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Marketing Stack Review: How Do You Stack Up?
  • Contest Factory
  • September 8, 2021

Marketing stack

A marketing stack refers to the technology your organization uses to support marketing from start to finish. This would be the backbone internally to your omnichannel marketing strategy. From the technology platform you use for your website to the email marketing, SMS, business intelligence, artificial intelligence, chat bots, CRMs, plugins and more.

Each organization is going to have specific needs for their products and services. For instance one brand may need the ability to have commercial accounts with account managers while another may need state of the art eCommerce and another brand may need a hybrid of both.  Identifying your brand’s core needs and goals is the starting point to identifying the optimum marketing stack for your brand.

Website Platform

Your website platform will give you the base functionality you need in a platform. If you are selling online, your choice may have more ramifications than if you are merely providing information and collecting leads data.  Below we will share the options for both services and ecommerce website platforms with add-on options as well as when to know you need custom coding.

Services Website Platforms

WordPress: For services, the most popular platform has been wordpress as the price is right and you merely need to identify the brand style online, set up with the world’s most popular theme, Elementor and you are on your way. Often times less tech savvy folks think the theme determines the look and this is not accurate; rather your designer will design your custom look and your developer will apply this look to a theme.  Within your wordpress platform you will have the options to add on many bells and whistles – from chat plugins to SEO plugins, forms to collect data, google analytics plugins, social sharing icons, feedback tabs, product configurators, calculators, and more.

Wix: This is another diy platform that enables amateurs to configure websites with drag and drop technology as well as WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editors enabling the most novice marketer to whip up a website landing page. The draw back for this platform is that its code base is heavy due to the infrastructure necessary to enable an amateur to build a website.  If you do not depend on natural search and SEO, then you are set.

Square:  Square was originally a payment processor and expanded to websites recognizing all clients with a processor need a website.  This would enable a services website to also sell information or take deposits for consultations. Square also has a division called Acuity Scheduling that enables users to book time on your calendar. This may be a great fit for a small business setting up services such as dog grooming, catering, manicures, facials, and any other small businesses needing appointments.

eCommerce Platforms

Depending on how robust you are looking for in your platform, we have from training wheels to enterprise platforms. And at a certain point like Amazon, you may outgrow all of these to a custom enterprise solution built by a team of eCommerce developers. For now we will focus on the small business to traditional enterprise level eCommerce platform.

Woo Commerce: This is a wordpress plugin that let’s your wordpress site sell products and services. Woo Commerce was developed for small business with a small catalog to sell online without heavy lifting. This will enable you to collect payment, calculate shipping, show products and services on individual pages, show cross-sells, and provide the necessary order confirmations.

Shopify:  Shopify revolutionized eCommerce by offering a free platform to the etsy shops and crafters of the world. The reason Shopify did this in mass was to support their payment processor which is the backbone of the platform and where Shopify really makes their money. The platform has some cool features for selling on social and marketplaces but ultimately is very limited leaving you paying high processing fees up to 2.8% plus 35 cents a transaction. There are processors out there with significantly lower rates – as they do not advertise or have venture funding to the tune of Shopify.

Big Commerce: Big Commerce serves small to enterprise level clients with the price tag to match at every level. BigCommerce enables B2C and B2B selling. This means you have customer accounts with special pricing and have your sales reps work within BigCommerce. There is a plugin marketplace enabling you to build your dream eCommerce store – from gift registries, ERP connectors, chatboxes, product configurators, product kitting, bundling, and more, you will have every feature you need.

Magento:  This platform takes customizations to the next level with enterprise eCommerce platforms. Because this is an open source platform, you can code anything you want without needing to use plugins and pre-fab tools. The sky is the limit and the price tag shares this opinion. This is definitely for the big dogs in eCommerce. Also note that developers in this sphere are harder to find and therefore more expensive.

All of these platforms have something to offer – and if you are in eCommerce, the prices for the features do start to add up. You’ll need to decide your base functionality and get your site up and running – from there, it’s continual optimization of your platform.

Email Marketing Service Providers

MailChimp:  The most widely known platform out there due to the enormous venture capital used to market this plug and play email platform. It is free under 2,000 contacts – this means a small business can get on their feet using WYSIWYG editing. You can segment your customers and send different messages to different groups.  You can also set up a drip campaign that is automated and market in your sleep. Once you get out of the free plan, your costs go up and comparatively are higher than competitors that have more features. This product is very limiting in dynamic personalization.  However an awesome product to start your email marketing for free – the good news is if you decide to leave, you can deactivate your account and still access all contacts and metrics inside as well as historical campaigns.

Constant Contact: This mail service provider has been working hard to seize customers from the likes of mailchimp for years. They provide marketing playbooks, automation templates, best practices, and agency models to offer multiple accounts in one master account where you may service your clients. You can make landing pages, drag and drop pre-made forms, plenty of templates in the template library, eCommerce product pulls from your eCommerce platform to populate your email, different fonts and colors to customize your own email as well as html coding to create a 100% personalized email.

