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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris discuss MarTech stack drift. What happens when your strategy changes, but your marketing technology doesn’t? What are the consequences, and how do you begin remediating it? Tune in to hear the 5-step strategy for realigning your MarTech with your overall strategy.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn 0:02

This is In-Ear Insights, the Trust Insights podcast.

In this week’s in In-Ear, Insights, talking strategy and stack drift.

So if you’ve never heard the term before, it’s because I just made it up.

Oh, you backup, I was spending some time, this past weekend, looking at my own Mar tech stack, I have my own newsletter and a personal website.

And I was looking through my instances Tag Manager.

And there was just a lot of cruft that had accumulated some optimizations I hadn’t done, a server hadn’t upgraded, and a bunch of these little technologies and services.

And what I realized was that I had set up all this stuff back when we were working at our old company and things and had a very specific strategy.

And that strategy was, I want to build a lifeboat.

For myself, in case the company we were working at, didn’t work out, I want to have something that was my own.

And that worked really well to build my personal brand.

Well, obviously, in the three years since that we founded Trust Insights together, the company I now work for is one that actually believe in.

And so the urgency of having that lifeboat is much less.

So I had all this extra marketing technology that was misaligned.

With my new strategy, my new strategy is to promote the company because you and I co own this thing.

And so there isn’t a need for it to be as church and state as it used to be.

And so all these retargeting technologies and stuff, let’s just start turning things off.

Like I don’t need that anymore.

I had some honest discussions with myself, like, Oh, look, there’s my Facebook retargeting pixel, how many Facebook ads, I run the last three years to zero off.

And so it was kind of a an eye opener to go, Wow, this Mar tech stack is a snapshot of where my mind was three years ago, or more than that, in some cases, but it’s so out of alignment now with my current strategy that I really should have turned off a whole bunch of things a long time ago.

Katie Robbert 2:11

It’s interesting, I, it’s this whole notion of letting go.

And so it’s the same like I sort of I equate it to when, you know, people are asked to, you know, audit their closets, and what things do you need to let go of, and so, you know, this was something that I so full, I love throwing things out, like, I think it’s the greatest thing.

And I’m not just like throwing things out, like, I’ll donate them, I’ll recycle them.

So let’s be clear about that.

But, you know, it just frees up space for new things for other things.

And so what I often see when you know, if I’m working with someone either like to audit their technology, or their teams, or even just like, audit their closet, it’s, well, what if I want it tomorrow? What if I need it next week? Well, I know I haven’t touched it in six years.

But I’ve just remembered that I have it, what I thought what I suddenly wanted again.

And so it’s interesting that you’re describing, you know where your mind was three years ago versus where it is today.

And you’re right, it is a very different places, a lot of a lot has happened.

And first and foremost, I applaud you for just like letting things go and shutting them off.

Because it doesn’t mean that you’ve deleted them forever, you could turn things back on if you need them.

But for right now, it’s just taking up space.

And I think that that’s one of the things that companies need to do a better job of, especially when it comes to their mahr tech stack because priorities change, teams change, technologies change processes change.

But if your tech stack doesn’t also change, then you’ve basically just spent all of that time planning and, you know, plotting and, you know, saying you can do the thing, but it’s, it’s to your point, it’s a misalignment.

And so, you know, where, like, Is there one? Is there a good timeframe to do that? Like, Is there like a cycle or seasonality and to, you know, why do you think people have such a hard time of letting go of some of that old stuff, Chris?

Christopher Penn 4:17

Um, I think part of it is fear.

You know, what if I do need this, it’s the same reason that you keep all these things, something’s less so with marketing technology.

I mean, some people like to have stuff because of sentimental value, right? nostalgia things like oh, this was the making of my high school yearbook.

That doesn’t apply for mahr tech, for the most part.

I mean, I guess you could really love a piece of technology, but probably not.

But I think it does come down to fear and, and a whole bunch of like, what if what if this happens? Well, what if this happens, you know, I won’t have these things.

And in the case of marketing technology, a lot of the time each of these little services is relatively little money.

And so you you think of it in its own little Command like, Oh, this is only $49 a month? Well, $49 a month times 20 services adds up after a while.

But we don’t necessarily think that way.

We consider each item discreetly as opposed to collectively.

