Rethinking Your Martech Strategy and Avoiding the Frankenstack Trap

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Episode description

With over 11,000 Martech solutions available in 2023, the need for filtering through the noise and implementing the right technologies becomes crucial.

In this episode of Great Events, Alyssa Peltier and Stephanie Sweetland, Director of Marketing Technology and Automation at Cvent, dive into the challenges faced by marketers and event planners in managing various technology systems. They discuss the pain points of siloed data, lack of integrations, and manual tasks that often hinder efficiency and productivity.

The episode further explores how marketing professionals can stay updated with Martech trends and validate technology sources through reputable reports, peer-reviewed sites, and marketing operations resources.

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How Martech can improve operational efficiency and save costs in your marketing and events practices
  • How to navigate the overwhelming landscape of Martech vendors and identify the right technologies to solve pain points in your organization
  • How to gain insights on validating and onboarding new technologies through reputable sources and industry research

Things to listen for:

[01:09] Why marketers and event planners struggle with siloed data
[04:09] The increasing need for automation and smarter methods in the marketing space
[07:06] Different types of helpful reports and peer reviewed sites for research
[11:35] Why the frequency of evaluating stakeholder groups depends on investment in the tool
[15:53] How Cvent uses new technologies to measure engagement and show ROI

Meet your host

Alyssa Peltier, Director of Market Strategy & Insights, Cvent Consulting

Meet your guest speaker

Stephanie Sweetland, Director of Marketing Technology and Automation, Cvent

Episode Transcript

Stephanie: In the marketing space, we have a lot of new business needs that are arising based off of functionality that's available. So things that used to be very manual can now be automated or even done in a smarter way, whether it's machine assisted or by a machine. So what we're doing is we're looking at how Martech can help us improve our operational efficiency and save on costs. So it might be hours for an employee, it might be just process improvements, but then also we are looking for Martech to help support our top line initiatives as well.

Alyssa: Great Events create great brands, and it takes a village to put on an event that engages, excites and connects audiences to your brand. And we're that village. I'm Alyssa.

I'm Paulina.

And I'm Rachel.

And you're listening to Great Events, the podcast for all people interested in events and marketing.

Alyssa: Hello, everyone. What has been going on in this wide, wide world of events? You all know me, my name is Alyssa. And welcome to this week's episode of Great Events podcast by Cvent.

So let's get right to this week's conversation and have a real frank conversation around marketers and event planners having this feeling of pain, of having all of these different technology systems, often resulting in this siloed data. They've got lack of integrations, manual tasks. Does this sound familiar to anyone? I'm sure it does. Is a big problem that we see in our space all the time. Oftentimes the reasons why people come to us as a technology provider and to add fuel to this fire, there are thousands of Martech vendors out there. I think the latest one of a reputable source has said that there are over 11,000 Martech solutions available in 2023. This is up 11% from the previous year. All of these providers now claiming that their solution could save the biggest pain point. So really there's a major need to figure out how to filter through all this noise and get that stakeholder buy in to implement the right technologies, not only to implement them, but then to adopt those technologies and then ultimately demonstrate those impacts on the business. So today I am super excited to bring a first timer to the podcast. Stephanie Sweetland, director of marketing technology and automation here at Cvent. And she's responsible for leading our Marketing Ops team and the related initiatives that aim to solve a lot of the problems that I just outlined in my spiel in the beginning here.

So Stephanie, welcome to the podcast. Can you give our listeners a little bit of background about yourself and what you do here at Cvent?

Stephanie: Absolutely. Hello everyone. Excited to be here. And thank you to Alyssa and team for asking me to be on the podcast.

Alyssa: Welcome, welcome

Stephanie: So, like Alyssa mentioned, I'm the director of marketing technology and automation at Cvent. So I oversee a global team that is responsible for the end to end process of using all of our Martech. So everything from evaluating based off of net new business needs or to procuring implementation and training on new tools, as well as optimizing and administering the tools that we have in our stack today. And then when it comes time to renew, we do a full ROI analysis.

