Demand generation is about more than just delivering sales-ready leads for products or services. It’s the achievement of long-term market awareness and interest in your offering through the use of market research, brand positioning, industry trends and sales data.
Generating demand in the account-based marketing environment isn’t a process you should leave to chance, but one that requires a concerted, coordinated effort to optimize available data and insights. It involves multiple areas of marketing technology or martech, and requires a variety of tools to deliver real results.
A set of software tools used to achieve a specific goal is referred to as a technology stack, and an effective marketing technology stack is important for the success of demand generation efforts. A martech stack, according to AdAge, is a “number of different technologies from a number of different companies, intended to attract and retain customers and get them from A to B in the most efficient way possible.”
Building the Right Marketing Technology Stack
The field of marketing technology is over-populated and getting more so, with a 2016 infographic from Smart Insights showing more than 3,500 tools to choose from. Many of these are created in a vacuum as stand-alone tools intended to facilitate a single function. Instead of selecting random applications based on their individual capabilities, take a strategic approach and build a framework of the tools you need.
Statistics from a Ascend 2016 Marketing Technology Trends report show significant barriers to martech success include inadequate technological integration between systems (38%), and poor data quality and completeness (36%). This highlights the importance of building a good framework aligned to your business goals that drives scale and efficiency, and delivers insights you can use.
Instead of choosing programs randomly, a planned stack approach enables you to pick tools that relate to each other, integrate easily and create a flow of data to produce the benefits you want.
How to Build a Stack
With these advantages in mind, how do you go about building a compatible marketing technology stack, especially if you’re not an IT expert? These steps will help:
Step 1: Identify Martech Categories
Most marketing technologies fit within one of the following software categories:
- Content management
- Customer relationship management (CRM)
- Search engine marketing and optimization
- Marketing automation or lead nurturing
- Advertising platforms
- Analytics and tracking
- Data management
- Social media management
- Remarketing and retargeting
In an account-based marketing environment, you may need tools in each of these categories, or only in certain ones. It’s important, however, to keep your options open for the addition of compatible tools later, even if you don’t need them right away.
Step 2: Develop a Framework
Once you know what you want to achieve and which categories the tools fall into, develop your technology stack around specific functions such as planning, awareness, conversion, nurturing, sales and analytics. The framework should follow a progression that aligns with your business, to ensure you’re moving in a continuous direction at all times. Perhaps a section of your demand generation framework would look something like this:
Publish Content – Share Content – Track Conversions – Nurture Leads into Sales Funnel
To achieve this, you’d need martech tools in each category listed above, that can usher leads to the next stage without losing value.
Step 3: Identify Tools
Once you have your framework for guidance, identify and assign tools based on each step of the process. For example, a marketing stack based on the above framework could include:
- A content management system (CMS), which hosts your company’s website and blog and enables you to publish fresh material easily. This includes downloadable offers and contact forms that you use to obtain prospect information.
- A social media aggregator that facilitates easy sharing on multiple networking platforms, and provides useful analytics for your accounts.
- A collector database or CRM system, where raw prospect data can be stored, analyzed and extracted in formats compatible with other technology further along in the process.
- A marketing automation or email program that enables you to set up email nurturing campaigns based on trigger events.
Step 4: Ensure Compatibility
Ideally, all the tools in your marketing stack should work together, or at least have a common compatibility such as Excel or .csv. This avoids the duplication and time-wasting involved in dealing with multiple environments, for example entering data more than once, manual comparison of reports drawn from different systems, etc. A lack of functional compatibility can cause a huge amount of disruption while workers hunt down the cause of discrepancies, which most often result from human input errors.
Step 5: Select Scalable Options
Few companies in business are planning to exist at their current level without aiming for growth, and this is an important aspect of your martech decisions. Your business strategy should offer insights into where the company aims to be in two and five years, which are short enough timelines to factor into your choice of platforms. Make sure that the programs you assign to your stack not only co-exist comfortably, but are scalable to the same extent as your company’s projected growth.
Step 6: Look for Deals
Software vendors understand the benefits of having systems that talk to each other, and the advantage of having an overall, “big picture” view of your marketing operations. For this reason, many offer programs that work well together, and by considering a suite of programs you may get a better deal financially than if you select individual programs for every section of your framework.
Benefits of a Coherent Martech Stack
Aside from the need to perform various operations in your marketing plan, taking the strategic approach of building a marketing technology stack based on a framework offers additional benefits, such as combined functionalities. For example, most martech programs have the ability to deliver more than one type of intelligence, which might mean what you spend on the swings you save on the roundabouts. Search engine optimization software will also offer campaign tracking that complements your analytics, and with the right CRM software you may not need an email marketing platform, because an inbuilt capability enables you to do everything from the CRM dashboard.
The coherence of a framework approach using an array of tools enables you to avoid the tsunami of marketing apps threatening to flood so many marketers. Instead, by starting out with a planned strategy you’ll be able to manage them like an ecosystem, and have the agility of adding or removing apps at any stage of the process without loss of data.
In exactly the same way as a clinic would choose, test and invest in various diagnostic tools and treatment options aimed at delivering specific results across the board for their patients, companies need to invest in the best tools for their purposes. Marketing technology is moving too fast for a single digital platform to cover every aspect, and if you think the list is long now, just wait until 2020. By investing in functionally specialized solutions that can be stacked like Lego to build a customized technological environment for your specific business, you’ll save yourself stress and ensure a smoother transition to driving engagement, measuring results, increasing sales and improving client relationships.