You probably use a variety of technologies and online tools to improve your sales and marketing. Most businesses add to their MarTech stack as they see fit, without ever actually taking the time to evaluate it as a whole. So it’s no surprise that only 9 percent of companies have a complete, fully utilized MarTech stack (according to an Ascend2 report).
If you want to build a complete network of marketing technologies, it’s important to think of it as an interconnected system and evaluate it as a whole. Here’s everything you need to know to succeed at building the ultimate B2C MarTech stack.
Define your Business Problems
There’s no reason to add technologies to your MarTech stack just because you think you should. To build an effective stack, you should focus on adding the technologies that will address specific issues.
So start by defining your business’ sales and marketing problems. You (hopefully) already have well-defined marketing goals. Evaluate what challenges you’re facing in achieving them, or maximizing results from your efforts.
This also involves taking a hard look at your customer journey through the buying stages. Turn to your buyer personas and current customer data to identify what factors keep leads from converting, which parts of the customer journey lack data, how your lead nurturing efforts could be more focused, etc.
Soon you’ll be able to draw a picture of what problems you might be able to address with a better MarTech stack. Lack of data, poor integration, issues with organizational coordination and data analysis issues are all popular examples of business problems that better MarTech can help with.
Analyze your Current Stack
Now, before you run out and start looking for new technologies to fix your marketing and sales problems, you first need to take stock of what technologies you already use. This will help you further understand where your gaps are, as well as identify tools that will serve as hubs for your stack.
You could create this list manually, or better yet, develop a visual representation, then categorize your technologies. Ghostery is a free tool that can help you do this. It helps you identify the marketing tools and trackers a website (yours) uses. Then you can turn it into a visual map that also shows you how the various technologies interact with each other. Here’s an example map for NFL.com:
You may or may not already have clear hubs for your marketing stack. That’s okay, you will add them. Usually, your content management platform, main marketing automation solution, and CRM will serve as hubs for your stack.
Key Elements of a B2C MarTech Stack
Once you have an idea of what your current stack consists of, you can compare it to the basic elements of a complete MarTech stack.
Here’s an overview of some of the main categories of technologies your MarTech stack should have:
Advertising and promotion
The right advertising technologies can help drive all sorts of business goals, such as building brand awareness, capturing leads, driving conversions and sales, etc. Which advertising technologies you need in your MarTech stack really depend on where your audience is located on the web and your goals. If your main goal is driving product sales and conversions, then Google and Amazon PPC ads would be relevant. If you want to remarket to current leads, then Facebook remarketing and Google Display Advertising make sense.
There are also a variety of third-party advertising networks you can consider as well. Some give options for native advertising, allowing you to promote content instead of products and services. This is a great option to build brand awareness and attract top-of-the-funnel traffic.
Your website is arguably the most important aspect of your MarTech stack. For most brands, their website is the main hub from which the launch all marketing and sales initiatives. Your website content management system (CMS) makes it possible to create pages of content on your site. While some businesses feel the need to code their own sites, a CMS tool like WordPress has all the features and power you need to quickly create, edit, or delete pages on your site.
Your website may or may not be the only CMS you use as part of your MarTech stack. Many businesses use third-party platforms like Medium to host their blog, for example. Whether or not you need one or more content management systems really depends on your goals and content strategy.
Marketing automation technology is usually one of the first tools marketers add to their MarTech stack. According to a Smart Insights survey, it’s the most commonly used marketing technology after social media management tools:
Marketing automation tools are designed to help you save time by automating tedious tasks, and can provide opportunities to optimize your marketing and sales processes through automation.
Marketo and Hubspot are examples of comprehensive marketing automation technologies. Hubspot is actually a suite of tools that can help improve productivity, lead capture, prospect nurturing, and more.
You very well may use other marketing automation tools as part of your stack as well. Social media and blog post scheduling tools are examples of this.
If your main goal is sales and marketing, then the social media platforms you use qualify as part of your MarTech stack as well. You’ll want to note what social media platforms you use for marketing (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) so you can ensure your other relevant technologies integrate with them. For example, you may use a social media automation tool like Hootsuite or Buffer to schedule posts and analyze your performance efforts.
Paid social media is another factor that could fall under the advertising or social media category. You should consider the advertising branches of Facebook and other social media platforms as separate technologies that make up part of your stack.
Email remains one of the most effective ways to nurture leads on the web. With email marketing tools, it’s possible to send out the right marketing messages at the right time, while segmenting your audience to deliver a more relevant message.
Low-budget businesses can opt for a free or freemium email marketing service like MailChimp or Constant Contact. Most email tools have helpful integrations with other major tech, like your CRM. If you’re looking to minimize the number of tools in your stack, then you can invest more in an all-in-one marketing automation tool (discussed above).
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is designed to help you track and nurture leads, either through automated processes or data insights to improve your outreach efforts. By tracking lead behavior across touchpoints, a good CRM makes it possible to identify the right time for your sales team to reach out, as well as contextual insights to deliver a more relevant message.
There are a lot of affordable CRM systems out there with varying features and integrations you can investigate. HubSpot CRM is one free option that integrates seamlessly with the rest of HubSpot technologies. You’ll want to consider the makeup of your current stack when choosing the right CRM for your needs.
Data analytics tools are essential to derive insights from your marketing and sales initiatives. Google Analytics is a standard tool just about every business uses for website performance analytics. But you may want some more advanced features that only a paid tool like Kissmetrics can provide. It all depends on your goals.
Many technologies have data analytics tools built right in (e.g. your social media automation tool gives insights into the performance of your tweets). But the key is to have the right integrations so you’re not using this data in isolation. The better picture you can paint of your customer journey as a whole, the more relevant insights you can derive from your data analysis efforts.