So we're also always looking at reporting and making sure that we're investing where it makes sense. So again, our team's looking at really all of the different elements of Martech. And at Cvent we have a very robust tech stack. It's about 50 different tools.

Alyssa: Wow. I don't think I realized it was that large when I was in marketing at the event. I think we were at like 30 or 32. So I think we're also adding to our own technology, our tech stack, our Franken stack, if you will, in the interest of Halloween month right now. But that's a lot of technologies to manage. So I guess Stephanie, that leads me to a really great first question for you. How do you manage this kind of constant change in this Martech space? How do you keep up with all these trends? How do you know what's going to work for our organization?

Stephanie: Yeah, it's a great question and this is a tough one. So like you mentioned, there's so many different solutions out there and different companies are also buying each other and consolidating too. So we've seen that a lot with our vendors. Then there's also new functionality that's available, especially with the genesis of AI, its prevalence in the market today. There's just so many different things that we can do with generative, AI, predictive, analytics, et cetera. So what we're finding too is that in the marketing space, we have a lot of new business needs that are arising based off of functionality that's available. So things that used to be very manual can now be automated or even done in a smarter way, whether it's machine assisted or by a machine. So what we're doing is we're looking at how Martech can help us improve our operational efficiency and save on costs.

So it might be hours for an employee, it might be just process improvements. But then also we are looking for Martech to help support our top line initiatives as well.

Alyssa: Do you tend to use those as almost guiding principles? In essence, efficiency, process gains, productivity, if you will?

Stephanie: Yep, absolutely. And then we'll look at the overall revenue impact. So it's revenue impact, FTE savings is always a huge one. And then let's see…

Alyssa: I'm curious if there's ever a march toward, let's say, innovation, right? Like there's some things that have the cool factor that you might just kind of want to dabble in or trial in, that you may not be able to directly tie to a cost efficiency, but I'm curious if that is a qualifying criteria at all.

Stephanie: Yeah, I mean, I think we do see a lot of folks wanting to pick up with the next shiny thing. So what's bright and cool, but what our job is as a Martech function is to make sure that we're investing where it counts and where it makes sense. So we do have some testing initiatives, so occasionally we'll do a pilot with a new tech. But ultimately what we're always doing is if when we get a new business need that's coming to us, we always have to ask is this something that tech can solve or is this actually a data challenge or a process challenge that we can solve first?

Alyssa: Interesting. Can we do this on our own without the actual purchase of a new technology that may actually create more organizational strain in the long run?

Stephanie: Right? Exactly. And then because our tech stack is so robust, we always want to make sure that everything connects to each other appropriately as well. And that way we can get data from one place to another. So sometimes new systems that are popping up don't necessarily integrate with our stack, so it doesn't make sense for us to purchase them.

Alyssa: So when you're looking to kind of validate this purchase, if you're looking to onboard a new technology, you've identified a gap or potential opportunity to improve in an area, where do you kind of go to validate those technology sources? Through a vendor analysis? Are there any kind of reputable sources that you look to as a marketing operations professional?

Stephanie: Yeah, there's so many great ones out there. So I'd say there are a few different tiers. There are Gartner and Forrester reports that are really helpful. Forrester has a Wave report where you can see how they're ranking everything and then all of the different systems that are available. And then there are also peer reviewed sites as well. So sites like G2 where you can go and really mix and match and see what's out there. But what my team does is just a lot of research. Right. So it's just looking at different keywords. We look to see what's out there, what's available, different blog posts. And then there are some great marketing operations resources as well.

So there are a few different marketing operations slack groups that are out there, like Mopros and Marketing Professionals. There's again just a number and then Chief Martech and then publications like that are great resources.

Alyssa: Well, that's great. Who's involved in these types of discussions at the buying table? The obvious would know your Chief Marketing Officer. But are there any other types of teams that you activate in order to make sure that the implementation of these technologies is successful?

