In the final instalment of the Martech Heroes series, The Drum, in association with Stein IAS, talks to Sandy Ghuman, SVP data strategy at Silverbullet, to hear her thoughts on acquiring and managing martech.
With global marketing technology investment growing 22% last year and now valued at an estimated $121.5bn, the opportunities for data-driven marketing are increasing exponentially. For Ghuman it’s essential not to lose sight of your goals in a landscape “awash with data.” She highlights the importance of understanding your business and assets and recommends creating objectives as “a vital exercise that we often let slip by in an industry that changes so often.” In the following interview, Ghuman provides valuable insight into building a compliant and intelligent data strategy to help your business grow.
The Drum: A fast growing martech market requires new data skills – what does this mean for the marketing skills we need today? 

Sandy Ghuman: Marketing technology is an exciting place to be right now. The focus for CMOs is moving ever closer to the extraction of value from data through the means of technology – all within a safe and respectful way.

Getting this right – and building trust – is critical to continued martech growth, especially as the fast-growing digital formats open up even more opportunities for data-driven marketing. This requires a blend of technical expertise, true transparency and trusted skills, as well as a data culture – which are hard to find.

Businesses need to consider partnerships and collaboration with specialised services that can help them achieve their goals. It’s no longer enough to simply understand your target audience; we need to dig deep into our data sources to untap opportunities; we need to segment our data assets to best utilise them through activation methods; we need to head back to the future and discover fresh contextual intelligence methodologies to understand a world beyond the third-party cookie; and we need to generate data back into our businesses so we continue to grow intelligence.

Skill is extremely important for marketers moving forward. And collaboration is key – blending data and content expertise will be high on the agenda in a forward-thinking future.

TD:Businesses sometimes have over 400 different tools in what they consider their marketing technology stack. What should they consider and prioritise when acquiring new marketing technology? Top tips?

SG: Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? And it’s easy for businesses to become submerged in technology platforms. Don’t forget: just eight years ago the Marketing Technology Landscape consisted of circa 150 vendors – now, it’s well over 7,000; it can be a little overwhelming.

The key is in truly understanding your business and creating a closer relationship with what you have right now. Understanding your current state and creating your future objective(s) is such a vital exercise that we often let slip by in an industry that changes so often.

My advice would be to bring in a team of data and technology experts with deep experience who can help your business to truly understand the data assets available to them, and what architecture they therefore need.

We believe this part of the journey is most vital; you wouldn’t build a house on a weak foundation, so why take the same approach for your data and technology structure? Data isn’t just an asset – it’s there to be unlocked and turned into intelligence – fuel if you like – for businesses to grow and evolve. Without it, we’re blind in our approach.

Once you understand your business and the assets throughout, you can then create an architectural roadmap – designed specifically for you and your objectives. This might mean 200+ vendors, or it might require a more streamlined approach – it entirely depends on the size, ambition and needs of your business.

For those businesses perhaps stuck in a rut, and who are concerned they have too many different types of tools in place, I recommend assessing your current situation. You might find that 20% of your tech stack is no longer working for you. Our worlds change so quickly in this industry – don’t be afraid to regularly check your stacks and their performance.