SendinBlue:  This email service provider has continued to add onto features while maintaining the goal of remaining one of the most affordable engines out there. This email platform also plugs into Hubspot, enabling you to augment your customer data and segment your customers to do better 1:1 marketing.  There are fewer template options here but bang for your buck this delivers everything that mailchimp offers for a fraction of the price – they also have fantastic customer service which is hard to come by with the aforementioned email service providers.

Klaviyo: This email service provider is king of the village – it does everything you want and more. This acts as a mini CRM as well. Once you add the code to your website, it will let you know when users have been on your site and you can trigger automations based on this. You can trigger automations based on categories visited, behaviors performed, and can dynamically populate email content based on all of these actions. A 1-year study for migrating mailchimp to Klaviyo showed a 400% increase in sales by adding the customizations and true 1:1 personalized email marketing.

Customer Relationship Management Platforms

While these are often more popular in the services segment, you may also find these useful in B:B marketing as well with high ticket items. As well as you may use this as a mini data warehouse to analyze source data and store everything you know about your customer until you’re ready to level up to the data warehouse level, which is a very large investment usually spent at the fortune 500 level of business – for now we can store our data in the available CRMs and export to our analytics tools to get the job done.

Hubspot: This would be an entry level platform that provides a lot of function and versatility for free – once you start adding on the professional plugins is where the fees come; however base functionality out of the free version will get you a lot of information. Simply apply the code to your website and you will be able to collect all your forms data and it will automatically populate in your CRM and show source data of where your users came from. Using their landing pages will continue to show you how many times your user has engaged with your brand, downloaded materials, used a calculator, or visited your website. This enables you to use the based recency, frequency, and monitary to start segmenting your data and marketing to each group for the point in the sales cycle in which they are in.

Marketo: This CRM is more sophisticated than Hubspot and for a larger organization. With all the bells and whistles Hubspot has, Marketo (owned by Adobe), adds even more attribution and customization. Entire campaigns can be served out of Marketo making it a very robust platform to store all of your customer data.  Marketo provides the following capabilities and the ability for custom coding to personalize the application to your specific business needs.

Salesforce:  This may be the most widely known of them all and most prevalent in sales organizations. This is specifically for sales and not eCommerce. This is also the oldest of the platforms, meaning the most experienced with the most familiarity and plenty of developers around to code for this at affordable prices.  Salesforce has created its own industry in marketplaces of templates. You can buy templates that have been used by very successful organizations and save time developing your own. You can test different templates to see what works for your sales funnel or build your own. This is your one-stop shop for sales management and CRM for any size sales organization. The con here is it is an enterprise solution and may have more power than you need. You will also need an administrator for this platform which is a heavy hitter salary level.

If you have not delved into CRM, you may want to start with a free version like Hubspot and get your feet wet before spending money on your learning curve. There are plenty of forums out there to also discuss your personal business model and which platform may be best appropriate for your model.

Dashboards & Analytics

Google Analytics: Tried, True, and FREE – we can’t think of a more solid solution than the one most folks have been using for decades; though it is surprising the number of organizations that are running this without understanding its power – there are so many tools within this gem, it could take a college course to unlock them all. You can segment your data on any source data to see exactly how your PPC traffic performs versus your paid traffic.  This may help you determine where to spend more marketing dollars – if natural search has a higher conversion rate, you may want to focus here.  GA also enables you to set goals and review each step of the goal to determine attrition so you may optimize the “fall-out” page. The data visualizations are lacking but the data is there – also note all Google products are designed by different teams, so trying to match across Google products may leave you scratching your head but there is rhyme and reason to each number being created for the tool’s purpose.
Tableau:  Tableau has a robust data intake ability to import or use an API to get all of your online and offline data sources in one place. This gives you a holistic view of your data and customer behavior. Imaging getting a full behavior profile view to see what areas of your funnel are on fire and what areas need tending to.  This will help you optimize at every area and impact all sources of customer engagement and acquisition. Tableau is an enterprise level product with enterprise level pricing. You want to be sure you need all the bells and whistles prior to signing up for this monthly fee.
Deftly:  This software dashboard product is for entry level businesses as well as for agencies looking to show clients exactly what their campaigns are doing. This software has the ability to bring in any data source through API connection with plug and play technology or to use sources that are not in the library by using sheets to import the data. This is a very robust solution for the entry level organization in spending extra dollars to understand their data in a visual way.
There are so many elements to a marketing stack that we will continue this analysis in more blogs – stay tuned for the add-ons, clamp-ons, and plugins you can add to these basic technology foundations to grow your abilities in micro-conversions, conversions, up-sells, cross-sells, incremental sales, and more. With over 30 years of technology marketing to pull from, we have some fantastic learnings to share with you on top of the base solutions discussed here.
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