Building a scalable, low budget digital marketing technology stack to grow your business

Digital Marketing Technology

Like it or not, your business will increasingly compete with billions of dollars worth of marketing technology spend.

It used to be that social media levelled the playing field when it came to getting the word out about a product or service. That’s rapidly changing. There’s too much noise out there.

Being ‘social media savvy’ is no longer enough.

Your not-for-profit, small business, or blog is competing with organizations that can outspend you and many of them are doing just that. Marketing technology is one of the areas where a good chunk of that investment is headed to.

Marketers transition from Mad Men to Math Men

In the era of the hyper digital customer, the role and functions of marketing have undergone a huge change. Just the Mad Men approach is not effective anymore.

Modern marketers need to also make sense of the data pouring out of the multitude of digital and traditional touch-points that customers interact with. This understanding helps them compete and optimize the customer’s relationship with brands.

That’s where the integration of marketing and technology makes the biggest difference to the customer experience. Changing the Mad Men era forever.

Your business CAN grow and thrive in the digital era.

I’ve led technology stack implementations that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. But what if you don’t have those kinds of resources?

How can a small business, not-for-profit, startup, or solopreneur compete?

The good news is that you can.

Developing internal digital marketing competencies is one of the ways your business can continue to stay relevant.

You need to go beyond the activity on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter or blog and implement strategic automation and technology integration efforts.

Research software that can help you understand the ever increasing volumes of data from your customers. This data is your competitive advantage now and in the future.

Investigate how you can start building a technology stack that grows with your business.

This will put you on the path to developing internal competencies that allow you to thrive in the coming years. And give you a head-start over your competition even today.

There’s now easy access to a bunch of the technologies that can help you with business goals. These kinds of technologies would involve millions of dollars in development efforts only a few years ago.

But you have to know where to look and what to do with what you find.

You will see examples of one or more of those hundred thousand dollar marketing stacks on one of the best martech blogs around.

However, since not everyone has those kind of dollars to throw around, I will demonstrate how to put together a marketing technology stack that will cost you next to nothing.

That’s a good place to scale from.

The SMACs stack

I’m using about 25 different pieces of technology on this blog. It costs me $11/month; the hosting fee at GoDaddy.

This 25 piece technology stack allows me to

  • Attract potential customers
  • Convert them to followers, leads, and customers
  • Analyze efforts to fine-tune for efficiency and measure metrics that matter
  • Nurture customers to optimize their experience and maximize the customer lifetime value

Click to enlarge the Low budget marketing technology stack.

Download the pdf of this martech stack containing interactive links to all the platforms mentioned.

Download PDF: Low cost martech stack

All the technology I use in this stack abide by the SMACs principle.

Social: The technology should ideally have a social component to facilitate interaction and promotion on social media.

Mobile: Any customer-facing part of the technology should be mobile/smartphone friendly. And as much as possible, the admin areas should also be accessible by mobile devices.

Analytics: Each technology should provide access to analytics data.

Cloud-based: I should not need to download any of the software. I should be able to access technology from any place that has an internet connection.

Scalable: While it may cost me $0 right now, I should be able to scale up the technology to accommodate growth.

Note that I obviously use many other technologies to support my digital marketing services.

However, this post deals only with building a low budget scalable technology stack. The thinking behind the stack will put you on the path to using marketing technology strategically. Without needing to know how to code.

The 25 technologies I use tackle one or more areas of the martech triumvirate; Social Media Platforms, CRM, and Marketing Automation.

Attract layer
Attract layer - low cost martech stack

This is a high-level look at the top part of my martech stack. It is broken down into inbound marketing components. Mainly technology that helps with social publishing, SEO and content marketing. The very things that help attract customers to your website or blog.

Note: Just because you can automate everything it does not mean you should. Use automation strategically to enhance your digital presence NOT to substitute it. Be strategic.

“The goal is to use tools, not to become one”

See details of each technology in the Attract layer

Social media big three: I mostly use Twitter and LinkedIn to attract customers to my website. Facebook plays only a supporting role in my B2B outreach, but it’s too big to ignore.

