Systems Orchestration, Digital Transformation

What are the Building Blocks of a Marketing Technology Stack?

Written by: Connor Jeffers
    

Before marketers really had a handle on their technology, and before standalone CRMs were the norm, marketing technology came out in bits and pieces. There were a few integrations here or there, but only the biggest names in software could provide you with a full suite of software integrations for marketing.

Today, there are hundreds, if not thousands of marketing technologies on the market. Just look at this infographic by marketing technologist Scott Brinker from 2016. It depicts the complexity of the marketing technology, or “MarTech,” landscape at the time:

marketing_technology_landscape_2016_3000px

(Source: chiefmartc.com)

The fact is, most businesses take a patchwork approach to building their marketing technology stack. When a problem arises, they find a solution to solve it. According to one survey, only 8% of organizations felt their marketing technology had been implemented well.

In other words, 92% of organizations have taken a stop-gap approach to their marketing technology. Each of your technologies should complement the other. That’s why you should consider marketing technology investment a strategy, not just another cost center.

To build a marketing technology stack that you can truly leverage, you need a roadmap. Don’t wait until a need arises to start searching for a solution.

To get you started, here are the basic elements of a marketing technology stack.

Content Management System (CMS)

Your content management system is the foundation of your website. It’s where you go to build web pages, upload content, install widgets and plugins, and in some cases, check your website analytics.

From a developer’s standpoint, it’s where you go to do most of your “front end” work.

The most popular CMS on the market today is WordPress, which powers 30% of all the websites on the internet (if you measure it by market share, WordPress owns about 60% of the CMS market).

Part of the reason WordPress is so popular is that it enables you to build almost any kind of website you want, if you have the skills to do it. With the right plugins, you can obtain any capability you need to capture leads and serve your customers.

WordPress Plugins can help you gain functionalities like the following:

  • eCommerce capabilities
  • Search engine optimization
  • Contact forms
  • Website performance enhancers
  • Image optimizers
  • Content sliders
  • Interactive graphics
  • Website security
  • Automated content backups
  • Website reporting
  • Social media icons

You can create a basic website with a few pages and a conversion opportunity, or you can create an online content empire powered by a mega-menu, tons of widgets and plugins, and an army of content professionals.

WordPress also has a massive developer community that’s coming out with new tools all the time, as well as updates to the old ones. Many of the most popular tools can integrate with your other marketing technologies.

Of course, if you don’t have the know-how to build your own website on WordPress, you can use an out-of-the-box solution like Wix or Squarespace.

Just keep in mind that you won’t have as much functionality with these CMS tools. Typically, you’ll want a CMS that will let you input code where you need it. The ability to scale your website will be important if you need to add conversion tracking codes, social media tracking pixels, eCommerce plugins, and other assets.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) Software

Originally, CRMs were designed to store and capture contact information.

But today, most CRMs have a range of marketing capabilities, including reporting tools, social media marketing tools, workflow automation, and more. Some CRMs can even support your website and act as your CMS.

Most marketing teams now approach their CRM like a base of operations.

You may recognize some of the most popular CRMs, such as:

  • HubSpot
  • Zoho CRM
  • Salesforce
  • Microsoft Dynamics
  • Insightly
  • Pipedrive
  • Freshsales

Your CRM helps you manage your company’s interactions with contacts, leads, prospects, and customers. It uses data analysis to give you insights into each of your contacts’ histories with your company.

Most CRMs are designed to integrate with your other marketing systems. That means they can pull data to populate reports and gather intelligence about specific contacts from across your channels.

For example, if a contact viewed one of your web pages, shared one of your posts on social media, and spoke to one of your salespeople on the phone for fifteen minutes, you should be able to see all that information in your CRM. With some tools, you can even transcribe the content of their phone conversation!

Customer relationship management software becomes necessary when your business grows past the point where keeping track of contacts manually is no longer manageable. That’s why 91% of North American companies with 10 or more employees have a CRM system in place.

Marketing Automation & Lead Management Tools

Marketing automation, lead workflows, and lead scoring are all functions that CRMs either come with automatically or provide you if you subscribe to a higher tier of service. However, you can also use standalone software.

In general, automation takes control of repetitive, manual tasks and removes the need for humans to engage in them. In marketing, automation can help you schedule segmented email campaigns, upload and schedule blog posts months ahead of time, post to social media, and even move contacts through the sales funnel with ease.

