Navigating the marketing landscape as a small business used to be like David battling Goliath. There was a time when sophisticated marketing tools were extremely expensive and ultiamtely only available to enterprises. SMBs had to be scrappier with their resources and savvier in their methods.
However, the marketing technology (also known as MarTech) landscape has shifted over the last several years. Software has become more accessible, and small businesses today can build a MarTech stack that enables them to efficiently connect and engage with prospects and customers in a more efficient and effective way.
But what exactly should you include in your marketing tech stack? What tools are worth investing in, and can you get the software you need on a budget?
In this guide, we’ll dive into the essential components of a powerful MarTech stack and how you can build one that works for your business.
Getting a Pulse on SMBs and Marketing Professionals
The data is clear: SMBs recognize the importance of marketing, and they’re willing to invest in the right technologies.
Our recent survey of over a thousand small business leaders revealed that customer acquisition through marketing and advertising is their third most important goal in 2024 (51%), after increasing business profitability (59%) and cash flow (55%). As a result, SMBs founders and operators said marketing technology was their top investment over the next 12 months (38%), as well as customer relationship management technology (34%). That being said, small businesses are also grappling with an uncertain economic environment, which is why they’re being mindful of how they’re spending their technology budgets.
According to McKinsey, more than 50% of SMBs prefer monthly pricing in their software, as this helps them avoid long contracts. The study also showed that while half of SMBs still favor traditional software subscription terms, more than 20% are starting to experiment with freemium models that allow them to test the software’s functionalities and benefits before making a financial commitment.
The good news is that most marketing software providers offer freemium models and pricing tiers that enable you to scale up (or down) based on your needs, which is far more cost-effective than locking into a solution that may or may not address your needs.
With that in mind, let’s explore some of the solutions you can incorporate into your MarTech stack.
What Tools Should You Include in Your MarTech Stack?
Marketing tech needs will vary from one business to another, but broadly speaking, here are some tools to consider.
Customer relationship and data management
CRMs are a foundational component of any MarTech stack. That’s because they centralize customer data, streamline communication and enable you to create personalized customer experiences.
A CRM also lets you collect customer details and track brand interactions. This will be particularly important in the coming year as third-party data becomes increasingly restricted and less reliable. First-party data — i.e., information you collect directly from your customers — will become indispensable and the gold standard for marketing insights.
As digital marketing consultant Boris Bauer explained, “Third-party data is going to go away. And what that means is that many of the targeting options (e.g., demographics and how you define your target audiences) won’t be easily available.”
“What you need is your first-party data,” Bauer added. “Even for smaller advertisers that typically would not consider data or data warehousing — having their own first-party data and a platform for that is going to be absolutely essential.”
That’s why a CRM with robust data capabilities is worth the investment in the coming year. Some of the top CRMs to consider include:
Social media marketing
To be a great marketer, you must be where your customers are. And with people increasingly spending time on social platforms, it only makes sense to establish a strong presence on the social sites and apps that your customers use.
Doing so will help you build your brand and improve your market positioning; it also will enable you to gather data for smarter business decisions. According to Sprout Social’s 2023 State of Social Media report, 92% of business leaders agree that social media data informs stronger competitive positioning, and 91% say that data gathered from social media paves the way for a more customer-centric strategy.
All this to say that having social media tools as part of your MarTech stack is a must. Identify the top social networks for your audience and adopt tools that enable you to post and schedule content. Bonus points if the platform has data and analytics features to help you better understand your customers.
If you’re in the retail sector, set your sights on social media tools with commerce capabilities. “Social shopping is going to be something that’s going to roll out more and more,” said Bauer.
If you have an ecommerce presence, Bauer recommends integrating your shopping cart or website with various social channels so customers can browse, engage with and purchase your products through their favorite social platforms.
Here are some solutions to check out:
Email, SMS and other customer communication tools
Effective marketing boils down to reaching your customers at the right time and through the most optimal channels. Channels like email and SMS, for example, offer direct communication pathways so you can reach your target audience.
Let’s start with email. It may not be as trendy as social media marketing or insert-latest-trend-here, but email is still very relevant today. It’s also a powerful communication channel because you own your list and people can opt-in. You have direct access to your customers and they’ve given you permission to contact them.
“With email, you are talking to an engaged person or somebody who was at some point engaged,” Bauer explained. “It’s an open invitation to start communicating with them, which is a lot easier than running ads on social media where you interrupt what they’re doing.”
SMS offers a lot of the same benefits. Plus, it’s proven to result in high open rates and engagement, with 90% of people opening a text message within three minutes of receiving it.
Some CRMs have these customer communication features built into their platform, but you can also look at specific solutions such as:
If you’re running multiple marketing campaigns or working with teams and contractors, you may want to consider adding a project management tool into the mix. Research by Capterra shows that project management is a top investment among marketing professionals, with 97% of respondents saying that they use project management software.
For best results, go with a platform that has robust collaboration features and can integrate with the rest of the tools in your MarTech stack.
Some of the top ones include:
Advertising platforms can be a valuable addition to any SMB MarTech stack because they allow you to send targeted ads to people who are most likely to be interested in your products or services. Whether your goal is to generate leads, drive website traffic or promote a specific product launch, an ad platform can help you achieve your objectives — as long as you configure your budget and targeting properly.
Like with any solution, the right ad platform depends on your audience and where they’re spending their time. The top ones include:
Schedule Your MarTech Checkup
Already have the pieces of your tech stack in place? Make sure they function smoothly by keeping your tools tightly integrated.
“Your tools need to speak to each other,” explained Jason Wise, Editor at EarthWeb. “Ensure that whatever you choose has integration capabilities, especially with your current systems. This can save time, reduce errors and optimize your marketing efforts.”
It’s also important to know that building a MarTech stack isn’t a “set it and forget it” activity. Review it regularly and make sure the various solutions you’re using truly support your marketing strategy.
“Set a date (perhaps quarterly) to review your tech stack’s performance,” recommended Wise. “If a tool isn’t delivering, consider alternatives. Remember, while tools can optimize and streamline, they can’t replace a solid marketing strategy. So focus on the strategy first and let that guide your tech choices.”