I’m also active on Instagram, Google Plus etc., but not so much for business as to experiment. That may be different in your case.

 

Hootsuite: my main content scheduling platform and dashboard. I schedule posts throughout the day.

This way I consistently maintain a presence while attending to other priorities. The free version of Hootsuite allows me connect up to three social media profiles.

Hootsuite also lets me to keep track of social conversations via dedicated ‘listening’ streams. All this facilitates building and managing of online communities.

 

Buffer: another social scheduling tool. It lets me to connect 4 social profiles with the free version.

The free version also provides access to basic analytics features.

The paid versions of both Hootsuite and Buffer support team work and other advanced features. Well worth it for the price.

 

QUUU: hand-curated suggestions to distribute on social media. You pre-select topics and the suggestions appear in your connected Buffer dashboard ready to be sent out.

I like to moderate what goes in my social feed. I’ve found that QUUU does a good job of picking out quality items 90% of the time. The free version gets you two such hand-curated posts.

 

start A FIRE: nifty tool that works with any content you share on your social networks. Add a badge, which in my case is linked to my LinkedIn profile, along with two links to my own content.

Startafire-Martech

TIP: You can connect start A FIRE to Buffer and Hootsuite so that anything you schedule from there carries your badge.

In my case the QUUU + Buffer + start A FIRE combination works flawlessly.

How effective is this combination? Well the start A FIRE dashboard shows you how many times people have clicked on the badge and content.

I’ve got a click-thru-rate of 4+%. I’ll take it!

BufQSF-martech

I get visibility even when I’m promoting someone else’s content. Win-Win!

I can probably optimize the results by aligning the promoted content with the type of scheduled posts in my Buffer dashboard.

 

Google Keyword Planner: access to technology that will help you work on your SEO by identifying relevant keywords.

 

Google Search Console: an underused tool even among many companies that have a healthy marketing budget.

Get familiar with this free and valuable resource as soon as you can. No excuses!

The Google Search Console is your digital marketing ally.

 

Google Trends: a web application from Google that shows how often a particular search-term entered is relative to the total search-volume across various regions of the world. Here are some of the ways you can work on your SEO with Google Trends.

Use Google Search Console, Google Keyword Planner and Google Trends together for a variety of SEO insights including competition analysis.

For more on this refer to the steps I discussed in my post about competition analysis for digital marketing.

 

Feedburner: another free application from Google that lets you to create an RSS feed from your blog posts.

RSS news discovery and distribution is less popular than it used to be. I continue to use Feedburner since it plays nice with Mailchimp automation. More on the topic later in this post.

 

Yoast SEO: actually a WordPress plugin. This plugin can play an important part in on page SEO and I thought I might as well include the Yoast SEO plugin in this layer of my stack.

 

Canva: an increasingly popular design platform. Adobe Creative Suite does not fit into your budget?  Canva is a great alternative.

It really does ‘make design simple for everyone’.

Coming from a design background, I’ve been using Adobe Creative Suite for ages. Yet I find myself using Canva often.

The graphics on this page have been put together in Canva. Try it. Love it.

Convert layer

Convert layer - low cost martech stack

The previous level of the stack helps me attract customers to the broadest part of my marketing funnel.

Conversations and activities in that part of the martech stack lead them deeper into the funnel. To where I continue to cement relationships and build trust.

In other words this layer is where you convert your visitors to followers, leads, customers, and brand promoters.

See details of each technology in the Convert layer

WordPress: the CMS (content management system) platform that I use for my website.

Download a free copy of this CMS at wordpress.org. Website hosts like Godaddy have now made it easy to implement this CMS. Their Managed WordPress service takes care of all the technical aspects of running WordPress.

I do use managed WordPress services for some client projects but not for Jacobv.com.

On this site I’ve installed the popular Zerif lite theme. A theme decides the layout and design of a WordPress website. This particular theme isn’t perfect but it is responsive and apt for my current needs.

A huge number of plugins, too many to mention, allow me to extend the functionality of this CMS to handle almost anything. All this costs me nothing.

