9 Keys for Building a Killer Marketing Tech Stack

Experts weigh in on why the stack matters and how to put one together

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The marketing technology stack: some brands swear by it, while others have only the faintest inkling what a stack is or why they’d want to use one. As technology becomes increasingly central to the way that customers engage with brands, having access to the right mix of marketing solutions can be the difference between long-term success and a customer engagement strategy that just doesn’t work.

To help brands think seriously about today’s mobile tech stack, we sat down with three experts—Andy Carvell, cofounder and partner at Phiture and creator of the Mobile Growth Stack, Diana Kim, director of growth at TMGA: The Mobile Growth Agency, and Jeff Roberto, head of marketing at PicsArt—to talk through all things stack. Read on for the 9 biggest takeaways:

1. A good stack helps marketing teams execute more responsive, more sophisticated customer engagement strategies

According to Jeff, a stack that fits your brand’s needs “gives marketers the ability to quickly react to customer trends to create user-centric marketing programs that drive higher engagement. For PicsArt, that means supporting marketing to a community of over 400 million installs, 90 million monthly actives, across 20 languages and 3 mobile platforms globally!” At its core, a marketing technology stack is a collection of technologies that, when used together, support your brand’s marketing goals. “Having the right combination of tools enables you to work smarter and faster,” Diana told us, leading to more effective marketing efforts and better outcomes.

2. An effective marketing stack can reduce marketing’s need to lean on engineering

The rise of digital and mobile devices has done a lot to make modern marketing more dependent on technology. If, for instance, you want to reach your audience on their smartphones, you need a solution that supports that kind of communication. Some marketing tech can function effectively with minimal support from other departments, but other solutions may require you to go hat in hand to your brand’s engineering team on a regular basis.

It doesn’t have to be that way. “A well-designed marketing tech stack empowers the marketing team to set up and manage complex marketing efforts with minimal reliance on the product team,” Jeff told us, allowing marketing more control over its own destiny. And it’s becoming easier to get there: “The technological advances within the past few years,” Diana said, “enable everyday marketers to access data and execute on campaigns without being reliant on analytics and engineering teams.” That’s good news for marketers, and their customers, too—when marketing strategies are less dependent on other teams for their success, it becomes easier for marketers to send campaigns that are more responsive to customer needs and wants, supporting a better experience over the long haul.

3. To see the full benefit of your marketing stack, make sure you have the fundamentals down

Marketing technology can be a powerful tool for driving stronger results and deeper customer engagement, but these tools don’t operate in a vacuum. “Having solid tech fundamentals in place is a precursor for driving impact with marketing initiatives,” Andy told us. “It’s not enough to simply have the ability to send emails or push notifications; there needs to be proper measurement and an experimental framework, underpinned by behavioural analytics that enables meaningful segmentation and targeting.” If you have a lifecycle engagement platform with the power to target the messages you send, but aren’t collecting data that would support that kind of segmentation and customization, you aren’t going to be able to make full use of the technology you’re paying for.

“It’s about getting the data layer right,” Andy said. “Identifying users, attributing them to an acquisition source [or] campaign and tracking their activity within the app. Once these data fundamentals are in place, it’s about making that data work for you in the form of dynamic marketing campaigns, retargeting, [and] acquiring more users like your most-engaged segments. Achieving this requires careful attention to your marketing tech stack and data integrations.”

5. Don’t build a stack without considering your marketing needs down the line

Solving today’s marketing needs is always going to be part of the plan when you assemble a stack, but it’s a mistake to make that the only goal. “Think about where you’re headed from a product and marketing perspective and ensure that the tech stack [you assemble] is designed to meet your needs down the line,” Jeff suggested. “Switching platforms is a costly and timely effort and can disrupt momentum.” Ideally, your stack should be designed to grow and evolve with your business and marketing needs. “For example,” Jeff told us, “our initial implementation of Appboy supported very specific use cases surrounding communication volume and frequency. Our early learnings there helped us build segmentation and targeting to support a broader set of use cases, before our user base expanded and required those cases.”

5. Remember that the stack you assemble will impact other departments—so double check that you’re all on the same page

While your marketing team may well make the final call regarding which technologies are included in your brand’s marketing tech stack, there may well be other stakeholders. “Keep in mind that marketing tech stacks will either have direct or secondary impact on almost every department outside of marketing,” Diana advised. “To prevent potential push back or confusion [regarding the stack], take the initiative to align cross functionally on the critical needs and priorities of the business. These internal insights should ultimately influence the overall costs, types of tools, and implementation timelines.”

6. Make sure that your stack budget is aligned with your marketing goals

Putting together a best-in-class stack that fits your brands needs is going to cost money. And while this kind of spending is ultimately an investment in the future of your company and the customer relationships that support your long term goals, it’s still important to make sure that you’re being clear-headed about the financial side of the stack you build. Before assembling your stack, Diana recommends having “a rough budget in mind. At TMGA, we recommend a 60/30/10 breakdown of total spend, where [it’s] 60% user acquisition … 30% re-engagement and retention … and 10% tools.” However, she notes that those percentages may not be a good fit for all companies and suggest making your stack allocations “flexible based on the goals prioritized by the organization.”

7. Be clear which marketing technologies are essential to your stack (and which would just be nice to have)

While the average brand includes 17 different tools in their marketing tech stack, some companies use dozens or even more. But just because there are a lot of marketing tools out there doesn’t necessarily mean that your marketing stack should include them. “Prioritize what types of platforms will be critical and have the most impact on your overall growth strategy,” Diana told us. “Your organization may want a specific platform or capability, you’ll need to honestly assess if it fits within your budget and ensure that it’s a necessity.”

8. Don’t add a new tool to your stack without figuring out who on your team is responsible for it

Once you’ve decided to put together a best-in-class marketing tech stack to support your larger marketing strategy, it’s important to make sure you’re getting value for your investment. You don’t want to be “paying for a product and not using it to its fullest potential,” Diana said. “Establish which members of your team will implement, utilize, and take ownership of each platform early on. This will help give the engineering team perspective on how the marketing team will use a given platform, and provide them a better sense of what data points they’ll be able to execute and measure.” Assembling a stack can be a major investment of time, money, and other resources and having a clear picture of who is overseeing what can help you see higher benefits from that investment over time.

9. Better data flow and attribution could make marketing tech stacks even more effective in the future

When we asked our panel how they expected to see the marketing stack evolve over the next decade, one common theme emerged: better, clearer understanding of data. Jeff thinks that we’ll see “more interoperability with internal data sources and 3rd-party sources to enhance customer segmentation, targeting and personalization,” while Diana said, “I’m optimistic that there will be more affordable solutions to provide a holistic view of user behavior and LTV by aggregating acquisition data,” and suggested that would likely involve the dynamic transfer of key data points from ad networks and other sources to attribution vendors.

“I expect to see more sophisticated multi-touch/cross-platform attribution models [and] dynamic retargeting becoming more sophisticated and seamless,” Andy told us, as well as “improvements in the ease with which data can flow between tools and tech within the marketing stack and the publisher’s data warehouse, being enriched by each new interaction with the user, regardless of the channel where that occurs.”

Final thoughts

Interested in digging even deeper into the marketing tech stack and what it means for your business? Then check out our Inside the Stack page, where you can watch stack-focused videos from LTR 2017 on demand and explore additional content focused on the stack.

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