Stephanie: Absolutely. So we look at the different business partners that would be leveraging the tool. So you definitely want to make sure that they're involved, that way they can share their requirements. And then if you need to integrate the tool with anything, you want to make sure that those admins are involved as well. From the beginning so that way everything is smooth sailing. Depending on how large your is, you may need to have the legal team involved, your IT team, your project management team again, really just depends on how complex and matrix your organization is. But I think the biggest goal is always to make sure that you have buy-in from the right stakeholders and involving them early in the process helps expedite. Do you have any other best practices.

Alyssa: Around that obviously activating them and kind of creating advocates early on so that you don't just say oh hey by the way, we bought this for you, go ahead and use it. Anything other than just kind of the timeliness of the conversation.

Stephanie: So I think being able to demonstrate ROI like we were talking about is really critical and especially focusing on time to value. So that's as soon as you buy the tool, how long is it going to take for you to see some sort of impact, whether it's from a cost savings or operational efficiency standpoint or revenue generation. So being able to tell that story is very compelling and that often helps with getting executive stakeholder buy in.

Alyssa: Also acknowledging that sometimes that time does take longer to achieve value right. So that there is not a when it comes time to renew these products, if you have not proven out, you may need to showcase that this is going to take longer to get that value right?

Stephanie: Absolutely. And I'll say when it comes to renewals and I'm glad that you mentioned that it's a little bit of a different beast because we do have all of that existing data. But then also we want to look at user management so how often users are logging in, how frequent they are using the tool and then how well they're using the tool as well. Because I think sometimes companies over index on last login date but that's not as impactful to understand as overall benefit.

Alyssa: Of the I guess that's a really interesting segue too. That something that we didn't have planned to talk about. But as you're activating those that are at the buyer's table and the decision making table, do you oftentimes have users in that conversation as well or is that really the next once the product has been purchased and been determined by your buying committee, is that really where you're trying to now make advocates of the users themselves? Right? Because oftentimes these are different people within your organization. So what does that dynamic look like for us at Cvent?

Stephanie: Yeah, it's a great question. So it depends on the tool and how many users there will be. If it's a tool where we'll have a very small number of users. For example, we have a video editing software that we just purchased that we have a lot of different use cases for. There's closed captioning functionality, transcription, there's video editing using AI to make eyeballs look at the camera, for example, there's a lot of different users from different teams. We try to involve members of each of the different teams that would be using it. So you don't necessarily need everybody, but I do think it's critical to have perspective from each of the different use cases.

Alyssa: Perfect. I guess my next question might be more around the proof of that ROI and that impact. So how are you kind of determining if a tool is working? How are you looking at that data? Do you have a cadence in what you're reporting out on the effectiveness of these tools? What does that look like for your stakeholder groups?

Stephanie: Great question. So it honestly depends on what the investment is in the tool. So unfortunately, because of resourcing, sometimes we're really only looking at this a few months out from renewal. So I'd say in an ideal world, monthly, and you would have people who are logging in and looking at this stuff all the time, but in a realistic world, I'd say quarterly is best practice. Yearly definitely isn't. But you want to be paying closest attention to where you're making the biggest investment, whether it's in terms of dollars or resourcing to run the tool. And I'd say just with the different technologies, you're looking at different types of success measurements as well. Some tools have a lot of data reporting where it's really easy to go in and see the success, but then sometimes there's more legwork required to tie it back to actual pipeline, generation MQLs, SQLs, et cetera.

Alyssa: In the interest of it being kind of budget season, I think there's a lot of scrutiny on spend right now, not just for our organization, but for many organizations. Are there any determining factors that say, hey, well, this isn't working out, let's just cut our losses here, and is there a time frame that, let's say, isn't budget season to start having those conversations? Do you have any best practices around that?

