. Some part of the stack is will have overlapping functionality. There is no hard and fast rule on how to sort this out, but let’s talk about it early so we can deal with it. Sometimes the overlaps can be resolved, but sometimes they can’t. This will lead to competing or conflicting data points later on.

Second, how do we integrate the rest of the stack? Who is responsible for integration efforts? Will your team be responsible for the work or will the agency? What happens if the integration doesn’t happen? Whereas overlapping tools create competing and conflicting data sources, unintegrated tools will create siloed data sources.

Get these issues out on the table early and often so they don’t cause friction later.

2. How do software developers fit into your overall strategy?

Believe it or not, Martech applications are technology applications, shocking I know, and while most are SaaS and fairly easy to use in a standalone capacity they almost certainly will require integration to the rest of the stack to live up to their full potential. Again from Scott Brinker: “You need an excellent marketing technology and operations team as a pillar of your marketing organization.

Enter the marketing technologist. Data needs to be standardized, websites modified, integrations connected, and applications need to be monitored. Who is going to be responsible for this? As with all things, it will most likely be a shared responsibility, but how will the agency fulfil its obligations?

Ask your agency about their technology team. Are they marketing people who learned technology or are they technologists who support marketing? Today’s Martech is sophisticated and complex, and the best marketing agencies likely have technology-first engineers available to support you.

3. Do you insource or outsource software development?

Building on Question 1, where and who does the technical work? Why is this important? Well, in a pinch you need to know how many degrees of separation exist between you and the solution. Will your team have to resolve issues independently or will you be able to pick up the phone and talk to someone when there is a technical problem? Or, are there multiple entities involved with multiple layers of management across different time zones?

Today’s marketing campaigns deploy a lot of media spend through very complicated tech, it’s your job to understand who is responsible. There is a lot at risk, don’t overlook it, talk to you agency about it.

4. How do you coordinate technology across various teams?

Specifically, who is running point on technology? Will you lead or will they? It’s less important which side runs point, but it is critical that someone runs point. Maybe both sides lead and, while that may present its own problems, two leaders are certainly better than no leaders.

This is particularly important because, as we laid out in question 1, most MarTech implementations have a mixed tool set. Without a point person, this mixed tool set is all but certain to create fingering pointing. Who will lead and what is the process? Ask your agency how they plan to deal with this. And be wary of agencies that dump the ball 100% in your court.

5. How do you monitor campaigns?

Two things have become the norm in marketing today: Marketing is more complicated than ever and marketing is “always on”.

So the question is, after the campaigns launched, who is minding the store? Who or what is monitoring the data, the integrations, the tracking, the conversions?

At first you might think what’s the big deal, we’ve got pretty good reporting. But, monitoring is different than reporting. Reporting happens at the end, while monitoring is what happens during the campaign, day-to-day, 24/7.

If we think about marketing like an investment, reporting is what happens in your quarterly investment statement, whereas monitoring is the Bloomberg terminal. Ask your agency how your campaigns are being monitored. Who or what is responsible and what is their process.

Closing thought:

Successful Martech implementations require marketing technologists that have a seat at the table, preferably it’s at a table that sits between your team, IT, operations and your agency partner. Asking the right questions upfront, will help you better manage your Martech stack and your marketing agency relationship.

For a detailed engineering perspective on MarTech check out my latest blog post “Two Types of Marketing Technologists

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Michael Sengbusch
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