David: In 2003, before I launched Sureshot, I was a marketing automation customer and very early adopter of marketing technology. I witnessed the explosive growth of marketing automation and the widespread adoption of martech [marketing technology] from its inception. Back then, integration became an element that really piqued my interest. Around 2006, I began working at Eloqua. During my tenure there I talked to hundreds of customers at various companies. One of the things that kept coming up again and again, as we were experiencing the evolution of marketing technology, was the desire for additional functionality. My team and I would walk into a room and say, “We have this great product that does all this cool stuff,” and then a customer would ask, “Can it do this and this?” Often, we would have to tell them that while it couldn’t do what they were asking, we were in the process of building a lot of the APIs that would enable the capabilities they sought. In fact, one of the impetuses for starting Sureshot was the expansion of martech platforms and the desire marketers had for greater functionality and more capabilities.
Meet Lori Martella
David: On that note, I’d like to introduce you to our VP of Product & Development, Lori Martella. She is going to talk about key strategies of integration and how marketers can better navigate the issues created by today’s large and complex martech stacks. Lori has a great background and has worked on products that most everyone is familiar with such as, Words With Friends, which was founded here in McKinney, Texas. After serving as a product manager for Words With Friends, she spent a number of years performing heavy integration work and brings deep knowledge and know-how for both sides of those roles to the table.
Questions to Think About:
What is the current state of your martech stack and how well-integrated is it?
- Completely disconnected
- Has some integrations, but needs work
- Is a well-integrated, highly functional marketing machine
What are the challenges keeping you from having a fully integrated stack?
- Visibility into what is happening
- Lack of integration capabilities
- Too many manual processes to make integrations work properly
The State of Martech Integrations
David: The average company uses 22 different tools in their martech stack. Some may have more or less depending on company size. Last year, The CDP [Customer Data Platform] institute did a survey of its members and one of the things they found, according to Scott Brinker’s website, Chief Martec, is that the majority of respondents (52%) use an integrated multi-system architecture. Most of these systems are connected to a marketing automation platform, a CRM, or a customer database. The good news is we are getting better from an integration standpoint, but there is still a good percentage of marketers (48%), who are struggling with integrations.
The History of Marketing Automation
Before we delve into automation and integrations, it is important to know the history of marketing automation, which is now a little over 20 years old.
Key Dates in the History of Marketing Automation
- 1999 — Eloqua founded
- 2006 — Marketo, Pardot, Hubspot founded
Key Features of Early Marketing Automation Platforms
- Basic database
- Landing Pages
- Website Tracking
- Drip Campaigns
- CRM Integration
- Lead Scoring (added later)
Assumptions: All marketing activity flows into and through the marketing automation platform (MAP)
The Hub and Spoke Marketing Automation Platform Model
David: The way many of these systems and martech architectures were designed and worked early on was as a hub and spoke model. Marketing automation was at the center and served as the hub and all other tools served as the different spokes. One of the challenges with this model is that marketing automation works great if all data, channels and content are in the marketing automation system, but this is almost never the case. Looking back at the people from the CDP survey, 26 percent of those who say they have an integrated system still use the hub and spoke model. However, most marketers have moved beyond the Hub and Spoke martech stack to a shopping mall model.
The Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model
David: An analyst firm called Real Story Group, which I recommend you follow, developed the current theory of the Shopping Mall Marketing Automation Platform Model. In this scenario, martech stacks look more like a shopping mall map with multiple anchor platforms and tools, of which marketing automation is one. Other anchor tools may include the CRM [Customer Relationship Management system], CDP [Customer Data Platform], data warehouse, ABM tools, etc. In addition to the anchors, there are a bunch of other tools working in conjunction with the anchor platforms. What’s important to note is that there is data sitting in every one of these tools. This model, which is what most marketers use today, has data coming and going in every direction.
In the era we live in today, integrations are really the key to success when it comes to choosing martech. According to Chief Martec, when people evaluate new marketing technology, their top two concerns are 1) external integrations and 2) internal integrations. In fact, the ability to integrate is more important to marketers than cost, time and ease of use.
What does your company generally consider most important when selecting marketing technology?
