Ease of use is king nowadays, and it’s therefore no surprise that consumers are drawn to services that ‘just work’.
However, with thousands of different tools to choose from when creating your marketing tech stack, it’s all too common to see an array of disjointed services cobbled together and marketed as a platform — regardless of whether those services actually integrate effectively and provide a positive experience for the end user.
This approach is prevalent in the marketing technology space. But consumers are savvy, they know the difference.
The number of marketers looking for integrated solutions has skyrocketed, no doubt in part due to the challenges the pandemic brought. As a result, legacy players known for their suites of acquired products have increasingly tried to position their offerings as a ‘platform’ to cater to these market demands. In truth, these Frankenstein mishmash stacks may be powerful, but also surprisingly unwieldy. It’s not a platform, it’s patchwork.
This begs the question: How can marketing leaders hope to offer a seamless customer experience if they’re having to invest time and money just to make their own tools work smoothly? Here’s some advice on choosing an enterprise technology platform, including what to look out for in a provider when evaluating an ‘integrated’ suite of products.
Just because it can stack up, doesn’t mean that it should
Firstly, it’s important to look under the bonnet at how the platform is built. Ideally, it’s best to look for a native platform (one that’s been designed from the ground-up to fulfil a specific purpose) so you can be confident that you’re working with just one tech stack. With an ‘acqui-stack platform,’ you risk being forced to spend time and money building custom fixes to compensate for a lack of cohesion.
One area to look at to help determine whether you’re working with one tech stack is to find out what onboarding processes and permissions are involved with a product. If the process is complex and requires multiple permissions and logins across the different subsections of the platform, it could be an indicator that the platform isn’t as integrated as you think.
Having a platform that works across a single technology stack is also important because it makes it easier to integrate with your existing technology infrastructure, thereby saving additional time and money, while also lowering the total cost of ownership.
What does the data say?
So you’ve figured out the right tech stack for the platform, now it’s time to look at the data within your platform and how it’s being processed.
Although ‘lifeblood’ may be an overused phrase when discussing the importance of data to modern businesses, its value is important. To deliver an outstanding customer experience, the whole business needs to be singing from the same song sheet, which means having a clear record of all the data from a single source of truth. If this isn’t the case, then it’s not a platform, it’s a bunch of mismatched solutions packaged together.
This is no easy feat. If this data is distributed across several different data models, rather than being collated in a unified one from the start, making this data work seamlessly across different apps and services becomes a nightmare.
In trying to address marketing, sales and customer service needs, a vast array of data is required to ensure all efforts are aligned. Without a tool that unifies this data, keeping it clean and functional, it can quickly become fragmented as it’s handled differently by different business units and can create friction in the customer experience.
The solution? A CRM platform that has been crafted, not cobbled together. There are lots of powerful sales acceleration and enablement tools on the market. When these tools are integrated with a CRM the end result is a tech stack that becomes incredibly influential in a business’ ability to grow.
Take stock of the broader tech landscape
Perhaps the most important characteristic of a true platform is that its internally cohesive foundation is open. This will enable other third-party apps, or your own custom extensions, to seamlessly plug into it. These integrations then work smoothly across all facets of the product.
A coherent platform enables a coherent ecosystem that will deliver a better experience for you, your customers, and the third-party developers building apps and integrations to be plugged into it.
A strong partner ecosystem is often a sign of a true platform. A thriving partner marketplace has many benefits, including a smooth-running platform that has little problem adding in third-party services and can be managed on the end-user side. Beyond this, a thriving partner marketplace creates a world of possibilities for delivering a truly effective customer experience.
By focusing on these three areas, business leaders can separate platforms from the pretenders. By doing this, businesses will discover a truly integrated suite of products that works for their business, rather than buying into a monolithic and hard to use product.