In an era when data is king and customer engagement is paramount, the right MarTech stack can make or break the success of your marketing operations. A MarTech stack is the combination of marketing technology (MarTech) tools, platforms and software that ideally work together to streamline marketing workflows while increasing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns.
As available data sources and ways to use them increase, so do the MarTech tools for working with them. Scott Brinker, vice president for platform ecosystem at Hubspot, has published a MarTech map listing and has been categorizing marketing technology solutions since 2011. Back then, there were about 150 entries on his map. The May 2023 map, presented by Chief Martec and Martech Tribe, includes more than 11,000 products.1,2
But there's no need to feel overwhelmed by the volume of data and the number of tools available. You can approach building a marketing technology stack like you would creating a marketing strategy. Begin with an analysis of your current marketing technology tools. Then, set high-level goals and plan marketing workflows and the integration of individual marketing tools. This preparation will help you make appropriate purchase decisions when you choose individual technology applications. Read more here about how to take your MarTech stack from the planning stage to a game-changing reality.
The Benefits of an Effective Marketing Technology Stack
Successfully building and maintaining an optimized digital marketing tech stack is complex, but the ROI of a well-designed and implemented tech stack makes the effort worthwhile. An effective MarTech stack can foster business growth, efficiency and competitiveness. By freeing your marketing team from manual tasks and allowing them to focus on results rather than process, your marketing technology stack can help provide valuable customer insights, drive website traffic, boost conversion rates, facilitate sales and marketing alignment, and support strong customer relationships.
Begin by Auditing Your Strategy and Operations
Before shopping for MarTech solutions, critically examine your current operations and marketing goals. Following and documenting a structured process can keep you on track and help you make the business case for marketing technology budget allocations. Involve marketing team members and colleagues from the sales team, customer service and other departments in the fact-finding stage to ensure that you address organizational needs. Your audit should include a survey of customer and staff interactions with your existing tech stack.
Any company that isn’t a startup will have existing MarTech investments, and it makes sense to buy new tools that are compatible unless there’s a compelling business reason to start over. As you inventory your current marketing stack, answer questions such as these:
- What systems do you already have?
- How well are those systems supporting your marketing efforts?
- How do your marketing teams use them—are you using the tools to their fullest potential?
- What interconnectivity do your technologies offer?
- Are all the stakeholders who could benefit from access to the systems using them?
- How does your tech stack compare to those of industry leaders?3
Focus on Your Customers
Knowing how customers interact with your company—the channels through which they come to you, how they move through the purchase cycle and how they become repeat customers—can help you zero in on the appropriate marketing channels and technology to support customer engagement and reach business goals. Conversely, knowing where potential customers fall out of the sales funnel can reveal process and marketing tech weaknesses. Recognizing what you don't know about your customers can also help you focus on the right marketing technology investments.
Probe to find the pain points for customers, marketing teams and internal stakeholders. Finding solutions that simultaneously address the needs of the customer and the company’s internal stakeholders can be tricky. Medill Senior Lecturer Jonathan Copulsky explained the challenge in an interview posted on the Deloitte U.S. website:
“As marketers, we want to make the customer experience more consistent, responsive, and personalized. At the same time, we want our marketing workflow and processes to become more efficient, automated, and scalable. These two goals, while not mutually exclusive, can be at odds: The technologies that drive greater efficiency for the marketer may sometimes diminish the experience for the customer.”4
Questions to consider as you review workflows include: What marketing touchpoints fail to convert leads? Where is data siloed? Where do cumbersome technology processes or information silos slow down operations? What causes frustration for marketing team members?
While it would be ideal to address consumer and company pain points at the same time, you may have to make trade-offs based on your budget or the capabilities of your staff and MarTech stack. “If marketers believe they are forced to compromise efficiency for customer experience or vice versa, the goal is to do it purposefully rather than accidentally,” Copulsky said.”4
Design for the Future
Consider your current marketing strategy and how that might need to evolve, given market changes and your company's growth goals. Think about how your marketing teams and operations would need to change to meet those goals. Review how the marketing team interacts with sales to start and manage customer relationships. Look for shortcomings in your current tech stack and marketing processes. Are you currently using any marketing technology that limits your ability to add new tools or adapt your marketing processes as the market changes? Are you using any consistently underperforming marketing channels?
