A Martech Manifesto - 4 Guiding Principles to Design Martech Stacks Fast

4 guiding Martech principles help to speed up Martech adoption. The number of Martech solutions is growing at breakneck speed. Companies pick new tools quicker than they deploy them. It’s time to learn how to rapidly gather requirements to create a Martech MVP, igniting quick user adoption and ecstatic customers.

Martech is accelerating

Did you notice how martech is changing faster? New trends emerge every day. One of these trends is the need for marketers to rapidly select and deploy solutions.

  • The number Martech tools available grew from 150 to 8.000 in 10 years
  • The number of solutions per stack grew from 16 to 32.4 tools in 5 years
  • 67% of marketing departments replace solutions at least every quarter
  • 80% of tool deployments take more than 6 months
  • 58% of Martech solutions offer a Free trial/Freemium version.

Let it sink in. Take it in. Think about it. This is what it really says...

We’re picking new tools for our stack much quicker than we deploy them.


Oh, and then there is Covid-19. Some 97% of companies reported COVID-19 had sped up their digital transformation. It ”accelerated their digital communications strategy by 6 years on average”! Time to put your helmets on! “For the pride of your nation, start your Martech engines….”

Increase your Martech Speed-To-Value

Let’s be clear about one thing in Martech. The sole purpose of Martech is to help marketers to surprise and delight their client - the end consumer. So, the sooner marketers are engaging with clients the better it is. Agree? Well then, the sooner marketers/users are onboarded in Martech, the quicker they can engage with those clients. Still with me?

Unfortunately there is an ever growing roadblock in the way: 8,000+ tools with say 100+ features each… and counting. How on earth do you plough your way through to find the right solution, let alone rolling it out successfully in the shortest time possible?

No wonder, all too often Martech solutions slow down the Speed-to-Value. With all the corresponding disappointments. We all got the t-shirt.

Speed-to-Value is the ability to adopt the right solution fast. Call it the holy grail. The higher it is, the better. I am sure, your customer will reward you generously for being a more relevant and trusted brand…

Forget RFIs, think MVPs

We all know the drill. Gather requirements, scour the web for suitable vendors, Request for Information, select a tool, request a demo, do a Proof of Concept (PoC), Request for Proposal, negotiate terms, deploy a tool, onboard users… and then finally engage with clients, in that order. The whole nine yards. Full circle.

In three years from now, that whole circle will be history. Done. The lines between these steps will have vanished completely! There will be no difference between collecting requirements and finishing deployments. We won’t know the difference between a Request for Information (RFI), demo’s, Proof of Concepts (PoC) and the deployment. In fact, we’ll have forgotten about those relics of the past all together. But how?

Enter MVPs. MVP stands for Minimal Viable Product. It is common practise in the Startup scene. It now has entered the Martech managers’ vocabulary as well, when talking about Martech deployments.

An MVP is the first release of a limited set of functions (agreed upon by stakeholders) that immediately generates tangible value for the organization and to the client.

"If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late"
Reid Hoffman, internet entrepreneur, venture capitalist and author

Rapid requirements gathering directly populates MVP backlogs. And MVP backlogs fuel continuous MVP prototyping.

An MVP backlog allows you to continuously prioritize ‘fit for budget’ features from your MVP backlog. Just taking it step by step using Design Thinking methodology, including continuous testing with customers and users.

If you doubt this works, then take a look at the SaaS business, Software as a Service. This is the very essence of what software vendors in the cloud do: releasing snippets of new features without users noticing too many changes. Facebook releases versions multiple times a day. It is called continuous deployment. No more painful ‘releases’. Adoption guaranteed.

Yes, this is indeed ‘fixing the plane while flying’. It means you can finally keep running your business while continuously and indefinitely improving your outputs. Are you ready to ‘surprise and delight’ your customer in precisely this way?

The Martech Manager, The Consultant and The Developer

The MVPs affect the work of all of us in the Martech supply chain. Whether you’re a marketer, consultant or developer.

We are all tempted to stuff as many little requirements on a list to make it ‘complete’. Just to satisfy all stakeholders. And to say our solution is scalable. We just might need that extra feature at some point in time. Besides, we have to include that latest trend to be future proof (do we need to mention AI?).

Did we forget anything? Yes you did: you forgot to prioritize. We’re doing it all wrong. That is fear driven, not value driven. And certainly not customer centric,or user friendly.

Trust me, I know what I’m talking about: I have helped dozens of CMOs selecting their software, implemented many more software solutions and was VP Research & Development for a global SaaS software company. I committed all the mistakes out there. Got the t-shirt (long sleeves to cover the bruises).

But I also found the anti-dote: priorities. That is what is missing in the decision making room. We forget that the people buying the software are rarely the user. What’s more, the ultimate beneficiaries of the Martech output are usually not even represented in the buying room. Think about the end client. Or the internal client, such as sales reps or trade marketing. Or the heavy users of the system: marketing staff.

