Dear Marketing ops professionals, what will your marketing team look like six months from now? Or a year from now? How many people will you add? What new tools, systems, and data will you need?
There are a lot of potential questions you can ponder about the future of your business but there is one certainty you'll be dealing with; more. More data, more people, more process, more complex problems, and more questions around security and data privacy.
As the owner of your companies' tech stack it's on you to future proof your company for more, not just today , but for every phase of your team from now until that point.
The Reality of More
The reality is that there is no out-of-the-box method that will help you prepare for more. Your company is unique, and your perfect marketing stack is not going to look exactly like anyone else's. This is the time for choosing the right tech tools for your team, setting them up in a way that your future team can use and understand.
All of this, while ensuring a positive return on your marketing investment. (What could go wrong, right?)
Don't worry -- We've been there, too. HubSpot's marketing operations team is all too familiar with the challenge of more, having tripled the size of our marketing team in just three years.
We've learned a lot along the way -- so we gathered six insights from HubSpot's resident ops experts to ask what they wish they would have known when growing HubSpot's own marketing tech stack.
1. Keep systems simple.
Have you heard of the "keep it simple, stupid" (KISS) principle? The term, originally coined by an aeronautical engineer in the US Navy, states that simplicity guarantees the greatest levels of user acceptance and interaction.
The term is used often in software design, for example, where function and instruction creep can make products unmanageable over time.
How do you prevent this happening in your own company as it continues to grow? Put your current strategy down on paper, and review the value of every stage of your process with your leadership team. Consider what processes could be done more efficiently, and what could be eliminated altogether.
"The #1 driver of complex business systems is complex business rules," says HubSpot Marketing Operations Manager Mark Metcoff. "If you can simplify your go-to-market strategy as much as possible, then regardless of how you structure your systems, you'll be heading in the right direction."
2. Aim for medium-term solutions.
In an ideal world, every decision you make about your tech stack today will work seamlessly for your team for years to come.
In reality, though, you are probably going to change systems a dozen times over the next few years if you continue to scale. You shouldn't worry about picking your forever tech, but do not settle for a tool that will become obsolete in 6 months, either.
"Aim for the medium-term," Mark suggests. "The costs of switching systems has never been lower, thanks to the emergence of more persistent datastores like customer data platforms that can under-lie front-office facing systems, and iPaaS solutions that allow you to integrate front-office providers for easy data transfer."
3. Strategy first, technology second.
As companies grow, it can be tempting to rely on technology to support processes that are still evolving. Usually, this happens when a team adopts powerful tools that have a lot of potential, and they try to mold their systems around it.
HubSpot's marketing operations team has made this mistake, too, and with an important takeaway: What sets apart truly powerful tech stacks isn't just about the technology.
"The tools themselves won't make you successful but rather how you use them," explains Kerri Harrington, HubSpot Marketing Ops Analyst.
Kerri has worked closely with HubSpot Partners, consulting many who were in the midst of building their tech stacks. She taught them to think about their tech stack not as the powerhouse behind their systems, but a vehicle to efficiently and effectively execute their strategy.
If you are still developing your strategy, she says, try drawing out and visualizing your tech stack. This gives you an opportunity to think critically about each tool, the purpose it serves, and where there is any overlap or duplication in your tools. Check out the "Stackies" competition for inspiration.
4. Document everything, and document it well.
Imagine opening your spice cabinet, ready to cook up a chicken curry, to find that nothing in the cabinet is labeled. Every spice and herb is in the same colored jar, with no ingredient label or expiration date.
Barring a noteworthy sense of smell, this project would not be very easy or enjoyable.
This is what it's like to step into a new role only to realize that over the years, your new team's processes and database have not been properly documented. This is common among growing companies, because as your database grows and your systems evolve, it's easy to end up with a lot of clutter, data integrity issues, and confusion.
Many will skip right over this -- who likes to document? Who has the time to 'waste' a day of innovation to do seemingly admin work? We get it -- But for the sake of your future team (and your future sanity), make sure you take the time to lay down the right foundation for data architecture.
"I can't tell you how many times we have to review the history of a change or 'walk through' the last couple of years on a topic," says Maggie Butler, Senior Marketing Enablement Manager. "It gets really, really hard if no one has documented anything."
One incredibly valuable resource HubSpot had during one of its growth spurts, she says, was the documentation built by our engineers that detailed in simple language how the logic and code worked. Aim for this level of documentation to be comprehensive across all applications, and easily accessible for everyone on your team.
5. Point solutions serve a purpose.
A point solution is a product or service that addresses one very specific need in a marketing organization.
Sometimes, you just need to a piece of software to do a specific thing really, really well. There's no shame in it.
But keep in mind that every piece you do add to your infrastructure comes with its own compliance risks, technical challenges, maintenance and upkeep, and general administration.
"Also look closely at whether or not it needs to be integrated into your tech stack," explains Mark. "Sometimes point solutions work just fine in a silo."
If you have any point solutions in your current stack, think about how it fits into the bigger picture: how does it interact with the rest of your technologies, and what do you need to do to keep it running?
6. Aim for ease of use, but don't sacrifice the necessities.
There are a lot of options out there -- so don't settle for less than what you need. At the end of the day, you need to choose a system that's easy for your team to pick up and use, but still has the power and flexibility you need to get things done.
The challenge with today's marketing automation tools is that they offer either enterprise-grade power or consumer-grade ease-of-use, but never both. As a result, many still go with the safe bet — overpriced, overly complicated, and under-utilized tools — which translates to spending more time on systems than on your customers.
With all of the tools available these days, there is no need to use clunky, complex, and time-consuming legacy software. We believe you shouldn't have to sacrifice productivity to get power, because the best tools combine both power and ease-of-use. When you focus on delighting your customers and creating great experiences instead of managing your software, you will grow better.
More, more, is a good thing.
Adding more can be terrifying, but more, more means you're growing. And it's never been a better time to be a marketing ops professional. With the wealth of powerful technology now available, it's easier than ever to grow your tech stack with a smart ops leader and the right strategy in place.
We believe this is paramount for any growing business, which is why you should expect more out of your marketing software and from the tech stack you build with it -- your future team will thank you.
Originally published Jan 7, 2020 7:00:00 AM, updated January 13 2020