Marketing technology (aka martech) has seen explosive growth in the past five years. According to Chief Martec, the martech solution landscape grew by 13.6% in 2020 compared to 2019. In fact, one in five solutions available now weren’t part of the landscape a year ago.
That kind of growth and amount of options can make your head spin, and can certainly make shopping for martech software complex and confusing. Should you string together separate platforms, or focus on all-in-one tools?
To better help startup owners navigate the martech landscape, we ran a survey in February 2021 to understand how startups use martech and what tools they picked to build their marketing tech stack (see full methodology at the bottom of this page). We also talked to a startup owner about his own marketing tech buying journey and what advice he has for his peers.
When Saman Mehryar founded online language coaching company ChatterFox in 2018, he knew it would be essential to gain users by optimizing the appropriate marketing funnel stages in the customer journey. In fact, Mehryar says customer demand is the most important key to success when it comes to launching a new startup.
In addition to the software used to create the minimum viable product (MVP) of his coaching tool, martech software was a critical part of Mehryar's early business plan.
A marketing technology stack—or martech stack—is the software you use to market to your customers.
According to Martech Today, a martech stack includes six components:
Data gathering and storage
Reporting and analytics
In GetApp's February survey, startups listed these five platforms as the most effective in a martech stack:
A/B or multivariate testing
Social media marketing
Learn the basics of what any tech stack should include and how to automate your workflows by checking out GetApp’s article:
For any business, your martech stack should include software that gives you the ability to target, acquire, and retain customers.
For startups specifically, the recommended software depends on your specific needs. The closer you can match your processes and goals to the tool, the better. Let's turn back to Mehryar’s experience with his language coaching startup ChatterFox as an example.
Mehryar knew the ability to observe customer behavior was critical for his company to better target new users via digital marketing. Budget was also a key consideration; he wanted to keep costs low on the tool they picked.
However, he ran into a roadblock with his co-founders. They couldn’t reach a consensus around the question of whether to build or buy. Some of his co-founders thought it was crucial to build a custom solution, but Mehryar had experience with eCommerce and felt that they could find an out-of-the-box solution for a fraction of the cost of making something from scratch.
Because of their disagreement in direction, six months went by before the ChatterFox team finally decided to try an out-of-the-box solution called Kartra to handle their marketing analytics.
In the end, Mehryar is glad they settled on this solution. He recommends that other startups keep their marketing stack as lean as possible while getting off the ground to focus on what truly matters: customers.
Mehryar and his team aren't alone in encountering challenges when deciding on software, such as conflicting viewpoints between decision-makers and end-users. To help alleviate these challenges, we recommend creating a martech plan for launching your software. This will ensure your key decision-makers are aligned and ready to help champion new software across the finish line.
When it comes to success metrics for martech, look at your revenue growth, profit margin improvement, and cost management. Use these metrics to drive what tools you use to build your martech stack.
Mehryar’s main goal was to create an optimized sales funnel. He began running Facebook and Google ads and wanted an analytics tool to see metrics for each of those platforms.
“What matters is having analytics to see what converts, and [the customer’s] behavior. You need to measure the visitors and behavior in each stage of the funnel.”
—Saman Mehryar, Founder and CEO of Chatterfox
Kartra allowed them to do just that by creating tracking codes for each of those platforms. Rather than stringing separate tools together through integrations, Mehryar went with a platform that was able to accomplish the key things he needed in a single interface.
Taking Mehrar’s example, you can figure out which software offerings to explore by answering some straightforward questions:
What are your main marketing goals?
What are you trying to move the needle on to increase your company’s growth?
What are your marketing pain points?
As you begin your research, these answers can help determine if a single tool will accomplish everything you need, or if you’ll need to combine multiple tools.
When it comes to building your startup’s martech stack, be sure to stay laser-focused on your business goals and budget. If you are just getting started and have a smaller budget, it may be best to go with an all-in-one solution rather than investing time and money in custom coding to bring together multiple tools.
In order to be effective, your tools need to talk to each other. Otherwise, you’ll miss out on key data you need to get the full picture and/or waste time entering the same data in multiple places (and making your company vulnerable to potential errors).
For example, if you run an eCommerce site, you’ll want to ensure your online shop is integrated with lead pages to capture customer data such as name, birthday, and email address. From there, you’ll want to integrate this lead information with your email marketing platform so you can create drip campaigns to target users based on specific behaviors or demographics.
If those platforms aren’t integrated, it will take more manual effort on your part to export information and import it into the appropriate platforms. Integration was one reason Mehryar decided to go with an out-of-the-box solution like Kartra.
“We went with Kartra because everything was already integrated and a lot cheaper [than if we went with separate solutions],” said Mehryar.
If you need multiple tools and can’t make them work on your own, consider hiring freelancers for software development support. Rather than hiring a full-time employee, if you pinpoint the key things you need done, you can seek freelance support on sites like UpWork (as Mehryar did to implement some plugins and workarounds) to get the integration help you need.
Martech has truly exploded in the last few years, but staying grounded in your own workflows can help you find the right tools to achieve your goals.
As your company grows and matures, set aside time on a yearly or twice-yearly basis to evaluate your martech software and make sure it’s still meeting your needs.
As Mehryar and his team needed to see more granular metrics, they eventually decided to switch from Kartra to other tools that allowed them to dig deeper into more specific audience behavior.
Ultimately, your marketing technology tools need to serve your marketing strategy, rather than your marketing strategy serving your marketing tools’ functionality.
If you’re interested in more information about software platforms for startups (like low-code/no-code software), check out: What Is Low-Code/No-Code Software? A Startup Owner’s Guide.
Ready to choose a martech tool? Here are the top three most effective categories from our survey:
In GetApp’s software directories, you can create a shortlist of tools so you can set up vendor calls to learn more about specific solutions.
GetApp’s 2021 Marketing Technology Survey was conducted February 18-25, 2021 among 238 respondents in the U.S. to learn more about the use of marketing technology tools by startups and small businesses. Respondents were screened for leadership positions at startups in healthcare, IT services, marketing/CRM, retail/eCommerce, software/web development, or AI/ML.
Note: The applications selected in this article are examples to show a feature in context, were cited by the interviewee, and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations. They have been obtained from sources believed to be reliable at the time of publication.