In a world of nearly endless information, the right stacks of marketing technology are key to communicating brands and products to consumers. There are a number of options for marketers, but one rule stands out – keep it simple.
Marketing technology stacks are seen as the gold standard for integrated communication methods. Technology helps marketers reach customers quickly, efficiently, and perhaps most importantly, on a budget.
Also known as the ‘Martech stack’, the approach sees companies blend a set of tools to optimize their marketing across different platforms. This can include content management systems (CMS), social media and email, customer relationship management (CRM) and search engine optimization (SEO). By consolidating a set of marketing tools into a single stack, the goal is to reduce the time teams spend moving from application to application, automating specific tasks and collecting real-time data.
“Using marketing tools that help customers understand who you are is important, but having a stack that works well together and is built for speed is what sets brands apart in 2022,” says marketing consultant Rachel Chambers. “If it takes hours for your team to perform core tasks without real-time analytics, that can really hold you back.”
According to brand and marketing executive Sophie Waterhouse, basically stacks allow marketers to do it faster. “If you want to stay competitive, you can’t expect marketers to complete repetitive but essential tasks like pulling and interpreting data or updating spreadsheets,” she says. “By automating data tasks, I can see near real-time feedback on my content and tailor my creations to customer requests. Marketing stacks allow you to present, monitor and react to campaigns without the need for a team of thousands and an endless budget.”
On paper this seems simple, but marketing tech stacks can get very complex.
make the right choice
Digital marketing is an ever-expanding industry. Knowing how to choose the right tools in a crowded market can save companies hours of valuable time, money and frustration.
Scott Brinker created the Marketing Technology Landscape infographic to chart the growth of martech startups in 2011. It originally planned 150 companies. Reached nearly 8,000 martech solutions in 2020.
“In practice, it can be really difficult and very expensive to find tools that integrate and work as a single strategy,” Waterhouse says. “You should always keep your end goal or campaign in mind, or you might get lost in the rabbit hole of new technology.”
Depending on a company’s size, function, and culture, the marketing tech stack can look a little different. First, there is the ‘best-in-class approach’, where a marketing team selects individual software packages to meet their specific marketing needs. This allows CMOs to invest in tools with which their teams have experience working together and are not constrained by the capabilities of a single vendor.
However, integrating tools that aren’t specifically designed to work side-by-side can be difficult, and building a cohesive strategy can take time and cost money.
“Best-in-class may sound appealing, but managing it can be a nightmare,” says Waterhouse. “When you’re trying to manage a budget and a team that isn’t trained in every piece of software, trying to bring together so many different tools can be less productive. Building this type of stack takes some serious planning and trial and error.”
Next is the ‘single provider approach’. This sees the marketing team choose a tool or vendor to fulfill each part of the marketing strategy.
“When we look at the digital environment, it is seen that more and more vendors are turning to offer more than one service in a single vehicle. I prefer to automate email marketing, manage social media platforms, maintain CMS analytics, and collect data for SEO in one place,” says Waterhouse.
Using a single provider for many tasks adds to the idea that marketing tech stacks can streamline campaigns and potentially save a lot of time. However, the simplicity of this method may also be its biggest challenge. There is less room for expertise and nuance when working with a single vendor.
“You have to negotiate whether the tool can deliver everything you want,” Chambers says. “Marketing is characterized by change and innovation. If you buy a tool and spend money now, will you feel left behind a year later?”
And finally, there’s the hybrid approach, where brands try to combine best-in-class and single-provider options to get the best of both. This may mean finding a vendor with many of the tools and software opportunities needed, but backing it up with a best-in-class approach for a particular domain.
“For me, automating the way companies collect, interpret and use data has been crucial to supporting all the other work I do,” says Waterhouse when creating a hybrid ‘martech stack’. Having a marketing technology stack that has this at its core has allowed me to develop campaigns that respond to customer requests. But everyone’s priorities are different.”
keep it simple
Combining individual tools with software that solves multiple marketing problems can be the way to create a personalized marketing stack without overcomplicating the processes.
However, there is no clear answer as to the best way to create a clear, successful yet simple marketing technology strategy. And the landscape is getting more complex.
Research published in Chiefmartec research found that 48% of companies choose a best-in-class approach, while 21% prefer to work with a single vendor. Another 31% of brands said they’ve developed a hybrid approach that fits their company.
To get ahead, Waterhouse says, brands don’t need to be afraid of adding new tools to their marketing stack. This could mean a greater focus on social media and influencer marketing to increase visibility and sales, or a greater emphasis on affiliate marketing and product placement.
Waterhouse says that digital marketing tools continue to innovate, putting pressure on marketers to adapt their strategies. “People now expect more from brands. Social media and closer brand and customer relationships form the idea of transparency.”