You could be using other popular open source CMS platforms like Drupal or Joomla. I’ve used all three and more but find WordPress the easiest to implement.

The CMS is where all your website content including valuable, informative blog posts reside. This content builds trust. Your inbound marketing efforts depend on such content.

To put it simply the CMS is your website and your digital hub.

Without a good CMS in place your content marketing efforts will probably struggle to deliver.

 

Google Tag Manager: a free platform that makes it easy for marketers to add and update website tags or code snippets. Think of the Google Tag Manager as a ‘container’ that holds individual code snippets from other technologies to extend your website capabilities.

GTM-Martech

The advantage is that once you have the ‘container’ placed on your website it’s easy to add other code snippets from third-party software and extend website functionality. You don’t have to bother your web admin team anymore.

 

Mailchimp: handles the bulk of my email marketing. I’ve hooked up Mailchimp with Feedburner resulting in automated campaigns from Mailchimp. My subscribers receive an email as soon as I update my blog with a new blogpost. Very convenient.

McFbrnr-martech

Mailchimp comes with robust analytics features including click rates, open rates, clicked links data, user level interaction etc. Mailchimp also integrates with many other software via their API.

 

The Optin Cat plugin for wordpress integrates sleek optin forms on my site. This is how visitors convert to my Mailchimp email subscriber list.

Besides Mailchimp I use regular email as needed. Email’s definitely not dead.

 

Typeform: captures hot leads on Jacobv.com. Typeform does forms ‘awesomely’. See it in action and request a complimentary, customized digital marketing analysis for your business.


Typeform is my main lead generation form. I’ve implemented it only very recently though. I previously used contact 7.

Typeform offers a decent analytics dashboard. And it integrates with Google Analytics as well.

I know I’ll be using the paid version of this tool for future projects. You’ll love it too.

 

Olark: my favourite live-chat software. I popped the code into my Google Tag Manager and set Olark live-chat to show on certain pages.

Olark-Chat-Martech

Though the free version does not provide analytics (reports), you can still get insights on how the visitor is using your site. This is very helpful information as you assist visitors and actively guide them through the conversion process.

I’ve mentioned the benefits of frontline customer service before and with the available integrations in the paid version, Olark is a valuable addition to any martech stack.

 

AddThis: an easy way to implement social sharing and follow buttons on your website. Visitors will use the share options to amplify your content across their own networks.

The ‘follow’ buttons offer an opportunity to allow visitors to keep in touch with you even if they aren’t completely convinced to subscribe to your newsletter, convert to a customer or lead.

Again I’ve use the Google Tag Manager to implement Addthis code snippets on my website.

 

Canva: is part of this layer in the stack too. There is no ‘content marketing’ without ‘content’. Canva helps me quickly design images for my website, infographics, and images for social media. Like this one:

Richard Quote-Leadercast Ottawa

 

Measurement layer

MeasureLayer - low cost martech stack

The Math Men part of your martech stack gets intense here. The previous layers provide tool-centric insights. But here’s where you get a broader perspective of all the traffic on your website.

You analyze the data and fine-tune your efforts at social media marketing, content marketing, email-marketing, SEO, paid advertising etc.

Your martech stack should ideally provide you with 5 types of analytics

  • Predictive analysis: What is likely to happen?
  • Prescriptive analysis: What can I do about it?
  • Descriptive analysis: What is happening?
  • Diagnostic analysis: Why did it happen?

Now each of this can involve specialized technology. For our purposes we will rely mainly on one analytics platform – Google Analytics.

On jacobv.com every important interaction like downloads and button clicks sets off an ‘event’ in Google Analytics. I trigger off events via tags in the Google Tag Manager.

I know how effective my content is in driving action based on these kind of tracking mechanisms. I also know how much each source (social, organic, direct, email, referrals) contributes to desired outcomes.

Based on this I optimize my resources and tactics across channels.

See details of each technology in the Measure layer

Google Analytics: arguably one of the best web analytics service. The free version provides enough professional analytics features.