Old Integration Paradigm vs. New Integration Paradigm
In addition to the complexity of our martech stacks, the expectations from a customer experience standpoint have forced us to change the way we think about integrations. In the old integration paradigm (the Hub and Spoke model), as long as we had MAP and CRM integration everything was cool! I remember when I was at Eloqua thinking that if we integrated to the CRM, everyone would be happy. Then, we had FTP integrations, which are a two-way scheduled data sync between two systems, or a pipe between systems A and B. Most of us are still using these types of integrations today. However, I believe the future of martech integrations is moving towards always on, multi-platform, real-time data connectivity. Because data is flowing into and out of a wide variety of systems, it requires much more than syncing data between two platforms. In the new paradigm, there’s a recognition that I need to orchestrate my data, content and technologies in support of the dynamic customer journey that end customers are expecting from me.
Pursuing the New Integration Paradigm
B to C personalized experiences have impacted the expectations of B to B customers, and the modern B to B buyer’s expectations have heightened our need for better integrations. We are living in a different paradigm with regard to our martech stacks and integrations. Now, I will turn this over to Lori and ask:
- How do we deal with the transition from our old integrations to the new way of doing things?
- How do we address integration complexities?
- What should marketers do now to successfully orchestrate their technology stacks?
Overcoming Marketing Integration Challenges
Lori: Thank you, David. I’ll be addressing all of those questions as we navigate what we do now when faced with integration challenges and gaps. We’ll look at what marketers need do to bring change to their organization. Previously, I worked outside the marketing industry for Words with Friends, as well as several healthcare organizations. Before coming to marketing, I thought, what could be more complicated than working with healthcare? I found out quickly that marketing is pretty complicated, but in a different way. When it comes to martech, you need to know: what you have; what you need; where the gaps are; and what you need to do about it.
Building a Road Map to Success
Lori: So how do you identify what needs to happen next? I recommend using a road map that outlines:
- What do we, as marketers, need to do?
- What do we need to do first?
- What actions are going to have the biggest impact?
Before building your road map, first figure out and document what martech you have. Second, think about what you need. Sometimes what you have is not what you need—which is often the case. Next, figure out what is important? You may have many tools, but not everything that you have is important. Once you identify the gaps between what you have and what you need, it’s time to figure out how to get there.
Steps to Developing an Integrations Strategy
Step #1: Take an inventory of your current martech platforms and their integrations. Note challenges and identify an ideal state, such as enabling more use capabilities.
|Platform||Integration Type||Current State||Challenges||Ideal State|
|Marketo||API 2-way sync||Fully functional|
The above table is an example of how you can document the martech inventory of your current organization. As you take inventory, it’s important to note what systems you have, what integration types they use, and whether or not the integrations are functional or have some gaps that need to be filled. Be sure you outline any steps you need to take and any gaps you have, as well as what an ideal state would look like. Use this form to start the processes needed to get you from where you are today to where you would like to be in the future.
Step #2: Categorizing the Things You Need
Once you have taken inventory, it’s time to assign value to what you want to do. There are many things that might be on your list, but does everything that you do meet the objectives and goals you are trying to achieve? Assigning business value to something can be as simple as using a scale between 1 and 10 or 1 and 5 to quickly and easily rank things. Ranking things in order is beneficial in that it forces you to really think about what you need to focus on first.
After assigning value, it’s time to assign effort. Questions to consider, include:
- Can I do this myself?
- Do I have the skills necessary?
- Do I have the tools that I need?
- Am I going to need outside help to achieve my goal?
Step #3: Create a Value Complexity Matrix
|High Value Low Complexity → Easy Wins||High Value High Complexity → Strategic Initiatives|
|Low Value Low Complexity →Worth Pursuing or Revisiting Later||Low Value High Complexity → Deprioritize|
After outlining the things that you want to achieve, and assigning a business value to each item and considering the effort it will take, you are ready to create a value complexity matrix. A value complexity matrix helps you prioritize what actions you will take.
High Value and Low Complexity
Start with the items that you have identified as having a high value and a low complexity. Items in this quadrant are your low hanging fruit, easy wins, and things you can do right away. These are actions you can take that not only enable you to gain value for your organization, but are also very easy to implement.
Low Value and Low Complexity
The action items that belong in this category are things to keep in your purview, but maybe not do right now. These are opportunities in which you have the tools to do something now and you could probably do it very easily, but it doesn’t add much business value. Keep these things on your list, but don’t focus on them right away.
