How to build & consolidate a martech stack for large teams
In the vast world of marketing technology (MarTech), there are two main types of solutions. Those that are uber-specific, zeroing in on doing one particular thing really, really well (point solutions).
And those that are broader, focusing on providing an all-in-one service (suite solutions or platforms). When you put them together, you get the MarTech landscape — a space that’s seen 5,233% growth over the past decade.
In fact, back in 2011, there were only 150 MarTech tools to choose from.
Fast forward to 2022, and you’ve got over 8,000 of them.
It’s no wonder so many marketing teams are dreaming of consolidation right now. After all, having too many tools in a MarTech stack can lead to inefficient processes, wasted resources, and confusion.
So, we’re going to walk through exactly how to build or consolidate a MarTech stack for large teams in 2022. Let’s get started.
What’s a MarTech stack?
A marketing technology (MarTech) stack is a collection of software tools used to optimize or automate specific marketing tasks, from project management to SEO to lead generation.
The idea is that the tools combine (or stack) to form a cohesive strategy across the marketing spectrum. For example, a typical stack might have a tool for each of the following categories:
- Advertising and promotion
- Content and experience
- Social and relationships
- Commerce and sales
Why consolidate your MarTech stack?
MarTech stacks are notoriously under leveraged, meaning companies are often paying for capabilities they’re not even using.
According to the 2020 Gartner Marketing Technology Survey, for example, marketing leaders reported leveraging only 58% of their MarTech stack’s potential — despite the stack accounting for 26% of their total marketing budget.
If this sounds like your situation, you’re not alone. As you can see, it’s exceedingly common, not to mention understandable, considering all the options out there.
If you consolidate your stack, however, you can eliminate redundant tools and focus on getting the most out of the ones you already have — saving money and improving team performance at the same time.
Best practices for building & consolidating a marketing technology stack
In this next section, we’ll go over 8 best practices to keep in mind whether you’re building a stack from scratch or consolidating what you’ve already got.
1. Narrow down why you need each tool in your stack
Before choosing tools for your MarTech stack, it’s important to think about why you need them in the first place. In other words, your marketing strategy should come before marketing technology — not the other way around.
Hana Jacover, Director of Demand Generation at MadKudu, puts it this way, “When considering new tools, remember that technology is not a strategy but something that supports and enhances an existing strategy.”
A good way to do this is by starting with the needs of your customers and working backwards. What strategies do you already have in place to meet their needs? Are they working? Or are there strategies that would work better?
Make a list of goals with corresponding strategies and tools. Here are a few examples:
|Increase organic traffic||Content creation and SEO||Content management software (CMS) product, a content distribution tool, an SEO tool, content marketing software, etc.|
|Get more website visitors to convert||Redesign the website||Conversion optimization tool, an email marketing product, etc.|
|Improve customer communication||Automate transactional emails||Marketing automation software, email marketing software, etc.|
If you already have a full stack, take a look at each tool and narrow down exactly why you need it. Ask yourself the following questions:
- What specific marketing strategy is the tool supporting?
- Is it doing a good job in this role?
- Could the job be done better? If so, how?
2. Know which task(s) to delegate to human vs technology
The key to building a manageable MarTech stack is knowing which tasks to delegate to technology and which to keep in human hands. After all, technology is awesome but sometimes, it just can’t replace a human touch.
Take chatbots, for example. Many companies are now using this technology to engage with customers alongside traditional customer service channels like phone, email, and social media.
After all, chatbots are great for helping customers with simple problems, often resolving issues faster than human agents. And they can cut operational costs by up to 30%.
However, recent studies have revealed that people really don’t like chatbots in certain situations — namely addressing important matters like medical appointments or financial issues.
So, it’s important to think through your MarTech tools and consider if there are any areas where a more personalized approach would be preferred.
3. Find other alternatives that consolidate solutions you need
As you can imagine (or know all too well?), you could literally end up with hundreds of tools in your stack if you use a different one for every specific marketing task. And that’s just too much to manage — especially for large teams.
