This post was originally published in MarTech Advisor

At last count – and this was almost a year ago – there were 3,874 marketing technology solutions on the market. I explored some of these in my last post, but it’s obviously impossible to sum up almost 4,000 tech offerings in one article. The breadth and scale of the relatively nascent MarTech industry is impressive, by equal turns inspiring and bewildering. What it’s not, at least to CMOs and other marketing leaders, is surprising. You know how much MarTech is out there, because there’s a good chance that you’ve been part of its explosion.

How many tools are in your MarTech stack? If you’re an average marketer, the answer is around 12 – but almost 10% of your peers are using 31 or more tools to manage campaigns and data (and those stats are from 2015!) We have tools for email marketing, social media, ecommerce, search, events, video, content, chat, loyalty. We track SEO, SEM, PPC, CRO, PR. We use marketing automation, predictive analytics, CRMs, DMPs, DSPs, CMSs and more to understand mobile, social, desktop, display, direct mail, TV, radio, in-store, online, offline – the list goes on and on. We spend a tremendous amount of time and money researching, purchasing, installing, configuring, integrating, and upgrading these tools. Some perform very well. Many provide a vast amount of data about their piece of the puzzle. The better ones help transform that data into meaningful information. The best ones make it relevant at multiple levels of the organization, from the analyst down in the trenches to the C-suite. These are few and far between. However, the big question still looms. How to connect the dots across them all?

Most MarTech tools claim, in some way, to be cross- or multi-channel; that is, to deliver that data and those insights across more than one slice of the ecosystem. Very few deliver on this promise, and when they do, it is typically only for a slightly bigger slice – not the whole pie. Social media analytics solutions, for example, claim to be multi-channel because they measure Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. True, that is more than one channel. But while it may be multi-channel by the letter of the law, it doesn’t capture the spirit of what marketers need: true visibility into not only what’s happening across all of the myriad ways in which we interact with our prospects and customers, but also how all of those interactions impact each other, in real time.

There is no magic bullet. But there is an alternative to an overstuffed stack that churns out disparate data in disparate places. The most worthwhile marketing technology serves as an intelligence layer that connects the dots to illuminate the entire customer journey. Instead of a siloed point solution, it operates across the enterprise on every axis; horizontally across programs, campaigns, and business units, and vertically, up to the CMO and down to the folks crunching numbers.

An enterprise-level measurement and attribution solution offers one tool for both strategy and execution. It cuts through not only the many, many channels, vendors and tools; but also normalized and unifies the different file types, data formats, storage locations, interfaces, and capabilities of each point solution in your stack. As a result, it delivers real cross-channel insights that enable informed, data-driven decisions. It makes it easy to see which tools, channels, and tactics are driving value, and therefore to calculate ROI on both your marketing and technology investments.

What does this look like in practice? Sophisticated enterprise-level measurement and attribution solution provides both the 30,000 foot view and let you get down in the weeds. You could see, for instance, that your SEM campaign boosted the effectiveness of your TV ads by 13%, and how that TV boost impacted subsequent channel performance – important metrics for the strategy leaders. But you can also drill down to understand precisely which keywords and which placements performed best at what times – the information that tacticians need.

You can also look across all of your campaigns to understand concepts like frequency and overlap. If you’re operating multi-channel campaigns, there is a good chance that you’re hitting the same people in several different places. The right intelligence layer can help you determine the point of diminishing returns and the correct frequency to optimize conversions, holistically across channels, vendors and tools. Similarly, if you’re using multiple publishers for your display programs, you’re likely targeting the same segment. These solutions demystify the redundancy in your cross-channel campaigns so your media – and your budget – isn’t wasted. Point solutions for managing and measuring the numerous, diverse aspects of your marketing programs aren’t inherently a bad thing. But they’re not enough on their own. Without an intelligence layer to connect the dots between people and places, channels, vendors, tools and tactics, you’ll never see the complete picture of your customer’s journey.

by Alison Latimer Lohse, COO, Co-Founder @AliLeeLat