Marketing technology has become amazingly complex over the last 10 years, a trend highlighted by the annual tradition of posting an updated “Marketing Technology Landscape” slide at the Chief Marketing Technology conference. First released in 2011, the slide has evolved with the industry, and in 2020, it depicted more than 8,000 different technologies currently available as solutions for marketing firms.
It’s easy to throw your money down the drain on software that doesn’t actually provide value, which is why we follow a simple thought process when selecting new software: we evaluate all purchases through the lens of ROI.
All software needs to be either saving us time (and money via labor cost) or providing a tangible return. If we’re not sure whether or not one of those criteria is satisfied by the solution, then we will structure an experiment to measure the impact the software is having. This can be tricky because it may require some negotiation with the vendor, but pushing for an out-clause in the contract with more expensive solutions is not something we have actually ever failed to get after explaining the logic of our approach!
If we like the ROI we’re seeing after a month or so of experimentation, we’ll commit to a longer, more sustained period of use. – Jordan Schneider, Director of Digital Marketing, Soundstripe
For new marketing firms or firms looking to grow their capabilities and services, starting to grow your own tech stack can be a daunting task. In this post we’ll discuss what components go into an effective marketing technology (MarTech) stack foundation, provide some examples of leading software and service providers for each layer of your tech stack, and end with some insight on growing your own tech stack from the ground up.
Our GVP, Thibaut de Lataillade ran a survey with over 5,500 respondents and found out that 4/10 business owners are in danger of closing within the next six months due to COVID-19. In contrast to areas of spending where they’re tightening their belts, such as travel, events, and hiring, many business owners actually see software spend or optimization as a key investment area during the current economic downturn: 53.8% of polled businesses are choosing to either keep software spend as-is or increase it. – Jaipal Singh, Sr. Market Research Specialist, Content & Research, GetApp
Strategy Must Drive Your Investment In Software Solutions
The tremendous growth in marketing technology can be tied to the growth of total marketing budgets being dedicated to marketing technology. According to a 2018-2019 Gartner CMO Spend Survey, companies are dedicating an average of 29 percent of their budgets to marketing technologies, exceeding the individual categorical average spend dedicated to agencies, paid media, and labor.
At this level of dedicated funding, it’s obvious companies must build their MarTech stacks with purpose and intent – and they must act. The tools and features integral to marketing software technology are designed for a single core purpose: help your brand execute its marketing strategy.
The first thing that we consider when looking for a new tool for our marketing tech stack is its reliability. We need to make sure that the tool consistently provides precise and valid data before we decide it is time to give it a chance.
The next thing that we’re looking for is the ability to automate (or semi-automate) some of our internal processes and workflows. When buying marketing tools, we want to cut manual, labor-intensive, repetitive, and time-consuming tasks. We aim to systemize and make our processes more efficient while freeing up time that we can spend on qualitative, more valuable parts of the process.
Finally, we’re looking for feature-rich and comprehensive marketing tools that can cover multiple facets of a project. We want to avoid having to buy multiple tools and switching between them when working on related tasks. This also helps keep us from having to migrate to a “more complete” tool down the line. – Djordje Milicevic, Digital Marketing Manager, StableWP
At the end of the day, we keep a close eye on our balance between software and media spend. We would much rather spend our marketing dollars on media because we know there is a high return for every dollar we spend. Thus, when we’re evaluating software we take a lot of time considering if it will bring in incremental revenue that media dollars won’t. – Brandon Cook, Director of Marketing, Clean Origin
So, before you purchase a single software or subscribe to a service provider’s solutions, your organization’s leadership and marketing departments must be on the same page on one very crucial requirement: functionality is not strategy. Rather, your overall marketing strategy should inform the technology your organization embraces.
Dissecting the Basics of an Effective Marketing Stack
While terminology relative to digital marketing is ever-evolving, the basics of marketing and advertising still hold. No matter what they call it, marketing application service providers are still trying to provide solutions for the three basic marketing behaviors:
- Attract: At the core of attraction in marketing is the need to maximize lead generation, cited by 63 percent of executives in marketing as the biggest challenge entering 2019.
- Convert and Close: Companies spent upwards of $4 billion on digital advertising in 2017 to attract customers to their websites. But companies are being forced by customers to engage their interests in more modern ways to retain their patronage after inbound marketing lands them on the company’s virtual doorstep.
- Optimize the Relationship: Marketing analytics are vital to the entire marketing process, as they provide the guidance necessary to adjust and improve marketing strategies. Data is so important that marketing analytics are a top budgeted item in MarTech stacks.
A Framework for Success
We look for four main things when purchasing new marketing software: features, automation, and reporting/analytics functionality, integration ability with other tools, price, and ease of use/customer support. – Garrett Ramela, President, Common Sense Coffee Company
When introducing new MarTech into our stack, it’s the easy-to-use tools that integrate seamlessly with our other technologies that make the cut. According to some of our recent research, many marketers tend to agree.