Fortunately, there are some really good solutions out there now that consolidate multiple tasks into one tool. Take Welcome, for example (shameless plug, we know 😆).
Welcome’s software brings marketing teams together in a single workspace to share plans, collaborate on assets, and flawlessly execute marketing campaigns.
This means many (if not most) of your marketing tools are in one place. You can execute your entire campaign and content lifecycle, from planning to production to measurement and back again, all within one platform.
4. Determine which tools aren’t worth their cost
Remember that bit about how most companies are only leveraging 58% of their MarTech stack’s potential? Despite the stack accounting for over a quarter of their total marketing budget?
With that in mind, chances are you’ve got some tools in your stack that aren’t pulling their weight from a cost/benefit perspective. To find the biggest offenders, make a list of all your MarTech tools.
Look up how much you’re paying to have them in your stack, whether it’s monthly, annually, or per user. Then take an honest look at how much your team is using the tool. Ask the following questions:
- How often do you use the tool?
- How much time does it save you on a daily basis?
- Could you do your job effectively without it?
- Does the usage level justify the cost to your marketing stack?
Most large companies find they have several tools that are just collecting dust (and invoices). These can be eliminated from the stack, freeing up valuable marketing dollars to be spent elsewhere.
5. Always start with a free trial
As a marketer, you might be familiar with shiny object syndrome. You know, when you’re constantly distracted by every new tool that hits the market, thinking each one is going to solve all your problems?
It’s a real thing, especially for entrepreneurs and creative marketers who are naturally drawn to innovation. But the thing is, if you spend all your time adding new MarTech tools, it’s hard to be focused on your core objectives.
Plus, you’ll end up with a bloated, way-too-expensive MarTech stack with overlapping capabilities and complicated integrations.
That said, it’s just so hard to resist some of the new tools that hit the market. And some of them may actually be helpful. A good compromise is to promise yourself to always start with a free trial — no exceptions.
This lets you test out new tools to make sure they’re a good fit before committing to making them a part of your marketing technology stack. Think of it as a test that all new tools have to pass before being allowed into the club.
6. Determine which tools perform too similar functions
As we’ve mentioned, most companies have MarTech tools with overlapping capabilities at this point. Not only is this wasteful from a budget perspective, but it can be confusing when you have a large team using different tools to get the same job done.
So it’s important to take the time to identify areas of overlap. You can flesh this out by grouping your tools according to category. Remember, most tools fall into the following six areas:
- Advertising and promotion
- Content and experience
- Social and relationships
- Commerce and sales
Once you’ve grouped them together, make a list of the exact tasks each tool performs and circle the areas of overlap. Then, sit down with your team to figure out which tools they prefer for each function. Keep the ones that get the job done best and ditch the ones that don’t.
7. Survey your team to identify gaps in marketing technology capabilities
Until now, we’ve been talking a lot about excess tools and overlapping capabilities. But there can also be gaps in your capabilities, processes that aren’t being addressed with your MarTech stack that could be.
Often, this is because the person adding new MarTech tools isn’t fully aware of the team’s day-to-day tasks and challenges. They’re not “in the trenches,” so to speak.
The best way to tackle this? Just ask. Sit down with your team and find out more about their daily routine. Or send it to them in a survey. You can ask the following simple questions:
- What adds a lot of time to your daily workflow?
- What makes your job harder?
- What tasks do you think could be automated?
- Are there any tasks that you feel are redundant or mundane?
- What tools do you wish you had that would make certain tasks easier?
For example, one of your employees may say that keyword research is taking up a lot of their time. If you don’t have anything in your stack that addresses keyword research, then this is a gap in your capabilities.
You can also tie this discussion or survey to the goals that you created earlier. Here’s an example:
Goal: Increase organic traffic
Marketing strategy: Content creation and SEO
Challenge: Keyword searches are taking a long time to do manually
Tool suggestions: Moz, Ahrefs, or other SEO tool
8. Think of your stack like an ecosystem
Scott Brinker, the creator of the MarTech 5000, believes we’re entering the “second golden age of MarTech.” He posits that a new dynamic is emerging in the industry, that the old battle between suite vs. best of breed solutions is being replaced with something more akin to an ecosystem.