Build Your Budget and Business Case
After identifying where marketing technology investments can create operational efficiencies, improve your reach or deepen your actionable customer insights, you can extrapolate the dollar value of those improvements to make a compelling argument for your tech stack budget. Iterate on this step as you narrow down your purchase decisions.
Four Areas for MarTech Investments
Four areas where marketing technology can be used to create significant benefits for an organization, especially if the tools that fulfill different functions are well integrated, are:
- Creating a unified customer view
- Analyzing data and optimizing campaign performance
- Automating marketing campaigns
- Managing marketing projects
Whichever use cases you're addressing, you have many choices for individual tools that work with different marketing channels. For example, the 2023 Martech Map lists 105 search and social advertising tools, 381 marketing automation and campaign lead management tools, and 152 dashboards and data visualization tools.2 The following paragraphs offer more detail on each use case and associated MarTech tools.
Marketing Technology That Helps You Know Your Customer
Customer relationship management systems (CRMs) and customer data platforms (CDPs) are significant marketing technology investments that can provide insights for marketing strategies and inputs to other parts of your marketing tech stack.
There are several similarities and key differences between CRM systems and customer data platforms. Both tools manage customer data integrated from multiple sources and seek to provide a 360-degree customer view. Their differences lie mainly in the types and sources of data they use, which staff members typically use them and what functionality they provide.
As the name indicates, customer relationship management systems focus on managing customer relationships and interactions. Developed for use by sales teams and customer support staff, they use structured data from historical information about customer interactions and transactions.
Customer data platforms are built for marketing and enable sophisticated customer segmentation and personalization. CDPs connect multiple data sources about customers and potential customers, both online and offline, and provide real-time analysis of that data. The CDP output can then drive marketing automation tools in the creation of personalized marketing campaigns.5
MarTech Tools for Data Analysis and Campaign Optimization
The ability to optimize marketing campaigns and reach strategic goals depends on understanding and communicating the results of specific marketing efforts. Data visualization and dashboard applications, such as Tableau and Power BI, can help analyze and communicate the outputs of measurement, tracking, attribution and optimization tools.
Analytics and Tracking Tools
Numerous free-standing tools can measure visitor interactions with websites, report on customer acquisition sources and perform A/B message testing, among other things. Some well-known website analytics tools include Google Analytics, Hotjar and Crazy Egg.
Other digital marketing tools, including social media marketing and email marketing platforms, incorporate analytics and tracking functions. Sprout Social and Hootsuite are two widely known social media management tools that include analytics and reporting functions. Adobe Marketo, Constant Contact and Mail Chimp, three of the 287 email marketing solutions in the 2023 Martech Map, also have analytics capabilities.2
Attribution and Optimization Tools
Several tools can help you optimize marketing efforts, from the contents of individual messages to the overall strategic direction. Search engine optimization and conversion rate optimization tools work at the level of individual messages. Lead scoring tools help marketing and sales teams decide where marketing contacts are in their purchase journey and what the next best marketing action is.6
Because marketing attribution tools can help evaluate discrete actions or entire campaigns, they can be more complicated to evaluate. Some of the factors to consider include:
- Whether and how the tool accounts for offline marketing touchpoints
- How many and what types of models are available
- Whether or not you need customized modeling
Various CRM systems, analytics tools and marketing automation platforms incorporate marketing attribution functionality. Examples include Hubspot, Google Analytics and Active Campaign. There are also standalone systems that rely on APIs (application program interfaces) to access data for analysis.7
Content Management Systems Anchor Digital Marketing Strategies
A content management system (CMS) is often the centerpiece of a marketing tech stack because of the pivotal role websites play in creating a company's digital marketing and sales presence. 2 Whatever your budget and whether you're running marketing for an e-commerce company, a B2B organization or any other type of business, you can find a CMS to fit your needs. There are over 300 listings for content management and web experience management systems on the 2023 Martech Map. Three functional areas to assess are operations, integrations with other marketing tech tools and personalization.
