A tech stack can only be effective with clear strategic direction and deep human expertise

Emma Parker on building tech stacks and strategy.

One lesson we hear time and again from marketing professionals is that technology is a multiplying factor for the companies that use it effectively. If a marketing team is aligned around company goals and in synch with other functional teams, technology can then help multiply that effectiveness exponentially. Conversely, if the team doesn’t have sufficient strategic direction and cross-functional alignment, technology on its own cannot work to the fullest.

We’ve previously heard from Marc Keating, chief innovation officer at Stein IAS, on why close collaboration between departments and the eradication of siloed thinking are vital to making best use of martech. In this edition of Martech Heroes, we look at the future of martech and digital marketing transformation. Emma Parker, digital marketing lead EMEA at food ingredients powerhouse, Ingredion, highlights the fact that a high-performance tech stack can only be built upon a team that understands company priorities.

Getting and maintaining buy-in

Parker believes that company priorities need to dictate the choice of technology, stating that Ingredion’s global leadership team is ultimately responsible for making strategic decisions and setting the course, while individual departments are in turn required to work out the practicalities of achieving those aims.

Constant communication between all levels is critical, she insists, particularly when it comes to implementation of martech. Parker notes that a good CRM system is the bedrock of a comprehensive tech stack, with other tools and platforms relating to marketing needing to be built on top of that. She notes that, for her team at Ingredion, an assets management platform is the latest tool to be considered when it comes to building on top of its existing tech stack.

She adds it should be the responsibility of the team to demonstrate the need for and success of each tool: “[You have to] show all the stakeholders who matter why you need those kinds of tools and what you're trying to achieve. If you don’t have the right conversations with all the right people, and repeatedly keep them informed and updated on your progress, the likelihood of success isn’t great.”

For her team, that means using marketing technology to cover a far wider sales region than would otherwise be possible and communicating to leadership the benefits of doing so:

“We've only got a small sales team, but we've got a massive region. The digital marketing functionality we’ve developed – the tools we’ve acquired – has saved those sales team members from having to fly every day, so we’ve increased sales efficiency while saving money.

“Communicating our goal, getting buy-in from sales leadership, sales team members and the c-suite, and giving the proof points and the small jumps along the way, were key to a successful martech journey. We proved the reach, proved what we can do with the tools that couldn't be done before, and communicated all of this constantly,”

She also points out that it is as important to flag up when martech is not working as intended, both to maintain that trust between teams and so that steps can be taken to fix the issue, so that the multiplying factor of technology can come back to the fore.

At Ingredion, Parker believes that the back-and-forth between teams is integral to the overall success of a tech stack: “You're starting to see all of the teams come together now, where they've never done that before. Everyone has the same information... and once you start plugging the tech stack into this, it becomes a very big breath of fresh air.”

Martech is only as good as the people that manage it

Parker is keen to explain that, even as an effective tech stack climbs the priority list for marketers, it is important to realise its limitations. She argues that, as with automation in other industries, a good tech stack can only augment and build upon the work of the people that employ it. Simply throwing money at tech investment is pointless without a team that understands how best that technology can be used, she warns: although the industry is undergoing a fundamental shift towards automation, for instance, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the technology should take primacy over the teams that use it.

“There's only so much you can do because, before you know it, you're managing your tech stack instead of doing what you want to do.

“That shift I mentioned earlier about marketing automation… it's not something I shout about and it's not something I'm going out of my way to point out to people, but at the same time I see that shift. And right now… I'm concerned about what that means for digital marketing in the future.”

She adds that some teams have specialties that are going to become more in demand as automation takes over the industry that cannot be replaced with tech tools.

“Your sales team, your technical team - they will never be replaced with digital tools, and I'd never like to see them replaced with digital tools if I'm honest. But they do facilitate growth of your audience, and they do facilitate keeping in touch with your audience...to keep them in sight and mind.”

Ultimately, then, Parker believes that the value of marketing teams is greater than just that of the technology they employ. However, combined with a clear strategic direction and human expertise, an effective tech stack can accelerate the efforts of a team in service of a company’s wider priorities.

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