In this new ecosystem, the major platforms will serve as the backbone of marketing stacks, designed to be augmented with specialized apps that can plug deeply into their systems.
This means you no longer have to choose between a suite solution vs. a hodgepodge stack of disconnected MarTech tools. You can have both — if you build the right ecosystem.
So, when building or consolidating your stack, find one tool to act as the backbone. This tool should have broad capabilities, including the option to grow or scale your business. It should also allow deep integrations with other tools and apps, not just surface-level add-ons.
Recommended tools for a marketing technology stack
In this next section, we’ll go over the different types of tools you should have in your MarTech stack, along with specific recommendations for tools in each category.
Customer Relationship Management Software (CRM)
A good customer relationship management (CRM) system is at the heart of any good MarTech stack. This is the tool that manages all your customer data, keeping contact details up to date, tracking every customer interaction, and managing customer accounts.
Without a CRM, every time someone interacts with a customer or meets with a new sales prospect, all of that information stays with them. At best, maybe they type up some notes to keep on their laptop.
At worst, all that information just stays in their head. Either way, it’s virtually impossible for other members of the team to step in to serve the customer if necessary.
A good CRM system solves this problem by tracking all these details and keeping them in one centralized location — accessible to everyone. This allows all your communication to be personalized, no matter which member of the team is handling the situation.
Salesforce is the top-rated CRM on G2 with over 11,000 reviews and an average user rating of 4.2. Salesforce strives to help businesses of all sizes accelerate sales, automate tasks and make smarter decisions.
It offers the following capabilities: lead and contact management, sales opportunity management, workflow rules and automation, customizable reports and dashboards, and a mobile application.
2. HubSpot Sales Hub
Our next pick for CRM software is HubSpot Sales Hub, with an average user rating of 4.4 on G2 based on over 8,000 reviews.
HubSpot Sales Hub strives to help teams close more deals, deepen relationships, and manage their pipeline more effectively — all on one easy-to-use platform.
Popular features include sales engagement tools, configure-price-quote (CPQ) functionality, and robust sales analytics for growing teams.
The third-place contender for CRM solutions on G2 is ActiveCampaign with 8,000+ reviews and an average user rating of 4.6.
ActiveCampaign defines itself as a customer experience automation platform (CXA), combining CRM capabilities with features like email marketing and marketing automation. This allows for segmentation and personalization across social, email, messaging, chat, and text.
Project Management Software
Another essential tool in your MarTech stack is project management software — especially if you have a large team. This is going to help you manage the details of each project while keeping everyone on the same page.
Specifically, project management software helps teams manage goals and long-term projects by assigning and coordinating individual tasks as they relate to one another.
Most project management solutions accomplish this by using a range of tools that manage workloads, monitor productivity, and allocate resources.
Users can typically track multiple projects, track a team or individual’s progress, analyze team productivity, and communicate with other team members.
Ok, so we might be a little biased here 😉 but we think Welcome’s the top choice when it comes to project management solutions — especially if you have a large marketing team collaborating on multiple projects at once.
What makes us so sure? For one, Welcome’s software is specifically built for marketing teams. This means you can create seamless workflows designed for creatives, allowing your team to swiftly fulfill requests, track and proof work, and deliver on-brand work.
You can even keep an eye on the current commitments (and bandwidth) of everyone on your team, helping to avoid burnout and ensuring you have the right people and time allocated to every project.
Plus, you can collect creative requests from anyone in (or out) of your organization, automatically delegate work based on your custom routing rules, lock in SLAs and get back to what you’re here to do — create.
With an average user rating of 4.2 on G2, here’s what a few people are saying about Welcome:
“My business partners can now update, edit and place new requests whenever they want. While my team can see the requests and act upon them. There are no lengthy email chains for now.”
“Stakeholders are able to easily fill out pre-designed briefs at the beginning of a project, attach any requirements or content, and our demand gen team can ask questions, ask for additional documentation and can then accept a project and kick it off. As projects morph, so too can this project brief. Really helps with keeping projects organized and inclusive.”