- Content scheduling
- Workflow automation
- Lead generation
- A/B testing
- SEO optimization
Tech Stack Integration Capabilities
- Analytics and reporting
- Social media marketing
- Email marketing
- Ad tech
- Content personalization
- Personalized calls to action and pop-ups
Marketing Automation Tools
Automation choices for each of the different digital marketing channels abound. It's important to make purchases based on their potential to help you reach your business goals. Consider both the operational and strategic benefits.
Project Management Tools
A project management tool can drive efficiencies and return on investment for other parts of the marketing technology design. Good project management tools help orchestrate the many components of digital marketing campaigns. They can also highlight bottlenecks in marketing workflows or problems with other parts of the marketing tech stack. As with the other marketing tech tools on the market, these tools are available at many price points and offer various integrations and specific features.
General Considerations for Choosing Marketing Technology Platforms
Once you begin choosing individual marketing technology stack components, keep the following in mind as part of your selection criteria:
- Security and privacy
- Scaling and future-proofing
- Training and skills development
- Compatibility and integration
Security and Privacy Considerations
Developing laws and customer goodwill require that your marketing tech stack complies with data protection regulations and best practices. Similarly, protecting your business's intellectual property and proprietary information is crucial for any digital marketing technology purchase. Samsung's 2023 leak of proprietary code and the company's subsequent ban on generative AI use illustrate the problems that can arise if new tech stack additions aren't vetted for information security.8
Scaling and Future-Proofing Your MarTech Stack
When choosing components of your marketing tech stack, consider the upgrade path the vendor offers, its software support plan and maintenance agreements, and whether design features facilitate or inhibit future market developments.
Training Your Marketing Team and Your Tech Stack
As you budget for marketing technology stack investments, include line items for training your teams to use the tools effectively and for periodic refreshers as new features and product updates are provided.
Training is also frequently needed for the tools themselves. Tools including CRMs, CDPs, segmentation, personalization, lead scoring and other AI-enabled tools must all be trained to provide the results you seek. When selecting the individual tools, investigate training resources and support with the vendors.
Building Integrated Systems
Building compatible and integrated systems is always an important consideration when choosing new Martech tools. Think beyond technological compatibility and strive to choose tools that also work well within the context of your operations and business strategy to maximize the return on your MarTech investments.
Build Your Marketing Success with the Medill IMC Professional Program
An integrated, fit-for-purpose tech stack can dramatically improve the efficiency and effectiveness of your marketing operations. It’s equally clear the design process demands an approach that takes into account technical, operational and business considerations.
The Medill IMC Professional program helps you develop the comprehensive skills to manage marketing functions and departments, including the MarTech function. Two courses that can directly help you successfully navigate the accelerating evolution of marketing technology include the online Change Management course and Introduction to MarTech, which has been offered as an immersive course in San Francisco and New York City. The interdisciplinary Change Management course equips you with tools and strategies for the purposeful, data-driven leadership communications that enable effective and transformative organizational change. Introduction to MarTech provides a survey of the marketing tech stack, the marketing landscape and critical marketing technology competencies.
As an IMC Professional student, you will learn from top-level industry experts, alongside other classmates who are also ambitious and accomplished marketers. Medill faculty and the growing numbers of Medill alumni in marketing leadership positions across industries will become part of your professional network. Connect with an admissions outreach advisor to learn more about the program, curriculum and application process.
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from chiefmartec.com/2016/03/marketing-technology-landscape-supergraphic-2016/
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from martechmap.com/int_supergraphic
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2023/04/26/how-to-strategically-approach-your-marketing-technology-stack-evaluation/?sh=19af32c9258d
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from deloitte.com/us/en/pages/chief-marketing-officer/articles/wsj-cmo-today-managing-the-martech-paradox.html
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from cmswire.com/customer-experience/whats-the-difference-between-a-crm-and-a-cdp-and-why-you-should-care/
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from techtarget.com/searchcustomerexperience/definition/lead-scoring
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from searchenginejournal.com/marketing-attribution/477573/
- Retrieved on September 14, 2023, from techcrunch.com/2023/05/02/samsung-bans-use-of-generative-ai-tools-like-chatgpt-after-april-internal-data-leak/