Instead, stakeholders such as IT, admins and management take (a dominant) place in the SaaS decision making room. As ‘technology specialists’ they call the shots and talk about serious matters, security, API’s, SSO and data models. Add to that a grain of HSW syndrome (the Highest Salary Wins) of managers who hold the budgets. Managers focus on reporting features to finally show they’re accountable. Where is customer centricity in that?

Even when all the key stakeholders have been involved in the requirements gathering, a kind of ‘kid in the candy store’ syndrome takes place. When you put all the requirements together, they won’t add up to the business case or might even contradict each other. There is never a good balance. A recipe for disaster… tick tock… kaboom.

Without a common language to prioritize, your software deployment will potentially end up in a snake pit, or fail flat out. Does a common language actually exist? Is there a vocabulary to bind all stakeholders together?

Well yes, actually there are just four words that will help you prioritise Martech solutions.

Four Words that increase Speed-To-Value

To define the four words we’ll start with the most important ones: people and process first. Let’s humanize martech. Say, clients and users first. Once we know how to serve the clients and users (in that order!) we’ll need to equip marketers with tooling. In the 21st century, the tooling is often software, which is where are platforms, features and integrations come into play. These four design principles cater for the need for speed.

1. People

Customer Experience should be in our focus first and foremost. These are (offers shaped as) messages aiming to influence attitude or behavior. The desired end result is an excellent customer experience. Only then we can look at user friendliness of solutions for Front End users. These are the users using systems to collect leads, content, assets, data, insights and run their daily operations. Back End users are the ones entering and managing those leads, content, assets, insights to cater for the front end users’ needs. Admins manage the access to all of the above, but other stakeholders’ requirements should trump administration needs.

2. Platforms

Nowadays, we should not start with All-in-One Suites’ as they have many drawbacks. Instead go for the other end of the stick: the Best-of-Feature solutions. Selecting a solution without a clear cut goal is pointless. What are you trying to solve as a business? If you apply the 80-20 rule to what customers and users need, you’ll end up with a handful prioritized business-critical features. Companies usually only use up to 30% of the functionality of a tool, so better make sure you know exactly which 30% you need. In one client case we found that two buttons represented a yearly saving of 1.2 million euro (one button had to be switched off and the other one switched on for an exclusive user group). If you can’t select a platform on a Best-Of-Feature basis, the next best thing is to be looking for a Best-of-Breed platform. It supports the common denominator of your processes, so a platform that roughly covers most corners. Alternatively, you might go for the Best-Of-Suite, which is actually using a subset of modules of a larger platform. And then there All-in-One Suites. Yeah, we’ve mentioned that already, you don’t want to go there. Difficulties prioritising your martech platforms? Try the PACE layered model of Gartner.

3. Features

Is there a better feeling than to start working with your Out-of-the-Box solution right away? No surprise unboxing videos are wildly popular! If you can’t find an out-of-the-box tool, No code solutions are almost as good for non-technical business users to build web or mobile app software just by entering information and clicking choices. With Low Code solutions, low levels of coding are required with ‘if then else’ like statements or adjustments in e.g. HTML, CSS or Javascript. Low code solves issues with customization for less mature software branches. Custom Code is where you preferably want to stay away from. It is normally chosen for all the wrong reasons: ‘we have all the control and flexibility’ (nope, your IT departments owns your ass-ets)’ or ‘our situation is unique’ (no, you are not special. Gravity applies to all of us). As one consultant put it with a taste of irony: ‘Yeah right, since you are in the tires business, why not enter the software game?’.

4. Integrations

Integration is key in Martech. Best of Feature tools prosper because Native Integrations have come such a long way. They allow for seamless exchange of business critical data between two foreign solutions. So before picking your solution, always check out the webpage section called: connectors, integrations (often under ‘resources’). Should a native integration not exist you perhaps want to integrate via iPaas, integration Platform as a Service. We created a list of iPaas tools, including Zapier, Mulesoft and IFTTT. If native and iPaas are not available as a last resort you could opt for an API. Pick solutions that have a SDK API offered on their website. Be aware, before you know it you’ll end up in an IT project. And any minute spent on custom code or API projects is a minute you cannot spend on optimizing the customer experience. Remember who you are: a marketer.

Up your Martech MVP skills

Here is a simple yet powerful rule of thumb from Renout Van Hove, the so called 30-60-90 rule. In 30 days try out your new software, in 60 days get your software live and reap the returns in 90 days. Or was it minutes? I forgot.

For your convenience, here is a one pager of the Martech Manifesto. Hang it on your bedroom wall, tattoo it on your chest (upside down so you can read it) and become a marketing (technology) rockstar!

Happy stacking!