Marketing Automation Software
Marketing automation software is exactly what it sounds like — software that automates routine marketing tasks. Common workflows ripe for automation include email marketing, behavioral targeting, lead prioritization, and personalized advertising.
Besides automating tasks, this type of software provides teams with a central marketing database, helping marketers create segmented, personalized, and timely campaigns.
Marketing automation tools also feature strong analytics programs that can help teams determine the success of individual campaigns across segments and channels. They also typically measure the impact of campaigns on marketing team KPIs, campaign ROI, and company revenue.
Something to keep in mind about marketing automation software, however, is that a large database of leads is needed for automation to have much of an effect on your bottom line.
So, it often makes sense to establish a steady flow of inbound leads before adding marketing automation software to your stack — or to choose a solution that can also help you do that.
Our first pick for a marketing automation solution is ActiveCampaign. As we mentioned above, ActiveCampaign defines itself as a customer experience automation platform (CXA), combining CRM capabilities with marketing automation features. They claim it’s like “getting an extra employee without needing an extra desk.”
Examples of tasks you can automate with ActiveCampaign include a welcome series with email automation, tracking contact engagement with tags, custom fields, analytics, and performance reporting, and pulling info from offline and digital channels.
The third-place contender for marketing automation software on G2 is SharpSpring, a Constant Contact company that’s garnered an average user rating of 4.5 on the platform.
SharpSpring frames itself as a revenue growth marketing platform that helps small businesses generate leads, improve conversions to sales, and drive higher returns on marketing investment
All the features in SharpSpring are designed to help users generate quality leads with targeted communication and lead nurturing, win more customers with dynamic content and personalization, and convert leads faster with purposefully designed content and landing pages.
Our third pick for marketing automation software is Klaviyo, a solution with 4.6 stars on G2. Klaviyo calls itself a growth marketing platform and strives to help you deliver personalized, automated experiences to customers.
Klaviyo allows you to automate these experiences across owned marketing channels like email, SMS, in-app notifications, and the web.
Email Marketing Software
Email marketing software is a must-have in any MarTech stack because it automates the process of sending marketing and transactional emails to customers.
Email marketing software can also manage your contact lists, help you design and write compelling emails, and track whether messages were opened or read.
It can even help you build and manage opt-in email lists, segment lists to target your email sends, and automatically manage unsubscribes or subscriber responses.
Many solutions are integrated with other MarTech tools, especially CRM platforms and marketing automation software, while others are standalone.
1. Constant Contact
The top-rated email marketing solution on G2 is Constant Contact, one of the old-timers in the MarTech world with over 20 years in the business.
Constant Contact has compiled nearly 5,000 reviews on G2 with an average user rating of 4.0.
The platform offers an easy-to-use drag-and-drop editor along with hundreds of pre-designed templates.
Other popular features include automatically sending welcome emails to new subscribers, sending emails based on user behaviors, uploading contact lists from Excel, Outlook, Salesforce, or wherever you store your contacts, and tracking results in real-time.
Mailchimp takes the second spot on G2 with an average user rating of 4.3 and 11,000+ reviews.
This email marketing software is based on AI-powered, user-friendly tools that anyone can use to be successful.
Mailchimp claims to put your audience at the center so you can send marketing emails and automated messages, create targeted ad campaigns, build landing pages, send postcards, facilitate reporting and analytics, and sell online.
3. Zoho Campaigns
Our third pick for email marketing software is Zoho Campaigns, with an average user rating of 4.3 on G2. Similar to Constant Contact and Mailchimp, Zoho lets you create emails using pre-designed templates, layouts, and a drag-and-drop editor.
Other popular features include dynamic content, email polls, and automated list segmentation that help send personalized messages to your audience. Zoho also offers A/B testing, list management, and automatic handling of unsubscribes and bounces.
Web Content Management Software
Web content management software has changed dramatically over the past decade. It’s even gone through a few name changes from web content management (WCM) to content management system (CMS) to digital experience platform (DXP).
