Wait — What is a marketing stack, anyway?

Basically, it’s an inventory of the tools you are using to market your business. Ideally you’d be focusing your attention on tools and technology that are in line with your business goals and the human resources you have available to make the best use of them.

Focus on Technology

Generally when you hear the term “marketing stack” it’s in connection with the technology you’re using to deliver, so it’s often called a “marketing technology stack.” The reason that focus quickly goes to technology is that most meaningful marketing takes place online now in the form of inbound marketing.

Good technology tools are essential. Solo business owners usually don’t have time to even learn about marketing best practices, let alone devise a workable master plan and hover over each little marketing task. Even business owners who have marketing staff need tools to automate and integrate for them so they can be effective and successful with the least time commitment.

Buyer’s Journey

To back up a little, seeing how your marketing stack applies to your overall strategy requires taking a look at your potential customers and their experience. You can describe each exposure of a potential customer’s to your company as a step along the “buyer’s journey.” Anyone coming upon your website or other online content anywhere else is making their way through it to solve a problem, meet a need, or satisfy a want of some kind. Your marketing stack should be helping you address those needs.

The Right Information at the Right Time

At each point of contact during that journey, you should have a tool to help you help that person find what they want from your company if you’re able to fill that need. A sales funnel that is constructed with your buyer’s journey in mind is a powerful tool that can help you inform potential customers and engage them, by providing the right information at the right time.

Here’s HubSpot’s buyer’s journey illustration of Lifecycle Marketing — addressing the stages of customer exposure, starting with strangers, and ending with happy customers with success stories to tell. At each stage you can see how specific marketing technology might be optimal.

HubSpot buyer's journey

Image source: HubSpot, by permission

Components of a Marketing Stack

Whether your business is B2B or B2C, you’ll need tools to meet your potential customers’ needs at each step in the buyer’s journey. Our suggested marketing stack includes the organic components of Optimizely’s Marketing Technology Stack that we think that we think are essential. To answer our basic question, here is what a small business needs in their marketing toolbox:

  1. Content Management System
  2. Email
  3. Insights and Analysis
  4. Experience Optimization
  5. Social Media
  6. Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
  7. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Marketing Stack Template

There doesn’t appear to be an officially adopted marketing stack template adopted by the marketing industry, but Vanessa Bright’s Marketing Stack Template does a good job of integrating lifecycle marketing, human resources, and marketing tools in this infographic she makes available free:

Marketing Stack illustration

Image source: Vanessa Bright

You can see that her buyer stages (Awareness, Consideration, Purchase, Customer) roughly correspond with HubSpot’s (Attract, Convert, Close, Delight).

First Steps in Building Your Stack

If you look across the buyer’s journey illustration above, you can see how integral your website is to meeting customer needs. In the template diagram you can see how Web Experience, Analytics and Productivity extend from the beginning of the buyer’s journey through the end.

Both illustrate the importance of a marketing strategy that starts with a great content management system website with built-in analytics. To review your situation, we suggest the following:

  1. Take a look at the components list above to see if you have all of the components of the stack.
  2. Look at the buyer’s journey illustration above to see if you have tools in place for each phase of the journey.
  3. Look at the template diagram above as a cross check for #1 and #2, and to factor in the human resources you have available.

This will help you identify the gaps in your marketing stack and to assess how well the tools you have are working. Once you know where the gaps are, you can start researching to find specific individual tools to fill them or an integrated marketing platform that can address them all.

As an agency who has been scrappy and resourceful on behalf of our clients since 1999, we know the value of good tools. More on this topic to come!