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What is a Marketing Technology Stack and how can you build one?

Jul 18, 2018
What is a Marketing Technology Stack and how can you build one?

The vast wealth of terminology used in discussions of marketing strategy can often be overwhelming. On top of that, keeping abreast of the latest trends can be time consuming, meaning as quickly as you master one marketing term, the next is already demanding your attention.

One marketing term catching commentators’ attention at the moment is the Marketing Technology Stack. While you could be forgiven for wondering what this is, this week we’re bringing you everything you need to know about the Stack and how you can build your own.

What is a Marketing Technology Stack?

According to Simple Marketing Now, a Marketing Technology Stack is ‘the sum of all the digital marketing tools you use for your business.’ The article argues that most organisations today use some form of marketing technology as an integral part of their strategy, but the question of how to organise and integrate these is a pressing one.

This question has been tackled by Hubspot’s Scott Brinker, who coined the Marketing Technology Landscape, a graphic depiction of all the marketing technology companies operating in the marketplace. Brinker defines Marketing Technology Stacks as ‘the collection of marketing technology products that your company uses and how they’re conceptually organised.’ He also argues that visually representing this stack is a highly valuable exercise, because this:

‘means you have an opportunity to step back and think about all of your digital tools, organize them in a way that makes sense and that, ideally, delivers value to prospects and customers. That process may even help you identify gaps or duplications in your stack.’

Arguing that ‘we can learn a lot by seeing how our peers conceive their stacks and the pieces that they assemble together,’ Brinker believes creating and sharing a Marketing Technology Stack is something that all organisations should be doing.

Where do you start?

Now we’ve established what a Marketing Technology Stack is and why it’s valuable, the question remains: how do you start building your own?

1. Step back and take stock

The first thing to do before all others is to step back and take stock of the marketing technologies your organisation uses. It is likely that these have been added to your strategy in an ad-hoc manner, as each new technology has become available or your strategy has demanded assistance.

Begin with a simple list of the technologies you use, for example your Content Management System (CMS) or that email automation tool you signed up for. By taking the time to collect all the necessary information, the following steps will be easier.

2. Divide and group your technologies

A key element of visualising your Marketing Stack is that it allows you to establish your organisation’s technologies into a coherent, traceable strategy. This allows you to identify gaps in your stack that need to be filled, or likewise duplications and overlaps that can be streamlined.

Oracle, a US computer software company, has published a helpful guide called “The Guide to Building Your Marketing Technology Stack” which can be downloaded from The Drum. Oracle divides its whitepaper into six categories, which could prove a useful model to follow when starting out with your own. The six categories are: 

  1. Marketing automation
  2. Cross-channel marketing
  3. Content marketing
  4. Data management
  5. Social media marketing
  6. Testing and optimisation 

Each category is then subdivided to allow for a clear visualisation of your Stack. Taking marketing automation as an example, Oracle identifies campaign management, targeting and segmentation, lead management and scoring, and open platform as subcategories. Arguing, ‘just like a marketing team that needs to act like a team to get things done, your tools need to connect with other tools,’ Oracle believes that identifying exactly which of the above-mentioned roles is fulfilled by each of your technologies will allow you to better integrate your Stack overall.

3. Adopt an ecosystem mentality

Once you have completed the above two steps, it’s time to visualise your Marketing Technology Stack and put it to work. There are any number of ways you can visualise this, but why not check out entries to Scott Brinker’s “The Stackies” awards for some ideas.

As these graphic representations show, a good stack looks something akin to a web of interacting platforms and technologies, each serving its own function and supporting that of others. According to Customer Think, to make the most out of this visual web in the long term you need to adopt an ‘ecosystem mentality.’ The article argues that: 

‘In order to optimize the performance of their marketing technology tools, marketers need to think of their marketing technology stack as an ecosystem of interdependent capabilities. This interdependence means that the components of the stack must be integrated at appropriate levels to produce maximum results.’

Pointing to stats which show that 43% of survey respondents said their marketing technology stack is ‘fragmented’ with ‘inconsistent integration between technologies,’ it is clear that many organisations have work to do to boost this ecosystem mentality. By better understanding how a Marketing Technology Stack can help, marketers can move towards this level of integration and streamline their processes going forward.


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