High Value and High Complexity
Next, we’ll talk about strategic initiatives, or things to do that are highly valuable, but also highly complex. Although difficult, these action items offer a lot of gain if you do them. The hard part about items in this quadrant is that they are a lot of work, and may involve other teams, getting help from outside the organization, or adding tools to your current stack. This doesn’t mean their pursuit isn’t worth it, but you have to be ready to spend some time and put real effort into it. These are areas where you have to do your homework. It is very easy to go to leadership and say, “Hey, I want this tool!” However, keep in mind that many people are asking them for many things and they are going to rank your request against everything they are being asked for, so do your homework. Be ready to show that there is a benefit and value that will be achieved—and that you put thought into your request. Doing your homework will help you get people on board and sell your idea to your organization
Low Value and High Complexity
This quadrant is where you place those things that are really difficult to do, and do not add much value. Essentially these are things you need to get off of your list and stop thinking about. Most organizations waste time on these items because they are not taking the time to step back and think about the business value or effort to do them. You want to spend your time doing the things that add value and avoiding those things that don’t.
Marrying Left Brain and Right Brain
David: I am a marketing guy by trade, and we have all been taught as marketers that IT is not fun, shiny or exciting, and offers no creative element. But what I hear you saying to marketers is that we have to think a little more like an IT-minded person as it relates to integration. From my perspective, this is where we have a disconnect between marketing and technology. We have to go from left brain to right brain and marry the two sides together. We know the creative side, but we also need to consider the operational and logical side of things. So my questions are: what are some tips that will help non-technical marketers get in the right frame of mind? What have you done as an IT leader to sell this to people who are non-technical? For example, my boss, the CFO, probably doesn’t give two craps about integration. She simply wants better outcomes at the end of the day.
Avoid Technical Jargon When Proposing Actions
Lori: If you are trying to sell or push for something you believe is valuable, don’t put it in technical terms. What leaders want and need to see is what the organization is going to get out of it. They need to know what the payoff is for taking a specific action, and whether or not it requires any IT knowledge or experience. The proposals I have put together haven’t been technical in nature at all. In fact, they are the opposite of that because you tend to lose people. I recommend using real life use cases. Think of examples where you can demonstrate, “If we do X, then we’ll get this behavior more often.” Much of what we are trying to do as marketers is get the right info out at the right time and get the behavior we are looking for, so if you can show leadership what outcomes and behaviors that doing a specific action will achieve, that is what is going to get through to folks.
A Perfect Example
David: I had a conversation with a customer yesterday, and her proposal was exactly what you recommended. We were talking about lead management between multiple systems. She told me she had presented to her leadership that they needed more capabilities around lead management from an integration standpoint because 26 percent of their leads had been assigned to the wrong region. The region that was shorted was underperforming, but shouldn’t have been because it was an integration technology issue.
As marketers, we all know its about revenue at the end of the day, so think about how you can connect the value of integrations with their impact on revenue. One example of how integrations have a big impact on revenue is data quality. There are many statistics that link data quality and campaign performance to revenue. In the previous example I gave on lead routing, getting prospects to the right teams is another scenario where it’s easy to see how integrations are impacting revenue.
Step #4: Roadmap Integration Updates and Changes
Lori: Your roadmap tools don’t need to be anything fancy. They can be spreadsheets. The main goal here is to go through the thought process. Just start doing, and don’t overthink things. It’s really important to rank and prioritize things because you might see something and think its really important, but then you compare it to the other things around it and it helps you discern what is more important. Roadmaps are ideal for helping you focus. There is often so much to think about and so much you want to do, and unless you stop and put pen to paper, you’ll end up doing many things, but not finishing any of them.
David: Yes, makes sense.
Step #5: Getting the Support You Need
Lori: Once you have identified what you want to do and how you want to get there, it’s time to think about support. Unfortunately, people spend so much time thinking about what they want to build and how fast to get it out there that they don’t think about how to support it. Ask yourself, “Is this something we are going to be hand-holding the entire time, or is it something that’s more turnkey and enables people to easily get on board?”
