This post was updated May 12, 2023, and originally posted December 17, 2021.
Marketing operations (MOPS) is an evolving, multidisciplinary, and multifaceted function with a single goal: to improve and prove the value of marketing. MOPS is about blending martech, people, and processes to drive that single goal. In this four-part blog series, called “MOPS and Optimizing Martech,” we’ll explore the role of MOPS in: (1) developing a martech strategy, (2) integrating new martech into an existing stack, (3) driving martech adoption by enabling people/users, and (4) maintaining and adapting a martech stack, with a focus on scaling and future-proofing said stack.
The stakes are always high when it comes to martech integration. As Sojourn’s 2021 Marketing Operations Report explains it: “The long and often arduous process of integration must be completed before any value can be extracted [from martech] and even then, few organizations take full advantage of a given technology’s capabilities . . .Companies with a named operations function are more than twice as likely to say that martech integration is a significant strength.”
To better understand why effectively integrating new martech is so important for marketing success, we spoke with Sojourn’s Phil Boyden (Partner and Alliance Manager). “You need to connect and leverage your martech and your data in order to build a clear, actionable picture of your customers that you can act upon,” says Boyden. The more you know about customers, the better you can serve them the right messaging at the right time. “As you’re mapping the customer journey and all its touch points,” says Boyden, “your technology stack needs to connect to and follow that same journey in a seamless, integrated way.”
Martech integration should be viewed as a holistic process involving more than just connecting tech. Also critical? Marketing and sales alignment, data strategy and analysis, measurement, and the people and teams required to run everything. Getting martech integration right isn’t always easy, but it’s essential for marketing and MOPS effectiveness, as we’ll explain.
The growing complexities of martech integration
There are over 11,000 martech tools/apps now available to help you market effectively, adding to the complexities of martech integration. If you always selected the best-in-class martech tools for your particular needs, they may not necessarily integrate with the tech stack you've got now.
“Middleware can start to come in to help. You need APIs and middleware that are capable of speaking smoothly to any of these pieces of martech as they get integrated into your existing martech stack,” says Boyden.
New martech tools are not always going to integrate at the push of a button, no matter what martech sales people might say about “plug and play.” Middleware can help with orchestrations or data flows, helping tools and systems speak to each other. There are also tools that can help transform your data to ensure it can flow in and out of martech and middleware to support integrations.
What could go wrong? (A lot)
Much can go wrong with integrations, resulting in a stack that looks like a Frankenstein monster of random parts that don’t bolt together seamlessly. Boyden offers the example of “a company we spoke with where some of their preference forms sent data to one place and other forms sent preference data to another place -- they also had their CRM and MAP collecting and sending data.” The company had a custom integration sitting in the middle to make the data flows work, “but it was misfiring,” says Boyden. By the time they realized they had a problem, he says, they had no clue about what was “the actual source of truth regarding their customer data. So they couldn’t tell which systems were working or not.”
There were ripple effects as a result. “They didn't know whether they were complying with GDPR. They didn't know whether they could contact any of the people in their database. They therefore had to stop communicating with their customers and get this mess fixed,” says Boyden, “and then try to track stuff back.” To make a long story short: the integration mess ruined all the company’s marketing efforts and put them in jeopardy of breach regarding GDPR, triggering potential legal liability and penalties. That’s an integration nightmare.
Common integration challenges
A great new martech tool comes along to save the day. You get told by an enthusiastic salesperson that integration is simple. They have this out-of-the-box integration included and it's a single click which sets up right away. It’s exactly what you wanted to hear. What could possibly go wrong?
“When you get into the details of integrations, a lot can go wrong,” says Boyden. It might turn out that your customer data in custom fields is not included in the “out-of-the-box” integration. So you buy or build new options to solve your problems and next thing you know, you've got more issues than before “such as siloed data and then you have to find workarounds or make other adjustments that can disrupt your marketing efforts,” Boyden says. Marketing efforts can get disrupted and martech tools can get quickly abandoned or banished to “the island of unintegrated martech.”
Planning and executing effective integrations
Planning your integrations well in advance is key. “You need to get everybody involved in the same room at the start and build a roadmap,” says Boyden. “You should have discussions around what needs to happen, hash out disagreements, and then define a consensus around who does what and when, what data should flow in and out, the timing of everything and how to handle potential disruptions, along with what steps are required to make the whole integration process work.”
It’s highly likely that existing data flows would be impacted during the integration of the new martech tool. Reporting would also likely be disrupted. How will you work around these issues every step of the way?
“You can have the world's best martech tool and the best middleware for the integration,” says Boyden, “but it's no good if you’re not actually supporting your people and the business during the integration process.” That requires effective planning, execution, and coordination.
Consultants can help, bringing a clear focus on the big picture. They’ll understand all the systems that are in play and what the role of each system is within the integration process. They know which team members to speak to, and how to guide them. “Too often with companies integrating tech, the right hand doesn't know what the left hand is doing: good consultants will pull everything together and guide the project so the work gets done efficiently and with minimal disruption,” Boyden says. Sojourn, for instance, has expert professionals from different backgrounds who can draw upon their expertise to drive effective martech integrations for a client company.
“We know marketing operations, what data needs to flow where and when, we know the relevant platforms and how the entire integration processes should work,” says Boyden. “Marketing has often been viewed as a cost center, but we help marketing clients improve and prove marketing as a revenue-driver.”
That shift changes everything, helping marketing not only integrate martech effectively but also get more budget and more credibility with the C-suite.
For more information about MOPS and martech, and how you can build your MOPS maturity in order to improve marketing outcomes, reach out to us.