For example, if you like to update your blog once a week and share the post to each of your social media accounts, that’s quite a bit of manual work. After publishing the blog post, you’ll need to log in to each one of your accounts, copy and paste the URL, and add a message.

With marketing automation, you can write months’ worth of blog posts, schedule them to publish once a week, and create triggers so new blog posts automatically publish to all your social media accounts.

Most businesses recognize the necessity of automation, whether it’s for marketing or other business operations. 67% of marketing leaders already rely on marketing automation and another 21% plan to implement it. Meanwhile, 82% of marketers say they’ve seen a positive ROI from marketing automation.

Sales Engagement Platforms

Sales engagement platforms (SEPs) are like CRMs, but they are specifically for sales teams. In many cases, a sales engagement platform may integrate with your CRM. This enables your sales team to extend marketing workflows into sales, access the same data as your marketing team, and connect all their tools to a singular sales and marketing funnel.

With the right platform, your sales team can streamline all the ways they communicate with prospects. Instead of having to check multiple locations to gather information on a prospect, it can all be sourced to one, easy-to-access location.

Most platforms come with important sales features, such as the following:

  • Email integration
  • CRM integration
  • Sales email automation
  • Sales email engagement tracking
  • Sales email templates
  • Sales campaign management tools
  • Automated follow-up reminders
  • Click-to-call functions
  • Sales intelligence and prospect profiles

Like CRMs, most of today’s sales engagement platforms are cloud-based. This enables all your salespeople to collaborate and keep track of prospects during their buying journey, even if prospects are being handed off to different salespeople.

Email Marketing Tools

Some standalone CRMs and sales engagement platforms come equipped with email marketing tools. But many companies choose to rely on parties other than their CRM provider for their email marketing.

Again, the best email marketing tools are those that integrate with your other systems. You’ll need to pull data and contact information from your CRM for your emails to be effective, for example.

Most email marketing tools provide you with email marketing automation, workflows, email templates, and other features that make sending sales and marketing emails easier and more effective.

Marketing Analytics & Reporting Software

In general, marketing analytics is what you use to determine whether your latest campaign was a success. You’ll identify a few KPIs and measure your results based on them using metrics.

For example, if you’re trying to measure cost-per-lead (CPL), your analytics software should be able to tell you exactly how much you’ve paid for each new lead in each one of your campaigns.

Most marketing analytics & reporting software will present data to you in the form of charts, graphs, or spreadsheets. Cloud-based software often operates in real time, so you can watch as your campaign’s progress as it unfolds.

But perhaps the most important part of using analytics & reporting software is the ability to spot long-term trends. You may be fully invested in a specific marketing strategy. But, if after a few months, it doesn’t seem to be bearing fruit, your analytics can tell you why.

A landing page may have a high conversion rate but a low traffic rate. That means the page itself is fine, but you aren’t using the right engagement strategy. If your cost-per-lead ratio is particularly high, maybe it’s time to slow down on paid ads and invest more in organic lead gen.

To fully leverage your marketing analytics, you’ll need to be able to read, interpret, and analyze the data to tell a story.

Project Management Software

Other than CRMs, there is perhaps no other type of marketing technology more contentious than project management software.

There are hundreds of programs on the market. Some were developed for specific purposes like software development or accounting, but others are designed as catch-all tools that any type of business can use.

Marketing campaigns are often creative endeavors that have multiple moving parts. Your project management tool should be the part of your marketing technology stack that brings all that together.

However, the software you choose will depend on the exact nature of your business.

If your team does a significant number of technical tasks, each depending on the one that came before it, you might need a solution that compiles all your tasks into a Gantt chart. That way, your entire team can understand their task timelines and the dependencies of each task in the entire project.

If you break your employees into small teams to finish projects and you don’t have strict deadlines, you should look for software that helps each individual focus on their own work. A tool that enables your employees to create Kanban boards might help.

It’s not uncommon for new companies to cycle through several different types of project management software before they settle on one. Ultimately, the decision must come from leadership, but you should always get your team’s opinion before committing.

Build Your Marketing Technology Stack

If you take a second look at the image in the introduction, you’ll recognize that this list barely scratches the surface.

The truth is, you can adopt as much technology as you like. You could install a thousand piece of software and gain access to ten different reporting dashboards. It’s not the technology itself, but how you use it, that drives your marketing.

If you’re struggling with your current marketing tools or you don’t know where to start, contact us at Growth Panda for a consultation. We’ll analyze the technology stack you currently have onboard and help you build a roadmap for future growth.