The marketer’s life has changed dramatically over the last few years. Now that we have responsibility for revenue growth, customer lifetime value, cost of acquisition and every customer’s overall experience from the first point of contact to the last, our marketing program and tool mix has become extremely complex.

New technology has given us thousands (yes, literally thousands) of useful and innovative products to use to reach and engage prospective customers.   That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it’s increasingly difficult to figure out what to use, what to integrate and what to jettison.  With marketing teams using as many as one hundred tools at any given time, it has become virtually impossible to track what is in use and what is being tested.  In a large enterprise, this problem is magnified as distributed marketing teams try to stay abreast of each other’s learnings.

Building a marketing stack is a great way to start addressing some of these challenges.   In the same way that engineers visually showcase the tools they use in the form of a “stack” to create a picture of the strength and complexity of their technology architecture, marketers are beginning to showcase their own tools in the form of a marketing stack.  Once the domain of the geekiest marketing technologists, the marketing stack has become mainstream and is quickly becoming an essential component of any marketing strategy presentation.

A marketing stack visually represents how marketing teams use various tools in combination, making it easy to track all the tools being used and tested.  It has other important uses too:

  • Enables functional and regional teams to see what each is doing and to identify opportunities for efficiency and integration
  • Makes it easy to identify gaps in the marketing program
  • Provides a foundation to track spend and performance


Creating a marketing stack doesn’t have to be difficult or time consuming 

Unless you are artistically inclined and feel compelled to create a unique work of art, start with a simple layered topology.

  1. There is no right or wrong way to approach the layers of the marketing stack.  What’s most important is that you align the layers of the stack with the structure of your marketing program, organization and objectives. Some common approaches include:
    • By Function: customer acquisition, engagement, retention, insights etc.
    • By Program Categories: Social, Content, Analytics etc.
    • By Team Structure: function or geography
  2. Once you have your layers in place, you simply start adding names or logos of the tools that you are currently using into the stack.  If you have lost track of what you are currently using, then leverage sites like Builtwith or Ghostery who detect code snippets on your site and can give you a list of technology in place – of course this doesn’t pick up the tools that are not embedded, but it gives you a headstart.
  3. Now annotate with the following information:  Function of each element, spend on each element. Over time you can also add in performance information.
  4. Finally, identify points of integration between key elements of the stack.

Note: CabinetM’s MyStacks makes it easy to create, annotate and share stacks.  Be sure to check out our free, simple-to-use MStack Configurator!


Finding new products for your stack

Today there are thousands of marketing tools that can be leveraged across the entire span of the marketing program; the CabinetM directory now has more than 5000 tools, in hundreds of categories.  With so many tools, tool discovery can be daunting.  Once you have a baseline stack in place, you can use it as a framework to identify where new tools are needed and quickly focus on areas to explore.  There are a lot of excellent resources to tap:

  1. CabinetM lets you search and compare tools across hundreds of categories – of course we always recommend you start with us!
  2. Review sites like Trust Radius give you access to the wisdom of other marketers who have had first hand experience with hundreds of marketing tools.
  3. The Marketing Technology Landscape created by Scott Brinker provides an overarching map of the entire marketing landscape, which can help identify areas that may not have been considered.
  4. MarTech Advisor and The Hub track the latest happenings in Marketing Technology.
  5. Peers are one of the best sources of guidance.  I’m a big proponent of sharing marketing stacks to mutual benefit.
  6. There are thousands of agencies (see Agency Spotter) and industry analysts/consulting services (Forrester, Sirius Decisions) willing and able to help you narrow your selection and qualify new tools if you prefer to leverage outside resources.


Don’t stop at one stack

Once you are comfortable with the process for creating a stack, you can leverage the same taxonomy and create stacks to track tools being tested or do a deep dive on a functional or product category.  You’ll find stacks provide a useful communication vehicle for collaborating around technology strategy and roadmap.


Test and test and test some more

Leading marketing technologists will tell you that the best path to achieve revenue, cost and engagement goals is through continual refinement and evolution of your marketing mix. Testing new tools is a mandate.


Share the love

In my experience, marketers are very generous with their expertise and more often than not are willing to help out another marketer.  A few years ago when I was running an ecommerce company, we routinely picked up the phone and asked our competitors and peers about their experience with a wide variety of tools.  Within the CabinetM MyStacks environment you can share your stacks privately with friends and team members and also with the greater community by sharing to StacksUp.  When you share to the community, you have the option to share anonymously.  I’d like to encourage everyone to share as much information as feels comfortable.  If everyone starts sharing, think how great it will be to be able to see what companies of your size, type and industry are using.  The secret sauce is in the campaigns and strategy you’ve layered on top of your technology – letting someone see your collection of tools won’t give away the keys to the kingdom.  Engineers do this routinely and, in fact, often make code available to fellow engineers.   We’re hoping for some of the same peer assistance in our environment!

Finally, if you have experience and expertise to share around creating an effective marketing stack, please send us an article for StacksInsights.

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