How to Build a Marketing Technology Stack That’ll Grow With You

October 27, 2020 3 Comments

Dear Marketing ops professionals, what will your marketing team look like six months from now? Or a year from now? How many people will you add? What new tools, systems, and data will you need?

There are a lot of potential questions you can ponder about the future of your business but there is one certainty you’ll be dealing with: more. More data, more people, more process, more complex problems, and more questions around security and data privacy.

As your team and business scales, it’s important to incorporate marketing technology into your day to day processes. You’ll want to use tools that make your today processes easier, and will stay with you as you grow your business.

How is technology used in marketing?

Technology is used by marketers to execute their marketing campaigns. Marketers will use software that helps with task automation and data collection so they can get insights related to campaign activity and their impact on customers. 

For example, say that your team spends a significant amount of time emailing customers. The action feels repetitive, and it’s keeping people away from more pressing assignments. You may choose to utilize an email automation software, so less time is spent sending emails. You also want the software you use to track data related to those emails, so you gain an understanding of how your users interact with them. 

In brief, marketers use technology to make their jobs easier, and to understand their levels of success. The technology that marketers then choose to use to be successful in their marketing campaigns is known as their marketing tech stack.

What is a marketing tech stack?

As outlined above, a marketing tech stack is the tools that marketers use to execute elements of their marketing campaigns, from lead generation to customer satisfaction. There are hundreds of different tools to choose from when creating your marketing tech stack — 8,000 to be exact. 

At HubSpot, our Marketing Hub is an all-in-one platform that marketers can use to execute their campaigns. While this is not it’s only function, the software comes with a variety of tools to choose from, including Search Engine Optimization. The SEO tools bundle will assist you in optimizing your site for SEO rankings with keyword research tools, as well as as-you-type optimization advice while you’re creating content.

hubspot marketing hub search engine optimization tool demo

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Ultimately, the technology you choose is meant to help you execute your campaigns from start to finish. 

Your Marketing Technology Roadmap

The reality is that there is no out-of-the-box method that will help you prepare for more. Your company is unique, and your perfect marketing stack is not going to look exactly like anyone else’s. This is the time for choosing the right tech tools for your team, setting them up in a way that your future team can use and understand.

All of this, while ensuring a positive return on your marketing investment. (What could go wrong, right?)

We’ve been there, too. HubSpot’s marketing operations team is all too familiar with the challenge of more, having tripled the size of our marketing team in just three years.

We’ve learned a lot along the way — so we gathered six insights from HubSpot’s resident ops experts to ask what they wish they would have known when growing HubSpot’s own marketing tech stack.

1. Keep systems simple.

Have you heard of the “keep it simple, silly” (KISS) principle? The term, originally coined by an aeronautical engineer in the US Navy, states that simplicity guarantees the greatest levels of user acceptance and interaction.

The term is used often in software design, for example, where function and instruction creep can make products unmanageable over time.

How do you prevent this happening in your own company as it continues to grow? Put your current strategy down on paper, and review the value of every stage of your process with your leadership team. Consider what processes could be done more efficiently, and what could be eliminated altogether.

“The #1 driver of complex business systems is complex business rules,” says HubSpot Marketing Operations Manager Mark Metcoff. “If you can simplify your go-to-market strategy as much as possible, then regardless of how you structure your systems, you’ll be heading in the right direction.”

2. Aim for medium-term solutions.

In an ideal world, every decision you make about your tech stack today will work seamlessly for your team for years to come.

In reality, though, you are probably going to change systems a dozen times over the next few years if you continue to scale. You shouldn’t worry about picking your forever tech, but do not settle for a tool that will become obsolete in 6 months, either.

“Aim for the medium-term,” Metcoff suggests. “The costs of switching systems has never been lower, thanks to the emergence of more persistent datastores like customer data platforms that can under-lie front-office facing systems, and iPaaS solutions that allow you to integrate front-office providers for easy data transfer.”

3. Strategy first, technology second.

As companies grow, it can be tempting to rely on technology to support processes that are still evolving. Usually, this happens when a team adopts powerful tools that have a lot of potential, and they try to mold their systems around it.

HubSpot’s marketing operations team has made this mistake, too, and with an important takeaway: What sets apart truly powerful tech stacks isn’t just about the technology.

