Want a Better MarTech Stack? Become a (M)architect.

This is a guest post by Fab Capodicasa, Managing Director of Hoosh Marketing.

Most marketers have seen the beautiful MarTech stack pictures, such as the one below from Microsoft—and felt either awe or envy.

Here's why you need to think about MarTech like an architect.

Scott Brinker, the ‘father of MarTech’ and originator of the Stack SuperGraphic, even runs a yearly competition called the Stackies, which recognize the best MarTech architectures. Though some argue the Stackies are a self-indulgent vanity exercise, Brinker sees the awards as educational. He believes that everyone in the marketing community benefits from seeing how their peers organize their tech stacks.

Here's why you need to think about MarTech like an architect.

I agree—but I also believe we need to go one step further.

What the Stackies don’t emphasize is the value of the architecture behind these visual depictions of MarTech stacks. In reality, your MarTech stack is less like a one-dimensional slide and more like a 3D model of a house.

Though the owners of a house may receive the credit for how beautiful it looks or how functional it is, the real heavy lifting was done by the architect, from the earliest conceptual stages to making sure the engineering is sound. Without the architect, a blueprint would never have been drawn up—and the house would never have been built.

Similarly, MarTech stacks require a high degree of planning in order to work. Often called “marchitecture,” it’s the difference between a functioning tech stack that helps you do your job and a pile of technology that actually makes life harder.

Why does marchitecture matter?

Imagine building a house where the various tradespeople (the excavator, electrician, plumber, gasfitter, carpenter, bricklayer, waterproofer, plasterer, roofer, tiler, floor sander, painter, and landscaper) just show up and start doing their jobs with no blueprint.

It would be a disaster. No one would build a home like that and expect it to be structurally sound—much less look nice.

But that’s how most companies build their MarTech stacks: piecemeal, with no overarching blueprint. And it’s why their MarTech stacks quickly morph into “Frankenstacks,”  a mish-mash of tools and data islands that aren’t integrated or working in concert.

Just like renovating a house built sans blueprint, remaking a Frankenstack into a sound marketing technology architecture isn’t easy. As Brinker notes, it’s going to be the greatest challenge marketers face in the next ten years.

“The Frankenstack comes from marketing silos that grew up independently,” he says. “What the search marketing people were doing five years ago wasn’t connected to social media and completely separate from what they were doing with email. One of the missions of the new generation of marketing leaders is, they’ve got to get the technology stack organized. It’s not going to change overnight. People are dependent on these tools. It’s a process. The Frankenstack is an amusing term for a not-very-amusing state of affairs.”

Even when some thought has been put into a company’s marchitecture, it’s rarely done with any expertise or rigor. Going back to the house analogy, building a home requires expert input, compliance with specific regulations and codes, and regular inspections. Ideally, you would treat your marchitecture with a similar level of seriousness – but marketers do not.

Instead, most companies are content to pay the hidden (or not-so-hidden) costs of poor architecture. These include:

  • Costly overruns during build due to unforeseen complications (e.g. asbestos in existing structure)
  • Extensive, expensive repairs and renovations for the entire life of the building (e.g. poor quality plumbing causing flooding)
  • Future extensions are difficult/impossible and expensive (e.g. incorrect council approvals prevent further expansion)
  • Poor day-to-day performance affecting all users (e.g. poor quality insulation causing temperature extremes)
  • Vulnerabilities affecting brand (e.g. non-compliance with statutory requirements)
  • Catastrophic failures (e.g. partial collapse of structure due to inadequate foundation)

For marketers, a lack of architecture results in very tangible pain across almost all facets of their jobs: data quality, campaign execution, and attribution. I see this pain every single day—and I also see that many marketers feel totally lost as to why or how they can fix it.

A marchitecture methodology

Undoubtedly, MarTech companies have their own various secret methodologies for marchitecture planning. But secrets are no fun. At Hoosh Marketing, we have our own approach to marchitecture, which we want to share in the hopes that we can improve the state of MarTech overall.

Our marchitecture finds its origins in traditional IT-style architectural methodology, but we’ve incorporated elements of traditional building architecture as well—which hopefully makes it easier to understand! The goal is to create a scalable, robust, quality, maintainable architecture which, when applied to your MarTech stack, will ultimately support your marketing strategy (and maybe let you have your own pretty MarTech slide, too).

Taking inspiration from the art, science, and engineering involved in traditional architecture, here’s a primer that will help marketers understand their current architecture and create a new architecture for their MarTech stack as needed.

Stage 1: Topography (Site Analysis)

This stage consists of defining the boundaries and constraints of the MarTech stack by considering the wider context of the business. The topography of a site will fundamentally limit what is feasible to build: you can’t build a shopping center on a house-sized block of land or if you only have the budget for a wood cabin.

The main areas to consider are:

  • Budget – for technology and services
  • Business size – staff numbers, revenue, targets
  • Marketing org size – staff numbers, pipeline, targets
  • Marketing org structure – staff numbers, geography, divisions, responsibilities
  • Org crossover – which other departments must be supported or considered (e.g. IT, support, finance, product dev)
  • Future expansion – organic or M&A growth of the business or marketing org
  • Existing infrastructure – systems which cannot be removed or replaced
  • IT Support – staff numbers, skills, availability

Stage 2: Brief

This stage combines the high-level requirements of the MarTech stack for both the Marketing org and the wider business.

The main areas to consider are:

  • Usage – B2B, B2C, or mixed use
  • Business model – customer segments, customer problems, channels, key partners, key activities, key resources, cost structures, revenue streams
  • Marketing methodology – inbound, outbound, channel, mixed
  • Functional areas – field (demand, customer engagement, ABM), corporate comms, product, channel, market intelligence, operations
  • Marketing channels – social, email, mobile, media, website, field sales, stores, telephone

Stage 3: Concept

In architecture, the concept is a rough sketch of a proposed building, including the major components and usage by the architect. For marketers, this stage of planning involves the high-level design of the MarTech stack which satisfies the brief and fits the topography.

Here's why you need to think about MarTech like an architect.
The most common stack topologies

The main areas to consider are:

  • Stack Approach – funnel, onion, data flow, and Tetris
  • Stack Topology – suite, platform, multi-platform, bus
  • Major platforms – CRM, MAP, CMS/EComm, social relationship management, data management
  • Minor apps – all other systems that aren’t a major platform
  • Integration style – iPaas, ETL, ESB, SOA
  • Feasibility analysis – is the concept achievable and affordable?
Here's why you need to think about MarTech like an architect.
Several common stack philosophies

Stage 4: Detailed Design

Detailed designs created by the architect cover every aspect of the building. When designing your marchitecture, this stage involves a detailed design of the MarTech stack.

The main areas to consider are:

  • Actors – all users (groups and individuals) of the stack
  • Weighting – the relative time spent by actors in the major platforms
  • User Stories – all the ways actors interact with the stack
  • Foundation – Common Data Model, object model for each major platform
  • Integration – orchestration, events, and data flow between major platforms
  • Common services – global IDs, error handling
  • Processes – multi-system, multi-user flows

Ultimately, these steps are a useful guide for the process of designing a marchitecture that will suit your organization’s unique needs. No two marketing orgs are alike—except, maybe, in their need for a MarTech blueprint!

Learn more about why business systems professionals and marketing teams should cultivate a strong relationship >