Marketing technology is central to the success of revenue generation programs today. Companies can use these software programs for such important tasks as email marketing, website conversion optimization, search advertising, and providing a consistent message across different channels. When properly used they can help generate significantly increased leads, opportunities and sales.
But Scott Brinker has identified over 5,000 companies offering marketing technology (martech) software in dozens of categories. This vast variety of options makes it difficult for people in many companies to decide which types of technologies to use; selecting the particular software programs is even more difficult. It is especially challenging for small- and mid-sized businesses (SMBs) that don’t have the deep staff and technical expertise that enterprises have.
The combination of marketing technologies that companies use is sometimes referred to as their “martech stack”. Large enterprises may have dozens of different programs in their martech stack. This is an example of an enterprise martech stack from Cisco; they were one of the winning entries in this year’s MarTech Stackie Awards:
That’s WAY more complex than most SMBs would need, or be able to manage. Some of the Stackie winners use more software programs than some SMBs have employees.
But, at the risk of repeating myself, the shrewd use of martech can produce significant business results for even the smallest companies. So it’s important for SMBs that want to grow to adopt and use martech. An SMB can use the Bullseye Marketing Framework to focus on which martech programs will produce the best and fastest return for them, and to slowly build a martech stack that’s right for them.
The center circle of the Bullseye — where a company should start its marketing efforts — focuses on maximizing the returns from a company’s existing marketing assets such as current customers, email lists, and their website. With this in mind a company can focus its initial martech efforts on implementing these six technologies:
- Customer relationship management software (CRM): if a company plans to grow larger than a couple dozen customers it needs a customer relationship management program to track interactions with current and prospective customers. This is also a valuable tool for marketing and sales to work together. Some SMB CRMs are free, or inexpensive, especially for companies that are starting out with only a few hundred contacts. (Leading SMB CRMs include Infusionsoft, HubSpot, SugarCRM and Zoho.)
- Website analytics: All companies should implement the free Google Analytics and regularly review reports to understand if their website traffic is growing, where visitors are coming from, and what content visitors find most valuable. As they add in more and more marketing programs Google Analytics will help them measure their effectiveness.
- Content management system: The website is a company’s most important marketing asset and all companies need a content management system that makes it easy for non-technical staff to frequently update the website and add new content, including blog posts. (The two most popular programs are WordPress and Drupal; there are many others. A few marketing automation programs include content management systems. Small business website software like Squarespace, Wix and Weebly may be fine for very small businesses and SOHOs (Small Office, Home Office) but may not have the depth of options and ability to integrate with marketing automation and other programs that you’ll want to use as you grow your marketing program.)
- Marketing automation program: A marketing automation program is a kind of Swiss Army Knife of marketing which includes email marketing, website analytics, and the creation of website forms for visitors to register for activities or download materials. Some also include a CMS, blogging platform, website content personalization, social media tools, search engine optimization tips, and other features. The marketing automation program data should be integrated with the CRM. A company that wants to start more simply, and inexpensively, could begin with just an email marketing program and expand to a full marketing automation program later. (SMB marketing automation programs include Act-On, HubSpot and Infusionsoft. Leading email programs include Constant Contact and MailChimp.)
- Website conversion optimization: A website conversion is when you get someone to do what you want them to, such as to register for an event, download information, buy an item, or call you. With conversion optimization you increase the percentage of people visiting your site who convert; conversion optimization programs can double or more the number of actions you get from the same number of visitors. To undertake serious marketing programs without improving the conversion experience first is like trying to fill a bucket that’s full of holes. (Leading conversion optimization programs include Optimizely and Unbounce; some marketing automation programs and content management systems will also help you create better forms and conduct A/B tests.)
- Remarketing ads are those ads that display on other sites to people who recently visited your website; they help you take further advantage of the people who are already coming to your website. You can tailor remarketing ads to promote the particular products and services that the site visitor was interested in. They are especially effective because they only display to people who already know about you and, because they visited your site, are more likely to be interested in buying what you’re selling soon. (Remarketing campaigns can be managed through Google AdWords and Facebook.)
And that’s where you start. If you don’t have any of these in place it may take three to six months to set them up. Some programs, like Google Analytics and remarketing, can be set up and working in just an hour or so.
It’s important that you choose programs that can share data with the rest of your budding martech stack, so make sure you look into that before committing to a program. And talk through with your team what you actually want to do with each program before selecting one; they all have more features than you’ll use but make sure that they have the specific capabilities that you actually want. For example, when choosing a CRM some are contact-centric and others are better at supporting accounts. The selection of some tools, like the CRM, should involve both marketing and sales.
Larger SMBs or ones with more experienced marketing teams may want to supplement these programs with a few others, such as programs to assist in account based marketing, or voice of the customer programs. But that’s getting beyond the MarTech 101 goals of this post.
When you’ve gotten your Phase 1 Bullseye programs up and running, you’re ready to move on to Phase 2. Phase 2 is all about search marketing: getting your offerings in front of new people who are interested in buying what you’re selling right now. The two search marketing programs in Phase 2 are search advertising and search engine optimization.
- You can manage your search advertising with the tools provided by Google AdWords and Bing. As you grow to a larger search advertising program you may want to automate more of it with some third party tools. Integrate Google AdWords with Google Analytics, and use conversion tracking, to better understand which ads are producing actual results. (Leading third-party programs include WordStream and, for larger SMBs, Marin.)
- Some search engine optimization (SEO) tools may be built into the content management systems and marketing automation programs you implemented in Phase 1. You can use other SEO programs to help identify keywords important in your industry and to your competitors, and track how your search ranking is changing over time. Google Analytics will help you track increases in search traffic. (SEO tools include Ahrefs, Moz Pro and SEMrush.)
When you get to Phase 3 the martech options explode. There you will want to consider software related to social media marketing, display ads, events, as well as possibly buying new lists, or adding significant amounts of third-party data to your existing lists, analyzing prospects with predictive analytics, and far more. That’s where you get into building one of those enterprise-like stacks.
But you don’t have to start with a huge stack. Don’t be overwhelmed. Keep it simple. If you’re just starting out, take the next year to implement these eight martech programs and, if you use them diligently, you should start to produce significant results from a modest initial martech investment.