Good Tools Are Not Enough: Here’s Why

» 9 min read


By Stetson Barnhouse

The MarTech (marketing technology) world has evolved tremendously in the past decade. What began as a few scattered SaaS offerings has exploded into a dizzying array of software products — from the integrated, enterprise-ready stack to the specialized data tool. Whatever the use case, whatever marketing task you’re trying to accomplish, the question is less often “Is there a solution for this?” than “How on earth do I choose?"

Diverse requirements, competing priorities, and limited resources mean you need to carefully plan your MarTech stack. This will enable you to better organize your data, manage your marketing campaigns, and use your budget wisely on activities that increase your ROI.

So, with such a wide variety of offerings out there, how do you start building your MarTech stack?

Good tools are not enough-heres why


Your MarTech stack is a workshop toolbox. The quality of the tools you put in it is important, but even more important are things like:

  • Knowing what each tool can do
  • Knowing when to use which tools
  • Keeping the tools clean
  • Keeping the tools organized and easily accessible
  • Knowing how to use each tool – and practicing!

No matter how well-designed they are, no matter how tight the manufacturing tolerances or how polished the fit and finish, even the best tools are subject to the situations and environment in which they’re used. And they’re only as good as the people using them.

The MarTech Toolbox

Know your tools

Do you know what’s in your toolbox, and what you’re using those tools for? Does each tool have a specific place, or are things just kind of thrown in there? Do you know the difference between a framing hammer and a pipe wrench?

Just as the tools in a toolbox have roles and purposes, so do the tools in your MarTech stack. Your A/B testing software and your data warehouse might both have a role to play in a given project, but they aren’t interchangeable. A data management platform (DMP) and a customer data platform (CDP) are related technologies, but you don’t want to use your CDP to manage third-party data. Your data warehouse is an incredible source of aggregate and granular data, but it’s not useful for real-time analytics.

It's also critical to select the right mix of software for your business, and that doesn’t always look like “the most powerful/most expensive/biggest vendor.” Identify the needs of your organization and coordinate between business units wherever possible. Research your options upfront, check in advance for issues with compatibility or compliance, and factor those considerations into a formal RFP (request for proposals) process.

Once tools are selected and acquired, invest in training and education for stakeholders, power users, etc. Take the time and expend the effort to learn about the tools you’re evaluating, identify what they can and can’t (or should and shouldn’t) do, and keep a living knowledge base so tribal knowledge doesn’t get lost with staff turnover.

Maintain Your Tools

1. Keep a clean stack

If two tools in your stack can perform the same task, identify which one is preferred, and stick with it. If the functional boundaries between the various components of your stack are blurry, take some time to clarify them, either via process or through tighter technical integration between those components.

And be on the lookout for shifts in customer behavior – drops in engagement, increases in complaints, etc. Issues with poorly integrated MarTech components often manifest as degraded customer experiences and weak, irrelevant, or inaccurate targeting/personalization.

2. Keep CDP data “clean”

A CDP is only as good as the data flowing into it. Standardize everything you can, as early as you can. Use your CDP’s built-in tools to detect irrelevant, duplicate or missing data. Homogenize formatting and either update outdated information through customer interaction and verification or by comparison with imported third-party data.

3. Keep your stack in good repair

Watch for implementation/integration/connector issues. Audit your data and tagging regularly. Are weird values or unexpected numbers showing up in reports? Something’s probably broken. Hire or contract with certified platform experts to help you audit your systems, identify implementation/integration issues, and fix them.

4. Keep your tools organized & accessible

Make tool access part of your business units’ standard onboarding/departure procedure. Make sure the right people can use the tools they need the moment they start working, and make sure the wrong people don’t have access.

  • Centralize links to different SaaS products on an intranet page if you have a heterogeneous stack


  • Make sure new hires/transfers know where to find the “hub” of an integrated SaaS stack (for example, for the Adobe Experience Cloud).

Use Your Tools

1. Learn to use them properly

Many businesses struggle with the adoption of MarTech tools because folks just plain don’t know how to use them, and it shows in the performance (or underperformance) of marketing initiatives. Marketers must be empowered to understand the full potential of the tools and technology they choose to integrate and implement.

Invest in training! Pay for your tech staff to get certified, and keep the certifications current. Conduct in-house learning sessions and promote informal knowledge-sharing. The return on investment will surprise you.

2. Practice, practice, practice!

“Oh, we don’t use _____ for that report, because nobody knows how to use it. We just use Excel.” How many times have you heard that or something similar?  It’s a common response, and it’s both understandable and completely wrongheaded. If you’re not using your MarTech tools, playing with them even when there’s not an urgent question to answer, you’re missing out on the opportunity to truly master them.

Find or create ways to use your tools every day, even if it’s just spinning up a quick report or checking in on a campaign or audience definition. If practice makes perfect, disuse makes for disappointment.

3. Don’t wait until an emergency to learn how to use a tool

Related to our last point, organizations all too often ignore a tool with a steep learning curve until something goes wrong. The mad scramble to learn under fire is motivating, but not in a good way – and it incentivizes bad behavior by everyone from leadership to the poor souls debugging the code. Don’t make that costly mistake.

About TA Digital

TA Digital is the only global boutique agency that delivers the “best of both worlds” to clients seeking to achieve organizational success through digital transformation. Unlike smaller, regional agencies that lack the ability to scale or large organizations that succumb to a quantity-over-quality approach, we offer resource diversity while also providing meticulous attention to the details that enable strategic success.

Over the past 20 years, TA Digital has positioned clients to achieve digital maturity by focusing on data, customer-centricity, and exponential return on investment; by melding exceptional user experience and data-driven methodologies with artificial intelligence and machine learning, we enable digital transformations that intelligently build upon the strategies we set into motion. We are known as a global leader that assists marketing and technology executives in understanding the digital ecosystem while identifying cultural and operational gaps within their business – ultimately ushering organizations toward a more mature model and profitable digital landscape.

Recognized in 2013, 2014, 2015, 2019, 2020 and 2021 Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest growing companies in the United States, TA Digital is pleased also to share high-level strategic partnerships with world class digital experience platform companies like Adobe, SAP, AcquiacommercetoolsSitecore, and Elastic Path.


Stetson Barnhouse

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