No matter what you call it, this software is a critical component in your MarTech stack because it handles all the things that go on behind the scenes of a website — so you can focus on the content itself.
Today, there’s an endless variety of web content management software to choose from, each with its own set of features and benefits.
Some software, for example, is ideally suited for ecommerce sites, whereas others are tailored towards bloggers or service-based businesses. Which one is right for you mostly depends on what you need your website to do and how tech-savvy you are.
Our top CMS pick goes to WordPress, bringing in an average user rating of 4.3 on G2 and powering around 43% of all websites on the internet. WordPress offers the flexibility and freedom to build any kind of website you want (personal blog, online store, membership site, and more).
Plus, with hundreds of themes to choose from, you don’t need any technical skills or coding knowledge. That said, there is a bit of a learning curve with WordPress and many beginners use drag & drop page builder plugins to make things easier.
2. HubSpot CMS Hub
The second choice goes to HubSpot CMS with 4.5 stars on G2. Like WordPress, this software allows users to easily create and manage websites without coding experience.
HubSpot CMS also lets users personalize pages for different visitors and optimize them for mobile devices and conversions.
Another good choice for web content management software is Pantheon, which has a user rating of 4.5 on G2.
Pantheon is a serverless CMS that allows you to build WordPress or Drupal sites on a cloud infrastructure that delivers sub-second page loads using object cache and a lightning-fast content delivery network.
Content Marketing Platform (CMP)
A good content marketing platform helps streamline and optimize the content creation process — something that’s becoming increasingly important as content marketing becomes more and more complex.
In some ways, a CMP is similar to project management software in that it creates workflows and helps manage individual tasks related to larger projects.
But CMP’s dive deeper into content creation itself, providing teams with things like collaborative editorial calendars and workflows, digital asset management, and content performance analytics.
Our top recommendation for a content marketing platform goes to Welcome. Welcome’s CMP helps teams create faster, repeatable processes to deliver content your audience will love.
Plus, Welcome’s platform includes SEO and keyword research to optimize your content and it lets you leverage real-time search data to inform your content strategy, optimize content so that it ranks well for search, and ensure it resonates with your audience.
You can also create and proof content of all formats with Welcome. Have a fresh idea? Use our built-in, rich-text HTML editor to author an original piece, and upload content (.ppt, .xls, .doc, .mp4 or other format) directly. That way, your team can create, proof, and version work — all in one place.
You can even distribute content to every channel from one location and seamlessly push content to your most important downstream systems (social, CMS, CRM), ensuring a consistent, cross-channel content experience.
Our third choice for content marketing software is Loomly, with an average user rating of 4.6 on G2. Loomly is designed to help marketing teams create better content for social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and LinkedIn.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO tools are critical to have in your MarTech stack if you want to improve how your website and content rank in organic search engine results pages (SERPs).
Most SEO tools provide insights and help identify the best strategies to improve ranking on search engines like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. Many also offer competitor data and broad industry analysis.
SEMrush is the top-rated SEO tool on G2, garnering an average user rating of 4.5 with over 1,000 reviews.
SEMrush offers over 50 products, tools, and add-ons to improve online visibility — including tools for search, content, social media, and market research. Plus, SEMrush has data for more than 140 countries, seamless integration with Google, and task management platforms
2. SE Ranking
In second place on G2 for SEO tools comes SE Ranking, boasting a whopping 4.8-star average user rating. SE Ranking is an all-in-one SEO software that claims to offer all the SEO tools needed to successfully complete online marketing projects.
Popular features include keyword position tracking and keyword research, website audit, competitor analysis, keyword suggestion and grouping, backlink monitoring, and automated professional reporting.
Our third pick for search engine optimization software is Ahrefs, with an average user rating of 4.6 on G2. Ahrefs is an all-in-one SEO toolset, with free learning materials and a passionate community and support system for beginners.
Popular features include competitor research (unveiling your competitor’s organic keywords, backlink strategies and PPC keywords) and link building (find the strongest backlink opportunities in your niche).
Plus, you can take advantage of Ahrefs’ mentions monitoring feature and get email alerts every time you or your brand is mentioned online.
