How to manage your martech stack

I have a problem. My problem has cost me countless hours, wasted dollars and led to a decrease in my efficiency.

What is my problem? My problem is an obsession with trying, experimenting with and using all types of software involved in marketing.

I share my issue so that you can learn from my problem as you try to understand your school’s ‘martech stack’ and how to how to manage it in your work as a school Head.

What is a martech stack?

In an article for AdAge, George Slefo quotes James Thomas, CMO of marketing technology (martech) startup Allocadia, in explaining a martech stack this way:

“‘Think about a car,’ he says. ‘It has a collection of parts and technology, but ultimately, its job is to get you from point A to point B.

“‘A martech stack, in this case, is a number of different technologies from a number of different companies that’s meant to attract and retain customers in the most efficient way possible.’ To combine into a machine, that is, that gets marketers all the way from point A to point B.”

A martech stack for schools uses various software tools for email marketing, social media management and landing pages, etc. to help recruit new students and retain the students you currently have enrolled.

For example, at my school, we use seven tools in our standard martech stack. Our stack includes our website content management system (CMS), an email service provider (ESP), marketing automation software (HubSpot), Pinterest and Instagram scheduling tools, webinar software and additional software to help manage our Facebook and Google Ads.

How do you manage your school’s martech stack?

As school Head, you don’t need to select your school’s martech stack, but it is vital to have a general understanding so that you can better manage those in your team who do have this responsibility.

I recommend asking the following questions of your staff when they suggest adding a new piece of software to your martech stack.

  • Do we already have a tool that will do the same thing?
    Because of my obsession with tools, I frequently try new ones just because they are the next big thing. The issue is that we often already have software that accomplishes the same task but maybe in a different or less robust way.

  • Do we have the expertise in-house to manage the software?
    Sometimes when adding a new software tool to your martech stack, it’s essential to understand if you have the expertise in-house to manage the tool and the process that will result from using it. One example is the inbound marketing software from HubSpot. HubSpot software is incredibly powerful and can accomplish an unbelievable amount, but it’s very sophisticated and can seem complicated. Do you currently have the staff to manage the software? Are you going to need to hire a consultant to help on a short-term or long-term basis? How much will you have to invest in training to bring your staff up to speed with the software? These follow-up questions shouldn’t serve as a deterrent to using the software, but they do help in understanding the full cost of implementation and ongoing use.

  • Does our marketing philosophy agree with the tool’s implementation?
    Let me explain this question using HubSpot again as an example. HubSpot is software that helps you do inbound marketing. When you sign up for this tool, you implicitly agree to use the inbound marketing methodology. Are your people aware of that?

  • How will we measure success in using the tool?
    This is probably my favourite question to ask. As I shared earlier, I like to try, experiment with and use all types of software, especially new software. This question is vital for a couple of reasons. First, it’s always important to know, in advance, how you will measure success with the tool and, in turn, justify the cost of the software. Secondly, I’ve found that by asking this question before starting with a new tool causes me to pause and evaluate the necessity of starting with this tool in the first place.

  • Finally, what are we not able to accomplish with our current stack and will this piece of software remedy that?
    Before adding a new piece of software, this should be the final question you ask your team. If they are not able to answer this question, it might be worth searching for another solution.

So the next time someone wants to use a new software tool, ask if there is a methodology or process that the tool is based on and if it’s the best fit for your school.

Brendan Schneider is the Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy in Pennsylvania USA, and a leader in the field of inbound marketing for schools. He is also the Founder of SchneiderB Media, a digital marketing agency specialising in helping schools use inbound marketing. Podcast:

SMJ Brendan Schneider

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