Stephanie: So I'd say start at a minimum three months out from renewal. That's a good time, but you should have a flagged list of lower priority tech that you have that isn't necessarily a great performer, whether you're looking at actual logins so that's a good first indicator, or just outputs. So I'd say for certain tools we are looking at usage much more frequently. And that's if we have a limit in number of user licenses. So a lot of times we'll have a waitlist, we're making sure that we're recycling those people and getting more users in immediately. I’ve forgotten the second part of your question.

Alyssa: Oh, no, that's okay. Mostly just around the determining factors for renewal, what the time frame looks like and what those factors are needed in order to renew a contract.

Stephanie: Well, I had a second thought there. So thank you. I think one critical piece to note is that you don't necessarily have to completely get rid of a tool sometimes what you need to look at is your contract and to understand what is the contracted functionality that you're paying for. Sometimes instead of just divesting the tool, you can downgrade and really double down on what's working and what your team is using and invest there.

Alyssa: That's great feedback, especially in this time frame that we're in where everyone's kind of looking at spend. I know that I talk about this often on the podcast here, but the macroeconomic climate that we're in is not necessarily conducive to spend and growth and innovation. A lot of what we're focused on in many of the industries that we work with at Cvent is how do we cut back, how do we reduce what we're doing but still get the same kind of outcomes. So I think no more relevant to the conversation is this to event technology here. So I really like that point where reconsider how you're spending don't completely eliminate a vendor altogether if there are elements of a technology or a platform that are working for you.

Stephanie: And one of the tricky things with Martech too is you're using it the more user licenses you want. Right? So then that incurs a cost. So it's important to be able to show the costs that you're offsetting by using a tool to help automate or streamline your processes.

Alyssa: Love that. I know we've talked a lot about just at a high level marketing operations, but is there anything very specific to event technology and event procurement and event technology process that our team at Cvent is thinking about? We are users of Cvent at Cvent, I don't think that would be a mystery to anybody. And we go through our own trials and tribulations with our own technologies and trying to make the most of it and allow our users to make the most of the technology to showcase the benefits of the technology, even internally. So are there any kind of strategic projects that are going on at Cvent that are under the umbrella of marketing operations and marketing technology that better integrate Cvent in with this broader tech stack that we have?

Stephanie: Yes. So like you mentioned, we at Cvent are heavy users of Cvent and we also have very complex use cases as well. So when there's new technologies that are coming out, we're always trying to leverage them and be one of the first movers. So there's always learnings there. I'd say our biggest project, which is always ongoing, is making sure that we're leveraging all of the engagement inputs and outputs that we get from our programs to measure them better, to show ROI. So that's a big piece then also to leverage it for things like lead scoring, account scoring. A newer thing that we're looking at is really topic interest. So if somebody attending an event that's based off of a specific topic, can we surface up more marketing or similar content that would be interesting for that person. So doing that to really just help personalize the experience overall. And I think using our Cvent tools, we have so much great data from that. So that's a really great way for us to activate it.

Alyssa: I think that's awesome. And certainly I see parallels between what's going on with a lot of our customers. I am talking to them regularly and it seems to be a common theme. Is how do we get even more out of this engagement data? We kind of understand what it is now, but how do we take this out of Cvent, put this into other marketing automation, know CRM systems and make the most out of all of the data output that we can get out of Cvent. So really fantastic, really great conversation with you, Stephanie. I think that's all the time that we have to talk about marketing operations today. But I would love to invite you to join us on a podcast again and just go deeper on this frankenstack of sorts that we're all trying to navigate within the marketing space.

So thanks once again for joining. But also thank you to our listeners for tuning in today. If you have additional thoughts or things to share with us or questions for myself or Stephanie related to your own marketing technology problems, concerns, opportunities, go ahead and send us a DM on LinkedIn or send us a note at greatevents@cvent.com. Once again, don't forget to subscribe and rate our podcast. Thanks and we'll see you next time. Bye.