“The tools themselves won’t make you successful but rather how you use them,” explains Kerri Harrington, HubSpot Marketing Ops Analyst.

Harrington has worked closely with HubSpot Partners, consulting many who were in the midst of building their tech stacks. She taught them to think about their tech stack not as the powerhouse behind their systems, but a vehicle to efficiently and effectively execute their strategy.

If you are still developing your strategy, she says, try drawing out and visualizing your tech stack. This gives you an opportunity to think critically about each tool, the purpose it serves, and where there is any overlap or duplication in your tools. Check out the “Stackies” competition for inspiration.

4. Document everything, and document it well.

Imagine opening your spice cabinet, ready to cook up a chicken curry, to find that nothing in the cabinet is labeled. Every spice and herb is in the same colored jar, with no ingredient label or expiration date.

Barring a noteworthy sense of smell, this project would not be very easy or enjoyable.

This is what it’s like to step into a new role only to realize that over the years, your new team’s processes and database have not been properly documented. This is common among growing companies, because as your database grows and your systems evolve, it’s easy to end up with a lot of clutter, data integrity issues, and confusion.

Many will skip right over this — who likes to document? Who has the time to ‘waste’ a day of innovation to do seemingly admin work? We get it — But for the sake of your future team (and your future sanity), make sure you take the time to lay down the right foundation for data architecture.

“I can’t tell you how many times we have to review the history of a change or ‘walk through’ the last couple of years on a topic,” says Maggie Butler, Senior Marketing Enablement Manager. “It gets really, really hard if no one has documented anything.”

One incredibly valuable resource HubSpot had during one of its growth spurts, she says, was the documentation built by our engineers that detailed in simple language how the logic and code worked. Aim for this level of documentation to be comprehensive across all applications, and easily accessible for everyone on your team.

In terms of Marketing, our Lead Management tool embodies the ‘document everything’ mantra. The tool can be used to create a database of all customer information, where you can view chronological timelines of every interaction customers have had with you. 

hubspot lead management customer tracking demo

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5. Point solutions serve a purpose.

A point solution is a product or service that addresses one very specific need in a marketing organization.Sometimes, you just need to a piece of software to do a specific thing really, really well. There’s no shame in it.

PieSync is a great example of this. If you use multiple different apps to execute your marketing strategy, keeping track of customer data from each app can be a tedious process. PieSync can be integrated with your CRM to streamline this process by syncing customer data from your favorite apps into one up-to-date database.

But keep in mind that every piece you do add to your infrastructure comes with its own compliance risks, technical challenges, maintenance and upkeep, and general administration.

“Also look closely at whether or not it needs to be integrated into your tech stack,” explains Metcoff. “Sometimes point solutions work just fine in a silo.”

If you have any point solutions in your current stack, think about how it fits into the bigger picture: how does it interact with the rest of your technologies, and what do you need to do to keep it running?

6. Aim for ease of use, but don’t sacrifice the necessities.

There are a lot of options out there — so don’t settle for less than what you need. At the end of the day, you need to choose a system that’s easy for your team to pick up and use, but still has the power and flexibility you need to get things done.

The challenge with today’s marketing automation tools is that they offer either enterprise-grade power or consumer-grade ease-of-use, but never both. As a result, many still go with the safe bet — overpriced, overly complicated, and under-utilized tools — which translates to spending more time on systems than on your customers.

With all of the tools available these days, there is no need to use clunky, complex, and time-consuming legacy software. We believe you shouldn’t have to sacrifice productivity to get power, because the best tools combine both power and ease-of-use. When you focus on delighting your customers and creating great experiences instead of managing your software, you will grow better.

More can be a good thing.

Adding more can be terrifying, but more, more means you’re growing. And it’s never been a better time to be a marketing ops professional. With the wealth of powerful technology now available, it’s easier than ever to grow your tech stack with a smart ops leader and the right strategy in place.

We believe this is paramount for any growing business, which is why you should expect more out of your marketing software and from the tech stack you build with it — your future team will thank you.

Dear Marketing ops professionals, what will your marketing team look like six months from now? Or a year from now? How many people will you add? What new tools, systems, and data will you need?

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