CabinetM CEO says companies do not have a handle on their marketing technology stacks
Anita Brearton, CabinetM CEO, will be moderating the 'Insights from Inside the Marketing Stacks of Red Wing Shoe Co., iCrossing and Entuity' panel at MarTech Boston.
In 2014, after watching a number of companies with access to great technology still struggle to align their martech stacks with their their business objectives, Anita Brearton and her business partner, Sheryl Schultz, founded the marketing technology management platform, CabinetM.
“We had this huge explosion of new technology in the market landscape, and people started buying technology willy-nilly without any strategy behind it,” says Brearton, “Before you knew it, organizations had tons of technology that they were trying to get their arms around. That was the genesis of CabinetM.”
Brearton says her company has spent the last three years building a platform focused on helping organizations manage the technology they have and determine the technology they need. In doing so, CabinetM now has a database of more than 7,000 martech products.
As companies construct their marketing technology infrastructure on CabinetM, annotating their stacks with information about how they are using the different marketing technology, all of that data is being collected — what products are being used, and in what combinations.
As the moderator for the “Insights from Inside the Marketing Stacks of Red Wing Shoe Co., iCrossing and Entuity” panel at the MarTech Conference in Boston this October, Brearton says she will be able to share high-level insights derived from the CabinetM database. From there, she plans to take the conversation to a more granular level with panelists from a large e-commerce company, an agency and a global operation.
“I think these three panelists will have terrific insight from very different perspectives,” says Brearton. Today, the CEO shares what she has learned during the last three years helping companies build and manage martech stacks that effectively align with their business objectives.
What’s the split between the companies that come to you needing to build a martech stack from the ground up, and those that already have anchor platforms in place and integrated technologies but need help managing what they’ve already built?
Brearton: We have yet to meet a greenfield company. Not only do they have their anchor platforms in place, but they have all of this technology.
If you think about the early days of digital transformation, it was really all about the transference of budget from traditional marketing to online and mobile marketing. People were all excited about going online and doing stuff in mobile.
Companies were developing all these SaaS (software as a service) products, and what happened is that people have been swiping credit cards all over the organization. Most companies that come to us, the first thing they say is, “We do not have a handle on all of the technology that’s being used in our organization.”
Without that, there’s no way to plot a strategy going forward for digital transformation because we don’t even know what’s in place.
I think we’re in the transition period where people are just waking up to the fact that spending is out of control, and there’s no oversight — and they need to figure this out.
As a company that is focused on maximizing martech for other companies, what has been CabinetM’s biggest challenge around your own martech stack?
Brearton: We are a young company with very little budget and very few people. We started in 2014 and we’re still a tiny team — every penny counts.
I would say that the biggest challenge for us was in the CRM (customer relationship management) world, because we didn’t have the in-house expertise to use SalesForce, but we signed up for a SalesForce acccount.
Not only did we not have the in-house expertise, but because we’re running so fast and the hours in the day are precious, we found that we weren’t updating the records and so forth.
We were really stuck for awhile. We used to look at each other and say, “This is crazy, we’re a marketing tech-focused company, we need to do better here.”
We ended up with a very innovative new product called Spiro which automates virtually everything. It automatically sucks in emails. We don’t have to go in and add notes, it picks it all up and puts it all together for us. No only is it easy to use, but it saves a lot of time.
I think for any young company, you’ve got to look at the trade-off between money and time. We’re paying for Spiro, and we’re happy to pay for it because it saves us an enormous amount of time.
When do companies need to consider making sweeping changes around their martech stacks, possibly trading out foundational anchor systems?
Brearton: It’s such a huge decision to take out one platform and bring in another. I talked to a CMO who had taken out a CRM system and introduced another, and then didn’t realize until afterwards that the new system didn’t integrate with their marketing automation system. That was another $50,000, and custom code, and eight more weeks before he was up and operational.
I think taking out technology is very difficult because you have people trained on that technology — technology, particularly in the anchor-space, that is integrated with lots of other pieces. You have to have a strategy for unhooking that; and, frighteningly, a lot of companies have developed their own internal code to connect pieces together and haven’t done a very good job of tracking them.
Sometimes, the first time you know the pieces exist is when you rip something out and then everything goes to hell. It’s a huge undertaking to take out an existing platform, but I think the way to go about it is to do a logical assessment. What are the marketing objectives? How does the platform serve the objective? What is the return on investment for that platform?
And if the performance in return is not there, then I think you have to have a strategy to replace.
One of the things we’ve seen, and we cringe at, is somebody new comes into the organization and they have familiarity with a different marketing automation platform. And so, they push to have that platform in place simply because that’s the one they’re familiar with. I think that’s the wrong reason to displace a platform.
That’s one side of the story. The other side of the story — that is starting to be written now — is every marketing tech stack needs some sort of a customer data platform that becomes the single source of truth for all customer data — and links together all the different marketing and sales platforms to have a common and integrated view of customer data.
People are just now starting to look at deploying those as anchor platforms. I think that’s probably a big mission for most marketing technology or CMO organizations over the next 12 to 24 months.
Speaking of CMO organizations, how do you see the role of chief marketing technology officer evolving and fitting into the C-suite alongside the CMO role?
Brearton: I think more and more organizations are hiring marketing technologists or marketing operation folks, and building those teams. I see them as a bridge between the traditional marketing roles and IT.
Generally, the people in the marketing technology functions have come from very IT-centric areas, and they’re deeply technical. I think they’re a must-have. In the end, the best organizations are the ones where the Chief Marketing Technologist works hand-in-hand with the CMO.
The CMO is the one who’s translating business objectives into marketing objectives. It becomes the role of the chief marketing technologist to look at technology and how it might support the realization of the marketing objectives.
Today, it’s unrealistic to assume that a CMO is going to have all of those technology skills. It’ll be interesting if the CMO-persona looks different 10 years from now as the Chief Marketing Technologists grow up into the CMO role — but, right now, I do believe you need those roles.
One of the things that’s been very interesting is when we started the company, we did the whole six months of validation of the idea. We went from organization to organization and talked to CMOs. Over and over again in the early days, we heard CMOs talk about the antagonistic relationships they had with the IT department.
Fast-forward three years, it’s very different. Most of them will tell you that they are working to build a trusted relationship with IT — beyond setting up a marketing technology organization, they’re reaching all the way into IT as well.
If you’re headed to the MarTech Boston Conference, be sure to attend Anita Brearton’s session on Wednesday, October 4. As part of the conference’s technology track, “Insights from Inside the Marketing Stacks of Red Wing Shoe Co., iCrossing and Entuity,” the panel will include Jeff Harvey, the Director of Marketing Technology for Red Wing Shoe Co.; Laurie Vice President of World Wide Marketing for Entuity; and, Shiva Vannavada, CTO at iCrossing.