Tabs. Tabs open everywhere. Which platform do you need to use to get the site traffic from last month? Where do you pull keyword research data from and why can nobody tell you which web pages are converting the best?
You glance at the clock and are shocked at the time. How is it 11:30am already. You’ve had all morning to put this marketing report together but the sheer number of digital tools you use has sent you into a spiral.
Who would have thought having an abundance of dashboards, data and inbound marketing statistics would be a bad thing. You certainly didn’t when you were setting up your company’s martech stack last year. The more insights the better right?
Well, that was when you were a one person operation, your department’s grown now and every new hire has brought their own preferred marketing tech and free marketing tools with them to your team.
What you’ve got now is a mess of conflicting and confusing tools, it’s very difficult to know what to use for your reporting or which tools you’re using at all. Every month your reporting process gets more drawn out and during quarters it’s difficult to get your hands on simple analytics at a moment’s notice.
“We’ve got a premium version of Screaming Frog? I didn’t even know we were paying for that” If this sounds like you then it’s a good indication that you need to review and organise your marketing tech stack.
Managing your marketing tech stack is a continual and evolving process. As your company and team grows you’ll need to seek out new tools as current platforms become obsolete. Finding marketing tech that can scale with your company is key and you should be regularly reviewing your martech stack to make sure you’re using it, getting the most out of it, and, most importantly, you’re not wasting money on tools you aren’t using.
In this article we’ll discuss managing your martech stack, when you should review it and provide some tips you can use to sort and organise a confusing and inefficient marketing tech stack.
What is a marketing tech stack?
Before we go any further in this article we should probably clarify what a marketing tech stack is. You might feel like you don’t have a marketing tech stack, the term “tech stack” is often used by development teams and you’re not a developer. But anyone who uses software and digital tools to help manage, analyse and improve their marketing efforts is using a martech stack.
You don’t even need to be a marketer to have one, lots of small business owners and solopreneurs often have to manage their own marketing efforts when they’re getting started. This means managing and reviewing a business’s marketing tech stack isn’t the sole responsibility of the marketing team. It concerns everyone.
With that being said, what is a marketing tech stack? What does one actually look like in practice? Well, first things first, it isn’t an actual, physical stack. If you’ve got the image in your head of a pile of marketing tools all stacked up on a table like pancakes we are going to have to disappoint you.
Put simply, a marketing tech stack is a collection of marketing software, analytics platforms and SEO research tools that your team and business use to help you market your products more efficiently.
The term “stack” is often used as it represents an ordered collection of tools that all work together to make your life easier. You tend to stack things one-on-top of the other. So, it makes sense to have one tool for each level of your stack and each level should contain a tool that fulfils one specific marketing need for your team.
For example, your martech stack has one level reserved for a keyword research tool, you could choose Moz, Ahrefs or SEMrush to fill that spot. It doesn’t really make sense having two tools that do the same thing in your marketing tech stack. You’ll be paying for 2 subscriptions and using each platform half as much.
The stack is basically an easy visual metaphor for an organised and efficient list of marketing tools. In reality however, it’s not so cut-and-dry. You may need to use multiple tools which fulfil the same general function but have unique features that mean both are necessary. If that’s the case don’t worry.
You’re in control of your marketing tech stack, it can look however you want it too. The main purpose of having a clear picture of what yours looks like is so you don’t get lost in a sea of useless and inefficient marketing tools.
What is inbound marketing tech?
This article is going to focus on managing the tech stack for an inbound marketing team. Apologies to all the PPC’ers, social media and email marketers out there. If we tried to cover all these marketing niches in one article it’d be about 20,000 words (Great for our SEO but probably not the most readable blog post).
So we’re going to focus on managing the tech stack for an inbound marketing (content & SEO) team. That being said, the rules and principles we discuss in this article can 100% be applied to any marketing team or niche. The tools will be different but the outcome the same,
an organised and efficient marketing stacks*.
Inbound marketing tech, broadly speaking, helps marketers improve their sites content and SEO making their site rank higher on Google and be found by more prospective customers. Typical inbound marketing tools include: Google Analytics, Google Search Console, Ahrefs, SEMrush, Ubersuggests, Answer The Public.
As you can see from that list of tools: there’s a lot to choose from and it can be easy to get overwhelmed. This is why regular reviews of your martech stack is a good idea. You can spot rogue tools creeping into your stack and review the benefits of your current tools to make sure there’s no dead weight in your stack costing you money.
Important side note
Your marketing tech stack isn’t just marketing analytics and reporting tools. It should include the software you use to communicate with your team, any design platforms you use and project management tools too. Essentially, any software your team uses to do their job effectively should be added to your martech stack.