Web analytics tools
Web analytics tools are important to have in your MarTech stack because they help you understand who visits your website and what they do while they’re there. Here are some examples of the type of data you can collect with a good web analytics tool:
- Number of visits and unique visitors
- New vs returning visitor ratio
- Where your visitors are from (country)
- What browser or device your visitors are using
- Common landing and exit pages
- Frequently visited pages
- How much time visitors spend per visit
- Bounce rate
- How much traffic specific campaigns are driving
- Which websites send the most traffic
- What keyword searches are driving traffic
1. Google Analytics
Used on over 30 million websites, Google Analytics (GA) is by far the market leader in the web analytics space. It has an average user rating of 4.5 on G2 with nearly 6,000 reviews.
GA uses state-of-the-art conversion attribution and testing tools that can help your marketing team build better user experiences and maximize your digital strategy.
Our second pick for web analytics software goes to Mixpanel, with a 4.5-star user rating on G2.
Mixpanel is a bit different compared to traditional traffic tools. It’s specifically designed to help SaaS and website owners get real-time data insights into how people interact with a product.
Mixpanel’s self-serve product analytics solution allows teams to analyze how and why people engage, convert, and retain — in real-time and across devices.
3. Amplitude Analytics
Our third pick for web analytics software is Amplitude Analytics, coming in with 4.5 stars and 1,000 reviews on G2.
Amplitude frames itself as a Digital Optimization System used by brands and disruptive teams to understand and personalize their digital products, and optimize the business value of product innovation.
Popular features include real-time analytics, cross-platform tracking, powerful behavioral analytics, and enterprise-level security and customer support.
MarTech stack FAQs
Still have a few questions about marketing technology? Makes sense, it’s a huge topic. Here are a few answers to some common points of confusion.
What are MarTech and AdTech? Any difference?
As you know, MarTech is short for marketing technology. It includes all the tools used to optimize or automate marketing tasks, from project management to SEO to lead generation.
Adtech, on the other hand, is short for advertising technology. It’s somewhat related to MarTech, in the same way that marketing and advertising are related. But adtech solutions focus primarily on things like ad buying and digital spending.
That said, MarTech and adtech solutions are starting to converge in some places as consumers gravitate more and more towards digital content. Savvy marketers can use this convergence to create seamless experiences that are more engaging for the customer.
One way to do this is to integrate your adtech and MarTech stacks. This can give you a more complete view of your customer by unifying data and communications.
What are some examples of AdTech
Demand-side platforms (DSP) – Companies use DSPs to buy online ad space through bidding auctions. DSPs connect advertisers with ad networks and allow them to access available inventory.
Supply-side platforms (SSP) – Publishers use SSPs to sell ads. The SSPs connect to ad exchanges to make a publisher’s inventory available for DSPs to bid on.
Search engine marketing (SEM) platforms – These platforms help advertisers purchase ad space on search engines for specific keywords. Examples include Semrush and Google Ads.
Native adtech – A native ad is designed to look like part of the web content that a person is viewing, as opposed to an ad. Native adtech platforms help advertisers distribute these ads. Examples include Taboola and Outbrain.
Ad exchanges – This is a marketplace that facilitates the buying and selling of digital advertising spots between DSPs and SSPs, often in real-time. Examples include AppNexus and Verizon Media.
Advertising networks – These are aggregators that collect ad inventory from publishers and sell it to buyers. Examples include AdMob by Google, Yahoo Gemini, Google Display Network, Meredith, and AdCash.
Hopefully, you’re feeling more optimistic at this point about wrangling your MarTech stack into shape. Here’s a quick recap of 8 best practices when building or consolidating a stack for large teams:
- Narrow down why you need each tool in your stack.
- Know where human vs technology is more appropriate.
- Find other alternatives that consolidate the solutions you need.
- Determine which tools aren’t worth their cost.
- Always start with a free trial.
- Determine which tools perform functions that are too similar.
- Survey your team to identify gaps in marketing technology capabilities.
- Think of your stack like an ecosystem.