Warning: This is a rant post with a point that will ring true with most of us, even though it hasn’t been talked about publicly in the B2B marketing community.
The martech “stack” has been a shining symbol of progress for B2B marketing teams. We see it in every presentation at every marketing event, and tech-logo stacks are talked about in office conference rooms and coffee shops. When martech-stack illustrations are shared, the result is typically a mix of eyerolling, fascination and bewilderment. And, of course, the inevitable smart-phone quickdraw to grab a pic and share on social.
We must stop treating our tech stacks like trophies. Those with the most technology or the prettiest tech visualizations should not receive the accolades — at least not if their beauty doesn’t extend below the surface. These are investments that require serious dollars and resources to purchase. And they require time and serious work to properly adopt in a way that can transform the business. Most importantly, we’re relying on tech portfolios more and more to deliver results. Our credibility is at stake.
How did we get here?
When I ask B2B marketers how the logo stack graphic became so important, most don’t have a rational answer. It became a “thing” to show off your stack. One theory is that it’s symbolic of a modern digitally driven, revenue machine.
It says we’re doing meaningful work powered by tech, data and advanced techniques. Possibly, these visual representations also scream “we’re the real deal!” The danger is that it underlines that we know how to acquire stuff, but doesn’t necessarily show that these acquisitions represent investments in business-value-creating technology and tools.
Despite good intentions, this obsession is steering us down the wrong path. Many of our logo-heavy, multi-tech snapshots look good in a graphic on a slide, but it’s holding us back and depleting our credibility. While a source of pride in our peer group, these stump our most important stakeholders – our CFOs, Boards of Directors and sales leaders.
Their visceral response is “who cares?” and “what’s all this tech spend doing for us?” Or worse, “how did we acquire so much tech?” Executives are rarely impressed.
What we need to visualize next
It’s time to retire the martech stack graphic as we know it – the stage-ready logo chart. 25, 50 or even 100 technologies proudly and creatively displayed doesn’t adequately communicate the business value or requirements needed to advance our capabilities to meet business goals. I’m not saying to go back to boring old Visio diagrams – storytelling and creativity matter.
An effective strategy being used by marketers is well-documented diagrams that are less about logos (or the clever metaphors they’re often designed into) and more about showing real business impact and requirements.
These purposeful, instructive blueprints include key strategies, capabilities, the connected workflow and the results/payback from the tech investment. This type of visualization is one that your execs and team alike can use to understand business value, and it helps underscore marketers’ prioritization of smart investments and decisions.
A focus on the challenges as well as the results
This new visual should show the total picture as well as the gaps by laying out the connectedness between your systems (or lack thereof), documenting the data flow that is enabled (or hamstrung), representing the seamless (or disconnected) process workflow, and how people, process and tech work together (or not).
This more complete approach builds confidence with key stakeholders. It adequately summarizes and inventories your tech portfolio investment, the role of each key system and amplifies what needs to be invested in next and/or what needs to be addressed to drive more performance.
Let’s all make a commitment to change it up and move beyond showing off our trophy stacks by simply showing the logos, no matter how creative the graphic. My bet is it helps us guard against being acquirers of stuff so that we can become effective professional portfolio managers of tech that delivers increasing business value.