*A note for heads of marketing – if you’re managing multiple marketing teams like an inbound team, social team and PPC team, you’ll need to create a big martech stack that incorporates all those tools. If this sounds like you it’s far better to get the heads of those teams to build their own stacks and then give you that info to corroborate into one list. Letting the head of your teams keep their own individual stacks benefits them too.
How often should you review your martech stack?
Depending on the size of your team and company, reviewing your marketing tech stack could be a 4 hour job or 4 day job. However long it takes, the key to staying on top of your marketing tools is through regular reviews.
These reviews don’t need to happen every week. Success in inbound marketing doesn’t happen overnight. It takes a long time, around 12-18 months to see sustained success. This means reviewing your tools monthly probably won’t give you a good indication as to whether they’re performing for you or not.
We’d recommend you review your marketing tech stack every 6 or 12 months. This means you’re leaving enough time between each review to get a good indication of which tools are proving useful to you and which aren’t. When you’re reviewing your marketing tech stack you should take the following into consideration:
Is a tool providing you with results?
The most obvious question you should ask yourself when reviewing each tool in your marketing tech stack is; am I seeing positive results from using this tool? Is the platform you’re looking at given you data and insights that have allowed you to make strategic decisions? Have these decisions had a positive impact on your inbound marketing goals?
If the answer to either of these questions is no then it may be worth digging a little deeper into the viability of that tool.
Do you have duplicate tools that are doing the same thing?
It can easily happen. You come to do a yearly martech review and find you’re paying subscriptions for two tools that do exactly the same thing. It can be annoying but catching this mistake is a great way for you to reduce the costs in your department.
If you need to choose between two tools you can use the other considerations in this section to help you make a decision.
Cost vs use. Are you getting bang for your buck
Why are you paying £200 a month for a tool nobody on your team seems to use? Reviewing the cost of each tool in your techstack and asking yourself whether the benefits it’s giving your team is worth the cost should be central to any martech review you do.
You could have an amazing, industry standard, tool on your books but the positive impact its having on your team is negligible. If that’s the case then maybe downgrading to another tool with simpler features that better solve your specific marketing problems would be a better use of your budget.
Ask your team what they like
Always make sure you get the opinion of your team when doing any marketing tech stack review. They’re likely going to be using the tools more than you so if they’re not happy or comfortable using a tool then that’s something you should definitely be taking into consideration.
What do we think an inbound marketing tech stack should look like?
As we’ve mentioned already in this article, nobody’s inbound marketing tech stack is going to look exactly the same. The most important thing to remember when managing your martech stack is that you understand it and have 100% clarity on the tools you’re using and why.
That being said, below you’ll find an example of what we think an inbound marketing tech stack should look like. The stack has been split into 2. Non-marketing specific tools and marketing specific tools.
Non-marketing specific tools
These are tools that can be used by any team in an organisation. Tools like Zoom, Trello and Canva fall into this category. It’s still important to have these included in your marketing tech stack as these softwares facilitate collaboration within your team, company and with external stakeholders.
They may not be specific to your marketing department but they’re essential if you want to get your job done effectively.
Project management tools
These tools are essential for making sure all members of your team are working towards the same goal. It also gives the head of marketing an easy way to check up on the progress of specific projects. At Forever we use Asana for all our project management needs but other tools include Monday.com and Trello.
What modern office wouldn’t be complete nowadays without the familiar chime of Slack notifications ringing from coworkers desks (thank god for pause notifications am I right). Instant and accurate communication is vital in the workplace of the 21st century and the pandemic has hammered that home like never before.
With companies adopting remote working, it’s important marketing teams know what tools they’re using for communication so as to avoid any awkward client calls where you’re sitting in a Zoom room while your colleague is struggling with Google Hangouts.
You might think communication software is a given for any team. It’s so much a part of the fabric of business now does it really need to be included in your tech stack? We think the answer is yes.
You might think there’s a uniform way people communicate with each other in your business but that’s often not the case. Laying out clearly the methods of communication your team must use in your tech stack is an easy way to avoid confusion.
At Forever we use Zoom and Slack other communication platforms include Google Hangouts and even Whatsapp.
Now, this is a bit of a contentious one to include. If your company is big enough to have its own design team you can ignore design tools on your marketing tech stack. Leave the design to the professionals.
But for many marketers, especially those working in startups, wearing a lot of hats is the name of the game. You may be called on to design blog images, infographics and ebooks. If that’s the case then having design tools included in your martech stack is a must.
For entry level graphic design Canva works a treat. If you’re more competent when it comes to design, Adobe Creative Cloud is industry standard for designers, although its price tag is quite restrictive for casual users.