Look for Gaps in your Capabilities
Now you’re ready to start identifying what processes and data you’re lacking to optimize your sales and marketing efforts. Your Ghostery map and/or the categories of tools you use might illustrate some obvious gaps. Maybe you use several technologies to improve your on-site user experience, but you lack lead tracking capabilities, for example.
Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot fame recently released his annual supergraphic of the nearly 5,000 companies that make up the marketing technology landscape:
But there’s absolutely no reason to peruse them all. Instead you should focus on the key features you need in MarTech, and ignore all the rest.
Just make sure you conduct detailed research into the capabilities of the latest MarTech tools. It’s easy to identify gaps in your sales and marketing strategy and write them off assuming there’s no technology available that can address the problem. But new technologies are coming out all the time that address gaps you might not even realize you had in your MarTech stack.
For example, there are now machine learning technologies available that make it possible to predict better marketing opportunities before they occur based on past consumer behavior. QuanticMind uses predictive analytics to automate keyword grouping so you can win PPC auctions while reducing your ad spend. Its integrations and data storage capabilities make it possible to gain insights from billions of buying signals, making it a perfect addition to a competitive MarTech stack.
You also need to ensure the tools you currently use to address certain problems really are the best options for that purpose. SaaS is a competitive market, so it’s often easy to find new tools that serve the same function, but do so more efficiently or at a better price.
It’s easy to get buried in the thousands of tools available today. But maintain a focus on your goals and you should be able to narrow things down to the solutions you need the most.
Features to Look for in MarTech
New technologies come and go all the time, and only the best will have a true value proposition and certain key features to stay relevant long-term. You don’t want to waste time incorporating the wrong tools into your stack, then end up replacing the ones you do choose after a year or so.
When evaluating a potential tool, here are a few important features you should look out for to ensure you make the right choices:
A clear solution
First and foremost, you should focus on finding tools that provide a complete solution to the problems/gaps you identified. If the tool provides only a partial solution, or addresses a similar but separate gap in your strategy, then take note of it and move on to identify a tool that’s more relevant to your needs.
A major key to building an effective MarTech stack is choosing tools that integrate with each other. More integrations means more opportunities to automate marketing and sales processes, track leads, gather data, etc.
Of course there’s no tool that can integrate with every other you’d possibly need, so you should focus on your hubs (CRM, analytics platform, content platform, etc.). A tool with a lot of integrations might be more expensive than others, but try to to weigh the trade off. How much potential time would you save by using the integrated tool? What’s the value of streamlining your marketing and sales processes? In most cases, you’ll find the more expensive tool with lots of integrations is worth the investment.
Real-time data insights
Data is probably the most valuable aspect of building a complete MarTech stack. But you don’t want to invest all that time and money into something that provides insights after a delay. In order to stay on top of the competition, you need to be able to make changes to your strategy instantly using real-time data about your audience and customer base.
Most technologies provide some kind of data and analysis features, but they’re only worthwhile if you can attribute them back to specific marketing initiatives either within the technology itself or with integrations. The data insights your tool provides need to be able to illustrate the effectiveness of your efforts, and attribute success back to money spent and money earned. Otherwise you’ll never be able to get a complete understanding of ROI from your efforts overall.
When evaluating several potential tools to solve a specific business problem, it’s worthwhile to take notes about their various features to identify which is the most relevant for your MarTech stack.
Create a MarTech Map
Once you’ve chosen new technologies to add to your MarTech stack, you’ll want to perform another analysis to identify how they’ll fit into your current group of technologies. Creating a visual representation is a great way to determine which old technologies need to be removed from your stack and how to integrate new tools. It will also help illustrate how intuitive or erratic your MarTech stack is, informing changes you can make to improve lead nurturing and customer experience.
If you already used a free tool to make a basic visualization, now it’s time to up your investment to something with more layers and insights. CabinetM’s MStack Configurator, for example, is designed specifically for helping you visualize MarTech stacks and setups.
Once you’ve created a detailed MarTech map, you very well may identify new changes you want to make to improve your stack. That’s a good thing, and will help you create a more intuitive and effective system in the long run.
Define Key Roles
Of course, your MarTech stack is only as effective as the people who utilize it. When adding new technologies to your business, you need to clearly define who is responsible for managing the new accounts and features.
This is also an opportunity to evaluate the responsibilities of people involved with your current marketing technologies. This is particularly important for your hub technologies, as they’re interconnected with the rest of your stack.
That’s another benefit of using a tool like CabinetM, because it allows you to collaborate your teams on technology strategy, sharing knowledge and processes related to your stack as a whole, not just individual tools:
For best results, you should have written processes illustrating who needs to familiarize themselves with certain tools and what tasks they’re expected to do. Having a strong, clear organizational structure is crucial to building an effective marketing stack.
Digital marketing today is only as effective as the web of technologies behind it. There are lots of ways to build a complete MarTech stack, but some setups will be more effective or affordable than others.
The best advice you can follow is to look at the big picture, minimize the number of tools you need to achieve the same business goals, and ensure your internal teams are maximizing the benefits of each technology. Then be sure you reevaluate your MarTech stack from time to time, as new technologies, features and integrations are always coming out that can help you optimize your stack even more.
About the Author
Lynn Langmade is currently Senior Director of Marketing Content and Communications at QuanticMind, where she develops content strategy, manages the editorial calendar, and oversees content production workflow. Lynn is also the managing editor of QuanticMind's corporate blog and social media channels. As an early adopter of social media, Lynn has over 45 thousand followers on social media. In 2014, Lynn was the recipient of the Marketo “Revvie” Award in the Socializer category. She has a PhD in English and over 15 years B2B high-tech marketing experience.Follow on Google Plus Follow on Twitter More Content by Lynn Langmade