At this year’s MarTech conference, Program Chair Scott Brinker revealed the most recent version of what has become an annual tradition: the 2018 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, also known as the “Martech 5000.”
The graphic is more crowded than ever, with 6,829 logos showing how technologies keep cropping up. At the same time, companies’ martech stacks keep growing. According to Netskope, in mid-2017 the average enterprise used 91 marketing cloud services, and that number has likely grown in 2018.
We usually associate growth with progress. But progress always comes at a cost—and not just the cost to purchase a software license. So what is the cost of growing a martech stack, and are companies prepared to pay that cost?
More Tech = New Solutions + New Problems
Each technology in a martech stack presents its own allure: to automate, optimize, maximize, minimize, expedite, you name it.
As buzzy as those words may be, there is some truth to them. By using technology to streamline their marketing processes, marketing departments can be leaner and have time for other, more constructive efforts.
So adding technology is good, but each layer on the stack adds an additional layer of complexity—what you might call complexity debt, the underlying cost of a growing martech stack.
Complexity debt is particularly a problem with technologies that require you to install code (called tags) directly onto your website. These tag-dependent technologies can suck up your resources if they’re not properly maintained which, as you can guess, will cost you something, either now or later.
What Are Tag-Dependent Technologies?
Tag-dependent technologies are technology solutions that require you to install a tag on your website in order for the solution to function. Web analytics tools like Adobe Analytics and Google Analytics are prime examples—without installing a tracking tag on your site, these tools are useless.
Web analytics tools aren’t the only tag-dependent technologies. A healthy chunk of the technologies in a martech stack rely on tags to gather data and fulfill their roles in the stack.
To give you an example, in Cisco’s martech stack about 20% of their technologies use tags to gather data. Here are some other tag-dependent technologies you’re likely familiar with and probably use:
We have an even longer list in our tag database.
Alright, so what? Why does it matter that some of your main technologies are tag-dependent? Why are we talking about this?
Because you need to know that tags can break.
Websites are dynamic creatures. They change on the regular. As a result, tags can break. And when a tag breaks, so does that tag-dependent technology you invested in.
Testing and Maintaining Your Tags
Because you can’t do away with your tag-dependent technologies—especially not your web analytics tool—you have to find a way to test those tags to make sure they’re working.
You could approach the process manually, parsing out all the network requests on every page of your site after every release for the rest of time.
Probably actually no.
Having an analyst, marketer or IT pro manually check tags might be realistic in the short-term. But as your stack of tag-dependent tech grows, manual tag maintenance will quickly exceed your resources.
There are just too many tags on too many pages. Here is an example of the tags on one media website’s homepage:
That’s just one page. Some websites have thousands or even millions of pages, with multiple tags on each.
So when website growth and tag complexity exceed the scalability of your manual tag-testing efforts, the answer is to fight fire with fire. You’re going to need add one more technology to your stack: a tag monitoring solution.
Tag Monitoring Solutions
Tag monitoring is an automated process that monitors the analytics and marketing tags on your site to ensure they’re properly collecting and transmitting data.
Through website audits and journey testing, you can frequently scan large portions of your site to ensure your tags are always up and running. So whenever a tag breaks or disappears, your tag monitoring tool will alert you of the issue so it can be fixed.