Marketing specific tools
Now we’re getting to the good stuff. The software tools listed in this section are primarily geared towards professional digital and inbound marketers. These are the tools that are going to inform your strategy, help you research, benchmark your progress and report your successes. Making sure you select the right tool for your marketing goals is very important here.
There’s a lot of analytics platforms on the market and sometimes the most expensive ones aren’t the best. Finding a marketing SaaS platform which really gets to the core of the problems you want to overcome as a marketing team is the best way to select the tools you use in this section.
Google’s marketing tools get a section all of their own. That’s because they’re a must have for any inbound marketing team. Google gives marketers a whole range of tools, for free, that lets them monitor traffic on their site, set up conversion goals and even see what visitors were searching before they landed on their site. The two tools that allow you to do this are Google Analytics (GA) and Google Search Console (GSA).
GA tells you everything a visitor does when they enter your site and GSA tells you what they were searching and doing before they landed on one of your pages. Together these free tools should form the backbone of your martech stack and, if you’re on a shoestring budget together they can be used effectively to perform basic keyword research, reporting and analysis.
Content Management System (CMS)
The role of a content management system is to facilitate the quick uploading and easy management of blog content to a website. There’s nothing worse than having to pass articles you’ve written over to a development team to publish on a website. Often they aren’t as clued up on the ins and outs of on-page SEO as you are and that can lead to blog posts that aren’t optimised as well as they could be.
A CMS provides an easy to use user interface for marketers who want to upload blogs quickly, painlessly and without wasting anyone else’s time. Most websites are now built using WordPress which means it’s highly likely you’ll be using their CMS.
But there are other content management systems out there on the market and some have advantages over WordPress. Getting to know the CMS you’ll be using and how it can help you improve your on-page, off-page and technical SEO is important for running an effective inbound marketing team.
Inbound marketing analytics platform
Inbound marketing analytics platforms take many different shapes and sizes. They are normally a SaaS platform that lives on the web and they allow digital marketers to do a number of really important things. Everything from link building, keyword research, technical SEO audits, on-page SEO and competitor analysis are included in these platforms.
Which one you choose is down to your personal preference. It’s advisable you do a lot of research before committing to an inbound marketing analytics platform as they operate on a subscription basis and you need to make sure you have the right tool for your team’s needs.
Some platforms specialise in one function like keyword research, others can do a number of things really well. This is why you should spend time reviewing for marking goals and selecting a platform or a number of platforms that will help you achieve your marketing goals.
Your inbound marketing tool will likely be the power house and driver of your marketing team’s strategy. This is the tool that lets you spy on competitors and find keywords you can exploit to gain more traffic to your site. Whether you choose one tool to do all this or several, make sure you keep a close eye on what you’re playing for and how much you’re using it. Review your inbound marketing platforms regularly to make sure you’re utilising them to their full potential.
Tips for keeping on top of your marketing tech stack management
As you can see from the previous section of this blog post, there’s a lot of tools that can go into a marketing tech stack. It can be easy to lose track of what tools you’re using for specific jobs sometimes, especially if you have a large team and you’re all bringing your own tools and processes to the projects you’re working on.
Regular marketing tech stack reviews are one way we’ve already mentioned to keep on top of the tools you’re using. But martech stack reviews don’t happen very often and there are other things you can do to make sure your tech stack doesn’t become a bloated mess. We’ve listed a few tips for keeping on top of your tech stack below.
Beware freemium and free tools
We all love a free offer or gift. Freemium tools are a sales tactic as old as time. Especially in the SaaS space. Who doesn’t want to solve a marketing problem with a shiny new tool you’ve just seen? And that tool’s free too.
When there’s no barrier to purchasing something it can be really easy to load up on new tools and platforms. You might as well check it out after all. But what you can end up with is a large collection of tools you’ve used a handful of times which aren’t able to do what you want them to without paying for them or their free trials have run out so they’re pretty much unusable.
Always ask yourself whether you’ll really use a free tool when you download it or sign up for it. Have you just been drawn in by the promise of something free. Stick to your known techstack and see if that can solve the issue you’d like to solve with the new tool you’re looking at.
Vet and review all tools before they are added to your stack
If you’ve found a tool you really like and it helps solve a problem you’re having that your current martech stack can’t fix then it probably is worth adding it to your list of tools.
Before you do that though make sure you thoroughly review and check it out. Does it do everything it says it can do? Are you 100% certain your current tools can’t do the task you need them too?
When you review the platform make sure your whole team knows you’re bringing a new tool into the tech stack. Ask them who’ll be using it the most and whether they have any reservations about the tool. Making sure your entire team is briefed and on-boarded with the new tool is essential if you want it adopted effectively across your department.
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