In a world of almost infinite information, the right marketing technology stacks are key to communicating brands and products to consumers. There are a range of options for marketers, but one rule stands out – keep it simple.
Marketing technology stacks are seen as the gold standard for integrated methods of communication. The technology helps marketers reach customers quickly, efficiently, and perhaps most importantly, within a budget.
Also known as a ‘martech stack’, the approach sees companies collate a series 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 condensing a series of marketing tools into one stack, the teams aim to cut the time that spend moving from application to application, automating certain jobs, and collecting real-time data.
“Using marketing tools that help customers understand who you are is important, but having a stack that works cohesively together and that’s built for speed is what sets brands apart in 2022,” says marketing consultant Rachel Chambers. “If it takes your team hours to fulfil basic tasks without real-time analytics it can really set you back.”
Essentially, the stacks allow marketers to do more faster, according to brand and marketing executive Sophie Waterhouse. “It’s not feasible to expect marketers to complete repetitive but essential tasks like pulling and interpreting data or updating spreadsheets if you want to remain competitive,” she says. “By automating data tasks I can see close to real-time feedback on my content and adapt what I create in line with what customers want. Marketing stacks allow you to deliver, track and react to campaigns without needing a team of thousands and an endless budget.”
On paper this seems simple, but martech stacks can become very complicated.
Making the right choice
Digital marketing is an ever-expanding industry. Knowing how to pick the right tools in a very crowded market could save companies hours of precious time, money, and frustration.
Scott Brinker created the Marketing Technology Landscape infographic in 2011 to chart the growth of martech startups. He initially plotted 150 companies. In 2020, it had grown to around 8,000 martech solutions.
“In practice, finding tools that integrate together and work as one strategy can be really difficult and very expensive,” Waterhouse says. “You’ve always got to keep your final goal or campaign in mind or you can get lost down a rabbit hole of new technology.”
Depending on the size, function and culture of a company, the martech stack may look slightly different. First, there’s the ‘best-in-class approach’, where a marketing team selects individual software packages to fulfill specific marketing needs. This allows CMOs to invest in tools that their team have experience working with and aren’t restricted by the capabilities of one vendor.
However, it can be difficult to integrate tools that aren’t specifically designed to run alongside one another, and it can take time and cost money to create a cohesive strategy.
“Best-in-class might sound appealing, but it can be a nightmare to manage,” says Waterhouse. “When you’re trying to manage a budget and a team who might not be trained up on every piece of software, attempting to pull together so many different tools can end up being less efficient. Building this kind of stack takes serious planning and trial and error.”
Next is the ‘single-provider approach’. This sees a marketing team pick one tool or vendor to fulfil every part of the marketing strategy.
“Looking at the digital landscape now it feels like more vendors are moving towards offering multiple services in one tool. I opt to automate email marketing, manage social media platforms, maintain CMS analytics, and collate data for SEO all in one place,” says Waterhouse.
Using one provider for many tasks plays into the idea that martech stacks can streamline campaigns and potentially save a lot of time. However, the simplicity of this method can also be its biggest challenge. There’s less room for specialization and nuance when working with one vendor.
“You need to have a conversation about whether the tool can deliver everything you want,” says Chambers. “Marketing is characterised by change and innovation. If you’re buying into a tool and spending money now, are you going to feel left behind in a year’s time?”
And finally, there’s the hybrid approach, under which brands try to combine the best-in-class and single-provider options to get the best of both. This may mean finding one vendor that has many of the tools and software opportunities that are needed, but supplementing this with a best-in-class approach for a specific area.
When creating a hybrid ‘martech stack’ Waterhouse says: “For me, automating the way that companies collect, interpret and use data has been crucial to underpinning all of the other work I’ve done. Having a martech stack that has that at its core has enabled me to develop campaigns that react to what customers want. However, everyone’s priorities are different.”
Keep it simple
Combining individual tools with software that solves multiple marketing issues could be the way to build a personalized marketing stack without overcomplicating processes.
However, there’s no clear-cut answer on the best way to build a clear, successful but simple marketing tech strategy. And the landscape is getting more complicated.
Research published in the Chiefmartec study found that 48% of companies select the best-in-class approach, while 21% prefer to work with a single vendor. The other 31% of brands said they have worked out a hybrid approach that fits their companies.
To move forward, Waterhouse says brands need not be afraid of incorporating new tools into their marketing stacks. This could mean a greater focus on social media and influencer marketing to increase visibility and sales or an increased emphasis on affiliate marketing and product placement.
As digital marketing tools continue to innovate, it puts pressure on marketers to adapt their strategies, says Waterhouse. “People expect more from brands now. Social media and closer brand and customer relationships build the idea of transparency.”