What is this thing costing? In my case, it was actually just a page speed.

So even though Tag Manager runs asynchronously, there’s still things that run as your page loads, and it takes time for the container itself to finish firing.

And so one of the things I want to do is okay, well, what can I do to make my personal website run faster, we’ll probably turn off the 40 tracking pixels that you know, we’re launching each time.

We ran into this last week.

With the Trust Insights, newsletter and social media accounts, our links are our link shorteners working fine but the retargeting audience we were using, was was breaking.

And I had another sit down moment of, have we ever run an ad through these retargeting pixels? Like, we’ve been accumulating this audience for three years, like, No, we actually never have once reuse these tracking pixels live in tidyverse.

I just pulled that out of our code, like, okay, we’re not going to do that anymore.

Because it’s an added step.

It’s an added vulnerability to the system.

So it’s something else can break.

And it’s not as good an experience.

And, you know, now things run a little bit faster.

But there’s one less dependency one of the things that I feel like it was part of this mindset is, when I look at the world and see how much of the world’s supply chains are breaking right now, between hurricanes and canal closures, and stuck boats and pandemics, people are realizing just how interconnected everything is and how exposed you are to other people’s risks.

So if we can do that with our own marketing, technology stacks, and just how much risk can we reduce of something else breaking that may or may not add a whole lot of value, but it’s kind of what you talk about a lot, Katie, which is, you know, what’s the risk? versus what’s the reward? If there’s minimal reward and substantial risk? Get rid of it?

Katie Robbert 7:03

Yeah, no, I think that’s a good way to approach thinking about your mark tech stack.

And so I want to go back to something that you just said, that just really struck a chord with me, which was, you know, being dependent on other people’s stuff and their risk.

And so if their stuff is breaking, you know, and so, you know, it’s interesting, very few companies, ours included, can 100% make their own stuff.

And so we can’t necessarily, we don’t necessarily have the resources to make our own CMS or our own, you know, email marketing software.

And so we are reliant on other companies to provide that piece of technology.

But to your point, Chris, the more different things you have, the more vulnerable you are, if something happens with that company, especially if you don’t have a good sense of what touches what, what goes where, and the breakdown.

And so it sounds like, what you’re describing is what would be helpful as some sort of a governance plan to understand what you have what it does, who owns it, both internally and externally.

And then some kind of business continuity planning of, let’s say, for instance, you know, so we use Mautic.

And Mautic is, you know, a fairly complex system for a non technology person, but the trade off is that it’s open source, and you have control over the code in it.

So use that for our email marketing, um, you know, something that we would need to factor in is the risk and reward.

So while we have more control over it, the risk is, if you Chris suddenly decide, you don’t want to do it anymore.

Or if Mautic suddenly shuts down everything, we need to figure out, what’s our backup plan? Where do we move to? And so it’s just, you know, there’s nothing for us to do with it today, but having a full understanding of, Okay, if modoch suddenly goes away, what does that mean for our email marketing? What? Can we pick it up and run it through a different system tomorrow? If not, you know, what does that mean? So just understanding how all of those different pieces Connect, especially when we think about, you know, our customer journey, and our attribution model, email is such a big channel for us, that it would be a huge problem if that suddenly went away, or if something broke, even, you know, for a few days or a week.

That’s a lot of our traffic and conversions that we would lose.

Christopher Penn 9:40

It is one of the reasons actually, for Mautic was, well, a big part was cost, obviously, because it is substantially less expensive.

But there is that element of the fact that it’s it’s open source software that we run on our own server.

It is not something that is a cloud based service.

So if it breaks, it’s my fault.

Whereas like if you’re using say, like a MailChimp and they have a service outage, you can’t do anything about it, like you’re stuck until they come back online.

And so, you know, as we talked about a couple weeks ago, with a system like matomo, sort of being your backup to Google Analytics, you should, if resources permit have an like an open source, self hosted alternative waiting in the wings, like a disaster recovery kit ready to go in case, a primary system goes down.

Now, in the case of, you know, the, the strategy question, right now, the use of Mautic is as as our marketing automation system really is a central part of our strategy, like you said, it’s very, like close to 70% of our conversions come from? A big thing that we have to be looking at is, what do we need to be doing to diversify that so that we’re not so rely on one channel, because right now, our it’s a, it actually is a very good reflection of our strategy, our strategy is build a really good audience, and then try to monetize as best as we can.

