If you’ve been a CMO for a B2B company for any number of years, it’s likely many of the technology purchasing decisions for the marketing department have begun to fall squarely in your lap—and the new challenge is making you squirm.

It’s not that you don’t know the marketing ropes. You’ve launched new products, promoted them, gauged customer interest and reactions, and developed top-notch customer service before. However, while you might employ MailChimp or ExactTarget to handle mass emails—or even a Salesforce CRM application to build a customer database—there’s often very little cohesiveness to the new technology you acquire in the early goings of building a MarTech stack.

Now, you’re being charged with finding new tech that improves your current workflow processes, or that adds new processes such as social networking, content management, data analytics, and more. Plus, these processes and technologies must work seamlessly together. Across all channels.

You’re not alone by any stretch of the imagination if this is your current state of being in the work place. In fact, Gartner predicted back in 2012 that CMOs would spend more on technology than CIOs by 2017, and that’s very close to becoming reality.

The key to making the right purchases is to spend that money wisely. The book, Driving Demand: Transforming B2B Marketing to Meet the Needs of the Modern Buyer refers to an ITSMA study that concludes, “Only 30 percent of companies responding believe they are receiving value from marketing technology (MarTech) investments with the top barriers to success as, no strategy or plan, but rather a management plan…cobbled together over time.”

Today, there are thousands of suites, platforms, and apps available from nearly 2,000 vendors—up from just 100 three years ago—all of which are clamoring for their share of the $20.8 billion MarTech software industry expected by 2018. The sheer number and variety of products may be confusing for the less-than-tech savvy CMO, but it doesn’t have to be.

Keep in mind that the principles of marketing over the past century remain largely the same: You develop products, define your target audience, create promotional campaigns, gauge customer reactions, and do everything you can to keep them happy.

However, the Internet has forever changed the way customers shop and, as a result, how marketers can engage them most effectively. Think informational online content instead of pamphlets, and social media rather than face-to-face interaction at trade shows.

Today, technology exists to make nearly every marketing process run better and smarter. In today’s market-speak, a conglomerate of technologies put together to support these processes is called a marketing stack. There’s no reason to make it any more complicated than that. Besides, the money for these products may come from the marketing department’s budget, but rest assured, you can always tap into your company’s IT expertise when making decisions.

These three best practices will provide you with a solid foundation for building your unique stack—because two stacks are rarely, if ever, alike.

Define Your Business Goals

Before you even consider acquiring any new technology, make sure you know precisely what business goals you need your MarTech stack to accomplish. Do you want your processes to drive revenue, streamline email campaigns, or manage website content? Or, say you want to improve your customer database and be able to better analyze customer interactions. Further, the goals should be specific and measurable. By being as specific as possible, you’ll be able to seek out products designed to work toward your unique set of needs.

Never put the Cart Before the Horse

Start by identifying the processes you want to improve or automate, instead of seeking out new technology first. This might go without saying, but it’s never a good idea to purchase software before you’re sure it will fit into your plan for building better work flows, and creating better reporting.

While some B2B teams are chomping at the bit to buy marketing technology, industry thought leaders like Cari Baldwin, warn against falling into the doing-too-much-too-soon syndrome. “I see a lot of cases where people buy these tools and then ask what they actually want to accomplish with them,” she said in a report entitled: Marketing Tech 101 An Executive Guide to Understanding and Applying Emerging Technologies. “Don’t just buy something because it’s cool — buy it because you need to get answers to specific questions, and your existing tools can’t get the job done.”

Build Your Hub, and Expand From There

According to Radius, the average number of tools in a marketing stack is 17. But yours could be more or less. It’s best to start small and expand. MarTech experts suggest that you build a solid foundation that includes three key elements:

Before branching out too far, these three key elements should be secured into the stack first: a centralized hub that stores data and integrates with any other data-related tools; a marketing automation tool that, in the best-case scenario, works in conjunction with a CRM; and an analytics tool that delivers detailed reports about web site traffic, conversions and tracking.
Keeping it simple to start will allow you to add new technologies as you deem necessary. According to Brinker’s Marketing Technology Landscape, distinguishing between need to have and nice to have is key to building a successful stack.

Remember, sticking to a slimmer stack in the beginning will allow for more flexibility and scalability down the road when you’ll have a better grasp on additional needs.

When adding to a current technology stack or building one from scratch, it’s important that you work within your means and your company’s means in terms of knowledge, system requirements and business goals. Once you have a handle on the basics, you’ll feel more confident with the new challenges added to your plate as a CMO.

If you would like to delve a little deeper, read “How to Build the Ultimate Marketing Technology Stack.”