When asked what capabilities technologies in their stack should improve to optimize marketing, 52% reported ease of use as a top priority. When your team actually enjoys using the technology, adoption and utilization rates increase and so does efficiency. – Jenna Balegno, Chief Content Officer, Ascend2
When purchasing new marketing software we specifically look for tools that are very versatile. Meaning we don’t want to use something that only serves one function. – Sophie Burke, Social Media Director, Bead the Change
There are many service providers whose products fulfill multiple marketing functions; however, with the three core activities discussed above, there are primary marketing functions that have to be a part of your overall marketing technology stack, regardless of the service provider. Your marketing technology stack should include some form of:
- Content Management System
- Search Engine Optimization platform
- Customer Relationship Management platform, Email Management software
- Automation software
- Advertising & Conversion technologies
- Analytics platform
When purchasing new marketing software, all we care about is the tangible ROI we can get and how much time we can save by using software instead of having our marketing staff do those tasks. We use a combination of tools to coordinate our keyword research, content marketing ideation and production, social media scheduling and management, and distribution of our content to our subscriber base. So far, the ROI has been there for us and we’ll continue searching for new software that does an even better job at automating and improving our everyday marketing tasks. – Malte Scholz, Co-Founder, Airfocus
Every industry poses different challenges and in some cases it might make more sense to go with a software known in your industry than more general-purpose software solutions. Overall function and purpose at each of the above levels, however, is industry independent. Let’s dig deeper into these essentials and give some examples available on the market.
The two biggest factors I look for when buying new software are integrations and documentation.
We have a pretty good marketing process going and it makes our lives so much easier if a tool plays nicely with our existing stack.
The documentation is important as it not only helps us better evaluate the capabilities of a platform, but also tells us how a custom integration might work (and the resources needed) if it’s not compatible out of the box. – Quincy Smith, Founder, ESL Authority
When it comes to purchasing new marketing software, I primarily look for things that are powerful but easy to use and—most importantly—software that can integrate with our existing processes.
I’d say our top 5 are Hubspot as a general CMS, Aweber for email marketing, Google Analytics for the obvious, KISSmetrics for more robust reporting, and Trello for organization of marketing tasks. All told, our cost is about $360/month in marketing software.
Out of all of these, Hubspot is the most valuable to us currently. It has the most functionality, it plays well with other software, and it’s reasonably priced. We’re going to be upgrading to the professional version soon which is a significant increase in cost, but I feel it’s worth it. – Dan Bailey, President, WikiLawn
Content Management Systems
Modern businesses generate massive amounts of digital content that must be managed and maintained. Content management systems (CMS) are key to content dissemination both internally and externally. Externally, you have an organization’s website, blog, and other publications available to the public managed by web content management tools. Internally, enterprise content management systems allow collaboration, document management, and records management and retention. These systems rely upon separate management and delivery applications to allow smooth transitions between creating content and presenting content.
Search Engine Optimization
As a key component to inbound marketing and capturing leads, SEO software platforms support optimization of websites, blogs, and all online content for growing organic search. Organic search results are constantly shifting with the trends in your industry, and your content must constantly be updated and include content potential customers will find useful and interesting. The only way to keep up with trends, generate backlinks that will help build brand legitimacy, and gain insight is through the use of SEO tools.
Customer Relationship Management and Email Management
Once you’ve established a connection with customers, it’s important to maintain it and track their interactions with your organization over time. CRM platforms become data repositories that help your team to interact with customers in meaningful ways, follow up post-sale, and tailor future communications to a customer’s specific needs via email management systems.
Marketing is a complicated mixture of disciplines having to manage content across numerous platforms. Marketing automation platforms (MAPs) must be versatile applications that can access and integrate with the other apps and functionalities across your marketing tech stack. Through this integration, tasks such as follow-ups, emails, advertising campaigns, and other marketing activities can be set to perform automatically.
Advertising and Conversion Software
Advertising in the digital space requires companies to manage their marketing efforts across multiple platforms and channels. Digital advertising also requires constant oversight, as user behaviors shift and an advertisement that was creating a stream of active leads one week might be your poorest performing investment the following week. With advertising and conversion applications, you can see and track the effectiveness of every component of your digital marketing strategy, and adjust your ads and your sales team’s approach based on the information these platforms make available.
The most important functionality that needs to be integrated across your entire MarTech stack is the ability to track and make informed marketing decisions based upon the data gathered. Knowing the value placed on data, many applications have integrated data analytics into their core functionality, and it’s more a matter of finding a MarTech stack platform solution that consolidates data into easily understandable and actionable insights.
Make Good Choices
As the owner of an online business, I have to constantly juggle job roles. Because of this, my main consideration for marketing software is its usability and synergy with other tools I’m already using. My daily work routine needs to be streamlined, and I can’t afford to spend endless hours navigating complex and over-engineered software. I want to be able to log-in and intuitively know what to do. – Laura Fuentes, Operator, Infinity Dish
It’s important not to get sucked in by advertising hyperbole: there is no cookie cutter solution you can simply click on and hit the ground running when it comes to your organization’s MarTech stack. Your industry and business model will dictate the types of marketing infrastructure and buyer’s journey you need to create. Take the time, research your industry extensively to determine the exact challenges you’ll face, and find out what tools industry leaders are leveraging for success. Over time, you will find the exact right mix of technologies and create the most effective MarTech stacks for your organization.
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