I don’t see that changing.

But I would I do think is an issue is how can we get more than one channel that we own integrated into our customers lives? So we have Slack, you know, the, the free slack group analytics for markers, which go to Trust insights.ai slash analytics for marketers, you can join there with 1900 of the marketers commercial plug over.

We don’t we don’t do anything with with discord right now.

Something to think about? I don’t know that our audiences there.

We don’t do anything with text messaging.

And the reason for that is it’s substantially more costly.

emails, fundamentally free and obviously, we have our our various email publications.

But the you know, the other question is, what else could we be doing? in something that we own that will be aligned with our strategy and what technologies we need to do that because one of the mistakes that I know I’ve made a ton of times is I pick the technology before I pick the strategy.

And then the strategy is kind of a few balls out of the it’s like, you know, you buy a certain number of appliances, then you can, you can cook whatever you make with those appliances, as opposed to saying, I’m going to cook sushi, and then you get the appropriate ingredient equipment to do it.

Katie Robbert 12:18

For those of you who are listening, and not watching it on YouTube, you definitely missed some of the faces that I was just making one Christmas describing that he picks the technology, and then he picks the strategy.

And so you know, I think but I think it’s fair, I think that’s a classic problem.

Because it’s, it’s a very common approach.

And it’s not the band aid approach.

It’s the Okay, we need to certainly we need to run email, let’s get an email marketing piece of software, versus let’s step back and look at everything holistically, what do we already have? And what do we want to do, and then we can fill in the gaps.

And so that’s something that, you know, we Trust Insights, you and I, Chris, should be doing a little bit more of moving into next year of, okay, we know where we’re at today, we know that we are over indexed on email.

So here’s some other alternatives, and here’s some direction to want to go and what do we already have? I would, I would go ahead and say we probably already have all the tools we need.

Just to diversify our strategy.

What we don’t have is the actual like, here’s what we’re going to do with these tools.

Um, you know, maybe it’s, you know, increasing our content production.

So we already have a lot of content through the newsletter, but maybe it’s, you know, getting that content out into different channels.

And so we already have all the stuff to do that.

But I think what happens a lot of time is, you know, if we were in an enterprise size company, for example, where it’s harder to see all of the different moving pieces, and we’re kind of just sort of siloed, we might say, okay, we want to increase content production, well, I don’t know what we have.

So let’s just go ahead and get some kind of content marketing software, whatever that is, let’s get a bunch of writers, you know, let’s get a new CMS.

Let’s do all the things so that we can produce content, when in actuality, you already have a lot of content that you can repurpose, and refresh.

You know, you own your search, because you control what people are searching for.

You control the content that you’re producing.

And you don’t necessarily need to meet a whole bunch of new writers.

So it’s really instead of, you know, thinking about it, of let’s create a new strategy.

It’s the reverse of let’s audit what we already have and what do we already have to work with, and then fill in the gaps.

You know, I was commenting before we started recording this podcast today that I do think strategic planning and I’m putting this in big air quotes, in some ways is kind of bullshit.

And the reason I say that is because companies use it as the clean slate, let’s start over, let’s forget everything that happened in the past, it doesn’t matter, we’re going to start fresh with a brand new strategy.

And we’re going to, you know, just disregard everything that we already have.

And I feel like that’s the wrong mindset to go into thinking about what you want to do next year.

And so it’s really, ideally what it should be is, here’s all the good stuff that we have, is it working? Do we need to tweak it Do we need to just move in a slightly different direction, and let’s not make a big deal out of it, let’s just go ahead and start doing the thing.

And I think this idea of strategic planning becomes such a big, you know, blown up, like has to be meetings and days and workshops, and this and that, and outings and events, like, just go do something.

Christopher Penn 15:51

I think that you’re right, in strategic planning, almost like trying to do too much all at once.

It’s like, you’re gonna quit smoking and lose weight and start working out and, you know, go to church, and do you know, to stop beating your spouse all at the same time.

And it’s all these things, it’s too much change all at once.

Whereas if you think about like, cooking, no, go back to cooking, you have your recipe, you have your ingredients, you have your tools, you have your talent, these four big things, changing all of them by saying, now we’re gonna be a sushi restaurant, we were pancake place yesterday.

