How To Optimize Your Martech Stack With Niche Platforms

Learn from Swaroop Reddy why enterprises should consider niche platforms to optimize their martech stack and how they should go about it.

While many enterprise-level companies use large or popular marketing platforms, capability gaps can still exist. Swaroop Reddy, CIO, OPMG, explains why enterprises should consider niche platforms to optimize their martech stack. He also explains how to optimize their martech stack with niche platforms.

Enterprise-level businesses used to invest only in large marketing platforms. But in today’s digital climate, it may be the more niche marketing platform that can best conquer our challenges.

I remember starting my career in the year 2000. It was the first era of software startups; only we did not call them startups; we called them dot-coms. There were still big players then — Oracle, IBM, Microsoft — and they all had or were acquiring technologies to tackle the high-tech space. But they all had gaps, and dot-coms filled them.

Since then, the breadth and depth of high tech have soared. We can do more things, and we can do old things differently. More large players emerged, like Adobe, Salesforce, and others. Despite all these new players, however, the martech space continues to grow astronomically — more than 5,000%Opens a new window  since 2011, according to

But just as it was two decades ago, a widely used platform does not mean there are not still gaps in its capabilities.

Advantages That Are Impossible To Ignore

While high tech has evolved, so have business models. Collectively, we have learned that there is a competitive advantage in bringing new high tech to market. Digital strategies overcome traditional brick-and-mortar business barriers and give us unlimited reach with fewer resources to grow our businesses. So filling those gaps with innovative technologies has become a legitimate competitive advantage.

To do this, we have had to adopt models of technology integration that are contradictory to old ways of business, where big businesses only worked with big partners. We have learned to accept that although smaller platform providers come with operational risks, not accepting that danger comes with a business risk of irrelevance and lost competitive advantage.

So why have niche marketing platforms gained momentum? Because niche platforms give us a competitive advantage that we cannot ignore. And we have adapted to accept that.

The Benefits of the ‘Amazon Approach’

I had the privilege of being a technology leader at one of the largest and most infamous financial companies at the time: AIG. I worked for the global CTO. Half of our job was battling our global business units from straying from our vision of a unified and standard technology capability for our client-facing technologies.

When we all left AIG, the global CTO moved to Amazon AWS. He stayed there for several years and left a changed man. Never would he think the way he thought at AIG. Never would he stick to the old ways of technology governance because he saw the light. He saw that the old ways were just that: old. Technology leaders try to get their arms around problems by controlling them — installing governance models, preferred platforms, and what we in IT call “standards.”

But Amazon has a “principles over standards” approach to platforms centered on delivering results over conformance to policy. As long as the technology fulfills its security and scalability expectations, Amazon can go wherever its quest for agility takes it.

How To Merge Platforms Successfully

The old “iron triangle” of scope, time, and cost has become an agility triangle: quality, value, and speed. This ethos is having a transformative effect on the market. Gone are the days of being tied to technology governance; letting go of standards enables quicker learning and a product that more directly pleases the consumer.

So how should businesses combine large and niche platforms? Organizations must establish their desired outcomes to understand how a combination of platforms could work for them. This starts with defining a vision: a clear statement about what these technology investments need to do. Then, you need a capability model — a mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive list of what is required to fulfill your vision. A gap analysis is next. Which technologies are currently covering the areas of your capability model? What is left? This should leave you with a road map for adopting platforms to fill your needs.

Platform combinations can achieve better innovation. Consumers need products that have trusted foundational capabilities, but they also need new capabilities that continue to “beat” the market. A proper mix of platforms allows marketers to establish these criteria while fulfilling their unique vision.

Optimizing Your Marketing Stack

Are you ready to get started? To realize the most value from your platform investments, you will need to:

1. Expect (and embrace) failure

All technology investments have a higher chance of failure than success, but given enough time, we find that technology investments eventually realize value. Why? Because time is an important factor. Time gives us learnings. Time gives us the ability to adjust and optimize. We can take advantage of this by integrating our learnings early by releasing smaller, fully functional tests of our investment into the market. This will push the value realization curve earlier in the investment life cycle.

2. Be flexible

Instagram was once a check-in app called BurbnOpens a new window . That is right — it was a Foursquare-like check-in app that just happened to have a good photo-sharing feature. After measuring usage and successes in the app, the founders realized that their current market was saturated but that there was a clear gap in the photo-sharing social space. They took advantage of this learning and created Instagram from Burbn. The lesson learned? Be flexible. Make clear metrics, but understand that your path to get there does not end with the project — but is a non-stop path to build and realize a product that realizes value.

3. Integrate measurements

Following the “flexible” rule, you cannot be flexible if you cannot tell what is working and what is not. Because of this, measurements become critical. Integrating business measurements throughout your investments and regularly reporting, optimizing, and defining direction based on measurements will be the difference between success and failure.

Ultimately, you should not rely on the biggest marketing platforms to best serve your uniquely complex mission. Instead, optimize your marketing stack toward your business goals by complementing large platforms with smaller, more niche players to experience the best of both worlds.

Swaroop Reddy

Chief Information Officer

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