Not so long ago, simply having a website was sufficient to differentiate your business. It was an always-on, 24/7 place where prospects and customers could learn about your products and services. What could be better!
Well, along came forms for data collection and emails for outbound marketing. Search engines and PPC also arrived on the scene and soon thereafter, social media and the concept of inbound marketing.
But clearly things were just getting started. Phones suddenly got really smart and just like that, your customers were mobile—which meant that your digital presence needed to become mobile, too. Fast forward to today with live video, big data, chatbots, AI, mobile apps—even augmented reality—and that world where a simple website made you “cutting edge” seems as quaint as Mayberry. How’s an SMB (small-to-medium sized business) marketer—who’s already strapped for time and resources—supposed to keep up?
Building your digital strategy on your martech stack
Today, an effective digital strategy is critical to business success—and non-negotiable if you expect to compete. Maybe your industry isn’t about to be “Uber-ized”, but you can be sure your competitors are adopting digital strategies and one day might be eating your lunch. SMBs are coming to realize that having an effective digital strategy means having an effective marketing technology (martech) stack—the appropriate platforms and tools necessary to build, analyze, and maximize lead generation and customer experience across the growing landscape of digital channels.
Navigating the martech jungle
If that sounds complicated, it kind of is. SMBs building a martech stack face an overwhelming number of choices. There are literally thousands of platforms, tools, and apps—today’s marketing technology landscape comprises nearly 5,000 companies and solutions. That’s up from 150 companies just seven years ago when Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec.com first started counting!
But like everything, walking before you run is a smart course of action. While choosing the “right” martech stack will be different for each business, the basic building blocks of every martech stack can be optimized around the marketing continuum of:
Attract. You’re creating awareness of your business and generating new leads.
Engage. Now that you’ve got their attention, you’re presenting your SMB as a solution provider worth considering.
Convert. You’re closing deals and making sales. But you’re not done.
Retain. You’re strengthening customer relationships, delivering great service, generating additional sales, and cultivating evangelists for your SMB.
With that big idea in mind, let’s look at how you can build an SMB martech stack based on your “digital marketing maturity“—the extent to which you’re currently committed to digital marketing, and to your digital marketing vision for the future.
“Table Stakes” – Getting started in the digital marketing game
Think of these components as the basic foundation for any martech stack—and enough technology to start attracting new sales leads and delivering the business advantages of digital marketing.
Website with CMS
Your website is your digital storefront, no matter your line of business. It should be THE source of information about your business. It should engage visitors with relevant content that answers their questions and collect user data to help shape your customer communications. (And if you’re an eCommerce enterprise, it should offer business transaction capabilities.)
For SMBs looking to grow, we recommend a professional-level website platform with CMS (content management system) capabilities that enable building and editing of pages (including blog posts and landing pages) with relative speed and ease. WordPress and HubSpot are both great options in this regard.
It’s also smart to explore and understand the available martech integrations with your website platform. Whether just you’re laying the foundation for your stack now or you already have plans to go “all in,” you want to be able to seamlessly sync to the fullest extent possible. (Some well-known build-your-own platforms can be quite limiting in this regard.)
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) aims to place your website and page content, blog posts, landing pages, and other content assets as high as possible in Google or Bing searches to attract more visitors. There are technical basics that make up a good SEO strategy and tools like Moz and Yoast that can help guide SEO efforts for best results.
Incorporating SEO basics is a must for any digital strategy. But like anything related to digital marketing, SEO best practices constantly change. Keeping up with the latest trends or changes to Google algorithms can require expert help.
Data Reporting and Analytics
In digital marketing, every initiative at every stage of the marketing continuum is data-driven and measurable. The results of one marketing effort will drive decisions around those that follow. Therefore, data reporting and analytics capabilities are critical to any martech stack.
That starts with insights into website performance. Every website should have Google Analytics at a minimum. It’s free, super-simple to integrate, and reveals a wealth of information on your site’s traffic—including critical data on keywords. And drilling down to page-level data, even the free version of Hotjar will show you precisely where your visitors are hovering and clicking.
Email also supports all phases of the marketing continuum. It attracts new visitors to your business and engages them with content, nurturing them to conversion. And it can help retain customers with specially crafted communications and targeted, personalized offers.
The email platforms available today allow you to easily create appealing and compelling communications and target them to the people most likely to respond. They can be single-point solutions like MailChimp or ConstantContact, or part of a marketing automation platform like HubSpot or SharpSpring. They even enable testing so you can quickly see, for instance, which subject line gets more opens or which offers get more click-throughs.
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platforms bring your marketing, sales, and service teams together to optimize your sales process and deliver high-quality service that keeps customers loyal.
CRMs keep everyone on the same page and are designed to prevent prospect and customer activity from falling through the cracks. For instance:
- CRMs can capture every customer interaction, whether by phone or email, creating a record of sales qualification efforts and driving accountability for sales effectiveness.
- Team members can schedule “to-dos” such as making a follow-up call, sending a content asset, or scheduling a product demo.