Now it’s 70 sushi, that seems like a really big leap that you’re probably gonna fall on your face.

As opposed to saying, okay, here’s what we have for tools.

Here’s what we have for ingredients.

Here’s what we have for people.

And what you’re saying, at least what I hear you saying is, what other recipes could we cook with what we’ve got, what else could we cook, so we serve waffles, we haven’t sort of pancakes, we could try doing burgers, I mean burgers are functionally not a whole lot different.

You need a you don’t need a voto the waffle iron for everything.

But if you have a griddle, you can make burgers pretty easily, it’s it’s still a piece of who it’s round foods just sort of stacks together, it’s a slightly different format.

Katie Robbert 17:09

I didn’t know I wanted you to do marketing for my restaurant, Chris.

Christopher Penn 17:15

Katie’s around.

But the point being this, it’s less of a pivot.

And it’s less culture shock for the people, it’s less expense, because you’re not going to have to throw out a whole bunch of tools.

And it’s less pain.

When you particularly in data driven marketing.

You’re basically saying like, if you make that big, strategically great, all the data, you now you have so far that you have to throw out if you’ve changed your strategy that much, then all the information you’ve collected probably isn’t valid for the new scenario where you’re saying, okay, we are a, a communications company that uses the we sell cell phones, well, maybe you sell text messaging now to maybe you sell, you know, monitoring your your vehicle, like, Hey, here’s a transmitter you put in your vehicle still uses the cell network still uses.

The data plan still uses all the infrastructure you’ve got.

But again, it’s another value add for services, different recipe with the same thing.

And I think if, if you approach strategic planning that way and saying what recipes we have, are they selling well, like nobody wants to pick a waffles, so we should quite take that off the menu? What else could we put on in its place, then you could try and find what customers might actually want?

Katie Robbert 18:37

That’s exactly it.

It’s I really like that analogy of, you know, what recipes you already cooking? And what other recipes Haven’t you tried? The you can make with the same things and maybe you add one or two different elements, but you’re not overhauling everything all at once.

And so to go back to where we started the conversation, which was the MAR tech stack, and the stack drift, you know, so where you were, you know, three, six years ago, and where you are today is different mentally.

But at the core of it, you’re not doing different kinds of work, you’re still doing the same attribution analysis, predictive analysis, you know, machine learning, you know, data crunching, all those things, you’re still doing that.

And so you’re taking all the same ingredients and tools, you’re just looking at it differently now.

And so I think that that’s, you know, as you were going through them like okay, I am no longer going to make pickle waffles.

I no longer need pickles.

So therefore I’m going to shut off the Facebook.

You know, retargeting pixel.

You know, I think it’s the same thing.

You’re not necessarily tossing out all of that data.

You’re just saying, I’m just gonna put this aside for now.

I don’t need it to be constantly on the shelf and in my way and running.

I’m just going to you know, see Get over there.

If you did decide all of a sudden, like, let’s say six years ago, you were like, I’m only ever going to do Facebook ads.

That’s it.

That’s all I’m ever going to do.

And today, you’re like, I’ve haven’t touched Facebook ads in six years, then that is a different conversation.

And you do need to think about like, okay, but what am I doing instead? Do I have all the right tools? Do I need to sunset these things? And to your point, Chris, what do I do with all of that data that I collected? And that goes into, you know, that strategic planning, you know, for moving forward? Like I have all this stuff? What else can I do with it? So I’ve collected all of this data for six years.

Is there anything valuable there? Is there anything I can repurpose with it, as opposed to what I see a lot of companies do is, let’s start fresh.

And I think it’s that start fresh mentality that really bugs me, because you waste so much time and energy and money trying to start fresh versus using what you already have to just slightly adjust.

Christopher Penn 21:01

And this is the corollary to our live stream from a couple weeks ago of solutions in search of a problem, which is, if you’ve got the stuff, and you’re already, you’re already making waffles and things, it’s okay to see, okay, well, let’s try making pancakes.

They’re structurally similar enough and see if there’s a there, there’s sort of the r&d side of things.

If you’re looking at your Mar tech stack, and you’ve got all these tools, ask yourself, Is there something else that you could make with it that would be more valuable, you know, to what you’re doing? And if there isn’t like in the case, in my case with you know, Facebook retargeting pixels, like, Yeah, um, in all honesty, I’m not gonna run a Facebook ads, I don’t want to give a dime to that company, because I don’t particularly like them or trust them.