Custom Integrations, Productized (Turnkey) Integrations and Hybrids
When it comes to integrations, there are several types, the custom development, the productized or turnkey solution, and a mix of both. Custom integrations take a long time to implement, and can be difficult to support because there are so many variations that there is no easy way to train somebody new to manage issues. Productized or turnkey integrations provide cookie cutter solutions that are easy to implement and support, but they don’t always do what you want. Most people choose integrations that are a sort of hybrid between custom and turnkey. These types of integrations are simple solutions that follow patterns, but are flexible enough to personalize. Because they follow a pattern, it’s easier to train people to use them. In my experience, hybrid integrations deliver optimum results because they enable you to get the right message out at the right time—which is when you are going to get the most benefit from it. This in turn allows you to inspire the right behavior from customers and prospects. It also enables you to measure that behavior and show that the integrations you put in place are achieving the results you said they would.
David: One of the downsides to productized integrations is that they aren’t flexible enough. They are too simple and don’t meet all of a marketer’s needs. When I was working at technology companies, we would talk about how integrations are meant to solve issues for 70 percent of customers. The thinking was that if we could get 70 percent of our customers to a place where things are working for them, then that’s good. However, there is always a portion of people, specifically on the productized side, that are left wanting. There are always gaps, whereas with custom development, you can do whatever you want. However custom integrations are usually very costly and harder to maintain, although in some instances there are justifications based on different business cases.
3 Tips for Marketing Integrations
David: I have three integration tips:
1. If you’re thinking about integrations after you have purchased new technology, you are already playing from behind. Integrations are an integral part of your decision-making process, so please include them in that process.
2. Make integrations a part of your marketing tech strategy. Without them, your campaigns and journeys won’t scale or succeed. As you are documenting your tech stack, you need to document integrations because they are integral to your stack functioning and your campaigns and customer journeys.
3. Think beyond basic integrations and aim for the ability to orchestrate the tools in your stack. I define orchestration as getting the right data at the right time to and from the right tool. We all understand in marketing that it’s about getting the right message at the right time to the right person. One of the things that we have to do from an orchestration standpoint is make sure we are getting the right data at the right time to and from the right component parts of our stack, so that we can execute those campaign and customer journeys.
Orchestrating a Better Customer Journey
David: Sureshot’s integration solution gives you the ability to orchestrate multiple component parts of your stack and is ideal for when you need to do something simple from a UI (user interface) and user experience standpoint, but something fairly complex from a technology standpoint. It is what you want when you have integrations that are too simple and not able to meet the needs of what you are trying to do. I’m talking about integrations that force you to import and export spreadsheets off and on throughout the week just to get your campaigns out the door.
As marketers, we’re doing the same thing we have always done. We’re building audiences, creating content, delivering campaigns, and trying to get responses that turn into leads and then turn into revenues. This has not changed. However, the way that we do this has dramatically changed since early 2000 until now. We have a marketing technology stack that is helping us do this and what Sureshot does is equip you with revenue orchestration capabilities around your data, messaging and customer journeys. We layer this capability on top of the different tools in your stack, and help fill in those gaps so you can do what you need to do.
Visit sureshot.io/webinar to watch webinars on demand covering a variety of topics, including data, channels, personalization and more.
About Lori Martella, VP of Product and Development for Sureshot
Lori has been building and delivering software for over 20 years. She has led various development efforts from product inception through successful launch. Lori has worked at both small start-ups as well as Fortune 10 companies, leading teams that were responsible for processing large volumes of critical data and servicing vital system operations. Lori’s passion for delivering quality software and ensuring continuous improvement are reflected in her work.
About David York, Founder & CEO of Sureshot
David is trusted by technology and business leaders alike, for his unique ability to bridge the two disciplines and empower teams in both camps to work well together. An early adopter of marketing automation, David previously worked as a Senior Marketing Solutions Consultant for Eloqua, a role that gave him a front-row seat to the evolution and exponential growth of the martech industry. Gifted in resolving complex technical issues, and developing apps that allow novices to use tech like a pro, David served as a highly sought-after consultant for several years before forming Sure Shot Media in 2010, a martech consulting company. David joined forces with fellow martech experts, Connexio Labs in 2015 to form Sureshot Labs. To date, the company has already made waves in the martech sphere by developing a connector framework that restores simplicity and efficiency to integrations.
At Sureshot, we help marketers orchestrate their revenue engine through a combination of software, integrations and services. Leading companies trust our solutions to help them navigate the increasing complexities of their marketing technology stacks. We enhance the revenue orchestration capabilities of B2B marketers by providing data, messaging and customer journey solutions that restore simplicity and functionality to complex processes.