- When integrated with a marketing automation platform, CRM can record website and blog visits, content downloads, etc., to contact records. This data can inform prospect conversations (“Can I answer any questions you have about the whitepaper you downloaded?”) and dictate next steps to be taken by marketing and sales teams.
“Upping the ante” – Committing more to achieve more
Incorporating additional martech tools to your foundation stack can extend customer-facing digital experiences further along the continuum, boosting engagement, conversion, and retention.
Marketing automation platforms are “mission control” for all digital marketing efforts. While they empower you to move the needle around lead generation and customer acquisition, they can have a measurable effect on conversion and retention as well. Well-known solutions include SharpSpring for smaller businesses, HubSpot for more established mid-sized businesses, and Pardot (Salesforce) for more enterprise-level needs.
Basic marketing automation capabilities include:
- Email marketing campaign management
- List management and segmentation
- Form and landing page management
- Social media management
- Campaign management
- Blog and content development
- Content asset management
Automated email workflows, sequences, and triggers keep the conversation going throughout the customer journey by serving relevant content to site visitors and signaling to your sales team when it’s appropriate to initiate one-on-one conversations. You can measure the performance of emails, blog posts, landing pages, social media shares—anything a prospect or customer sees. And you’ll be able to manage customer and prospect data to determine who’s most qualified to buy, who’s interested but needs more nurturing, and who’s just not that into you.
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, an active and relevant social media presence will help you attract, engage, and retain customers. A social media management platform allows you, in a single place, to compose and schedule social posts on all the platforms you use. And with a social listening platform, you can monitor mentions of your business or industry-relevant terms, then jump into relevant conversations. There are great standalone social media tools like Buffer, Hootsuite, and CoSchedule. Most marketing automation platforms also offer social media management.
When someone clicks on an offer—say for your latest ebook—they should go to a dedicated landing page. There, in exchange for some information, they’ll get access to the offer. Landing pages are essential to engagement and conversion—so the platform you use should integrate with both your website and your database. Single-point landing page solutions like Instapage and Unbounce are incredibly simple to use and offer very good integrations with marketing automation platforms like HubSpot.
One of the most daunting aspects of an effective digital marketing strategy is producing a sustained flow of content assets to support all phases of the marketing continuum—even when you have a company full of subject matter experts. To get the sand out of the gears, take advantage of the numerous martech tools that simplify and accelerate the creation of blog posts, infographics, graphic calls-to-action, images, ebooks, whitepapers, and more.
This is where you take customer engagement and retention to the next level. Seek out tools that integrate with your stack to provide real-time conversations between site visitors, existing customers and your team, commenting on your content, community discussions, and webinars. This is CRM gold!
“Going all in”-Taking your stack to the max
The more your business grows with digital, the more you can come to expect from digital. The tools in these categories give you more marketing muscle across the continuum.
Visual-based content has become ascendant in this age of shortening attention spans. Expect to see more and more video across the digital universe—and start planning to build your own video content library. Creating and sharing basic video using a smartphone and social media or YouTube is a no-brainer for many marketers. Building more sophisticated video productions and managing their delivery using platforms like Brightcove and Vimeo can produce real results.
From Google Adwords to social media, paid online advertising can offer a precise level of strategic targeting that attracts better-qualified leads. Paid social is a low-risk option that can drive great returns, with Facebook and LinkedIn offering great micro-targeting options. Google PPC requires more time and investment but can deliver high-intent leads that offer the greatest chance of conversion. Some marketing automation platforms like HubSpot enable management of paid social, while single-point solution platforms like Wordstream offer sophisticated yet easy-to-use interfaces to maximize PPC programs.
You know how you see shoe ads in your browser after you’ve been shoe shopping online? That’s retargeting. You may find it annoying as a consumer, but it’s a proven way to boost awareness and conversion metrics. Don’t think it’s only for consumer products—B2B marketers can make great use of retargeting with webinar invitations, demo sign-ups, and ebook offers.
This is the cherry on top of the CRM cake: Tools that extract customer information from your CRM system and use it to create, send, and track customized sales proposals. Most sales people will tell you that after cold calling, generating proposals is their least favorite thing to do. Tools like PandaDoc can automate much of the process and take away a lot of the pain.
Data Management Platforms
A DMP is all about warehousing and organizing massive amounts of customer, marketing, and sales data in a way that makes it quickly accessible and, above all, actionable. DMPs are no longer the sole domain of the large enterprise. SMBs with larger databases have a range of affordable DMP options like Salesforce and Stitch.
How much martech do you need?
Your specific martech stack will depend on a host of variables, including where you are from a digital marketing maturity standpoint, budget, size and capability of your marketing team, growth goals, and customer database size.
Choosing and integrating martech will challenge any SMB—but in time the rewards can be considerable. To learn more about how martech stacks accelerate marketing and sales results, download our ebook The Definitive Guide to Selling Better & Faster. And when you’re ready to start building your stack, we’re here to help you make sense of your options. Feel free to reach out, anytime.