And so I’m okay, just turning off, I’m not gonna make, you know, Facebook waffles.

Just take that out out of contention entirely.

And that, to your point makes room? Certainly, please Tag Manager a whole lot.

And it also helps clarify strategy.

Because if there’s a choice that’s out there, even if you know, it’s a false choice, it’s still cost you mental bandwidth, to say, Oh, well, what if we did this? Well, no, take that off the table.

Pretend it’s just not there.

Now you have fewer choices, but they’re more valid choices.

And it’s easy to make choices from what’s left, as opposed to saying, Well, here’s all the things you could possibly make.

And then getting distracted.

Katie Robbert 22:32

I was having it reminds me I was having a conversation with a friend of mine.

And her company is going through a Mar tech stack.

overhaul essentially.

And so, you know, this notion of single view of the customer is very, you know, hot right now.

It’s it’s one of the key buzzwords that everybody’s talking about.

And I asked her, I’m like, Well, what does that mean? What are you doing? And so they’re go, they’re going from like, 12, different tech stack systems, down to one.

And I just looked at her I’m like, that’s a behemoth of a project, like good luck, because they’re going from systems like Salesforce and Constant Contact, and, you know, start listing off all the key players down to one single system that is meant to do all the things.

And I know the systems well enough to know that that’s not necessarily true.

And so I think that that also sort of factors into the conversation, you know, of thinking through what do you have, what do you want to do? But then you need to do your research and due diligence, you know, so there’s two sides of that conversation.

One is, you know, can you condense down your systems with the stuff that you already have? Because you haven’t explored all of the functionality of your existing systems? And or, if you’re moving to a new system doesn’t do exactly what it is you needed to do? Or are you just saying, okay, that’s the one that everybody uses, I need to use that as well.

And then you get in it and realize that you have to pay by the feature, or the feature, the functionality that you wanted, just truly doesn’t exist.

You know, I was talking with my mother in law last week, and she was duped into buying one of those tablets, slash laptops, that when you close the lid, it turns into a tablet, because she wanted to read her books on the tablet and not have to bring a separate e reader.

And so she thrust it at me.

I was like, Why doesn’t it work? You fix this now? So I was like, Okay, let me take a look at it.

And I spent about 30 seconds googling the problem.

And it unfortunately with that particular laptop, it was a little bit of a bait and switch.

When they promoted the laptop.

They said it will do the thing, but the feature itself was never rolled out.

And so she purchased this machine that doesn’t do what it is she wants it to do.

So now she’s stuck with a piece of hardware that she can’t use.

Because it doesn’t let and it just, I see this with more tech stack decisions as well, if you don’t do enough of the research, you don’t ask the question to say, will it do what I need it to do?

Christopher Penn 25:18

Yep, they get your mother on iPad.

Katie Robbert 25:25

I got enough going on, I don’t need to be her tech support.

Christopher Penn 25:29

Yeah.

So to conclude, your strategy probably should come first.

And then look at your stack and see what of those things lines up with it, one of those things could line up with it.

And then one of those things that frankly, just aren’t, aren’t in the path that you’re going.

And then, as best as possible, leave those things behind as quickly as you can, if they if they’re costing you money.

And then remove them from your strategy with the understanding that these are all a lot of these things are cloud based services.

So if you change your mind or you change strategies, you can always go back you can always you’ll have a data gap, but that’s not the end of the world.

But definitely do some housecleaning, you know, we’re in September one, it’s back to school, you know, clean out the kids backpack, dump all the crap that they left in there, you know, in May or June when they stop going to school, you know, clean, put everything fresh, and give yourself that fresh start on your marketing technology as you head into the fourth quarter, and the end of the year.

If you got questions or comments about anything we’ve talked about today, hop on over to our free slack group analytics for markers go to Trust insights.ai slash analytics for markers were you in over 1900 of the folks are talking about all things marketing and analytics related and wherever it is you’re watching or listening to the show.

If there’s a challenge you prefer to have it on, we probably have it go to Trust insights.ai slash ti podcast where you can see all the options.

Thanks for tuning in and we’ll talk to you soon.

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