Though it handles mostly descriptive analysis, experienced marketing professionals use the information to foray into the other analytic areas. With certain limits.

Nevertheless, a look into Google analytics provides plenty of insights into relevant metrics. You will understand which type of content works better, the kind of audience you attract and where they come from, the amount of time visitors spend interacting with your website, the efficiency of your email marketing, demand and lead generation programs. And much more.

Almost every other platform including the ones in this article integrate well with Google Analytics.

Measure if you are meeting important KPIs. Streamline your SEO. Optimize your content based on what your analytics shows you.

I usually place my Google Analytics Code in the Google Tag Manager too.

 

Google Search Console: can be connected to Google Analytics. In here you find information like the number of backlinks to your site or how many times a specific domain links to your site. These have a direct impact on your rankings.

This information may not be that obvious in Google Analytics since it may display metrics of a different nature. It’s a good idea to refer to both for a broader perspective.

E.g.: The search console shows that you have a lot of back links from xxx.com vs. yyy.com. However, Google Analytics shows that the traffic from yyy.com converts in bigger numbers and stays longer on your website. ie.: yyy.com is better aligned with your business goals.

 

Google Sheets: in lieu of Microsoft Excel which I rarely use anymore. I use Google Sheets when I want to bring in analytics data from different software into a spreadsheet.

Nurture and renew layer

Nurture layer - Low cost martech stack

Start tracking your leads pipeline, keeping record of your tasks, see how long your team takes to convert leads to paying customers. Invest in maximizing the lifetime value your customers bring to your business.

See details of each technology in the Nurture layer

Zoho CRM: is now part of my martech stack. The team at Zoho CRM have done an amazing job in providing lead management, contact management and automated workflows. All this in the free version.

I have yet to delve into all the features but having worked with pricey CRM solutions on the market, I will admit that Zoho CRM offers amazing value.

I primarily use Zoho CRM to manage leads and nurture them via email drips and phone calls to clients.

The free version accommodates 10 users.

 

Zappier: is indispensable when you want to integrate your martech stack.

I discovered that the forms I used to capture leads into Zoho CRM were not mobile friendly.

So I decided to use Typeform instead. And I use  Zapier to connect Typeform to Zoho CRM.

Zoho-Zapier-TForm-Martech

When potential customers request an analysis via typeform all their information is automatically transferred into the Zoho CRM leads module. I also get an email notification.

All it took me was the API authorization keys from both Typeform and Zoho CRM. Sounds complicated but it’s not. 5 minutes to implement!

Try it out. It’s mostly a point and click affair to connect different applications using Zapier.

Zapier-martech

Of all the technologies, Zapier is the one I’m most excited about. I’ve used Zapier on client projects. The company seems very responsive and that’s always a good sign.

I’m itching to find out where else I can use Zapier to integrate my martech stack even tighter.

Zapier is a keeper!

Finally the website is hosted on Godaddy servers and is also using Cloudflare for an added layer of security, speed and efficiency.

Cloudflare-godaddy-martech

The dynamic martech stack

Which brings me to the point that your martech stack is meant to evolve over time. It has to not only scale with your business but also allow you to extend it as needed.

The martech stack has to accommodate ongoing experiments and innovation.

As with any useful business technology your martech stack is an adaptable work in progress.

A good martech stack is a perfect complement to a comprehensive digital marketing plan. It does take some time and effort to put it all together.

There’s no better time to start than now, is there?

On the other hand, if you are looking to achieve results in a quicker timeframe let’s talk about it. Not every business can afford to invest in a lengthy learning process.

Maybe your team and business just needs better direction. There are plenty of ways to accelerate results with strategic allocation of resources and tactics.

A basic martech stack is the proverbial ‘tip of the iceberg’ when it comes to a marketing strategy for business growth.

Why not request your customized, no-obligation, digital marketing analysis today?


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jacobv

Vice President of Marketing @Fusebill | This Blog's Chief Content-Chef; words, images, analytics, some code | Google Analytics & AdWords | Martech Astute | Part-Time Moonshot Hunter | Hands-On Strategic Do-er of All Things Marketing

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