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The 6 Tools That are the Foundation of any Sales & Marketing Technology Stack

by Doug Davidoff | Jun 1, 2016 5:30:00 PM

technology-stack-foundation.jpgThe difference between good demand generation efforts and great is increasingly reliant on the technology you’re using and how you’re using it. If strong, consistent growth is important to you, you must be sure that your technology strategy is as strong as your sales and marketing strategy.

There are two common mistakes made by growth organizations when building their technology stack:

  • Failure to adequately embrace technology to support important functions. This degrades efficiencies and leads to increasing complexity that makes growing a business haphazard.
  • Jumping onto any technology that can “make us faster,” “automate the function,” looks cool, seems hot, or because some aggressive SDR convinced someone in the company that they can’t live without their “proprietary algorithm.”  This “toys” approach to technology has the same effect as failing to embrace it in the first place, with the added cost of technology fatigue.

When developing your technology strategy, you should plan on what we refer to as the four levels of the demand generation stack:

  1. The foundation - these are the tools that any company above $1 million in revenue that is serious about growth needs to be utilizing.
  2. The primary stack - these are important tools that will have direct impacts on your sales and marketing team’s ability to execute better and faster.
  3. The secondary stack - these tools should be selected to solve specific problems or to optimize areas after you’ve developed a strong demand generation process.
  4. The tertiary stack - most companies should never even consider the tertiary stack.

When building your stack, how you use a tool is every bit as important whether you have the tool or not. This is especially true when building your foundation. I’m exhausted by the inquiries I get from marketing and sales executives asking about some new, hot technology only to learn that they’re not utilizing their CRM properly.

The 6 Tools That Make Up The Foundation of a Demand Generation Stack

1. CMS

I have to admit that when I first thought about the stack I didn’t list content management systems (CMS). When I showed my first draft to someone they immediately asked, “What about a company’s website?” It was what I like to call a “blinding flash of the obvious” moment.

Your website is the single most important piece of technology you have at your disposal. It is your most important sales, marketing or customer engagement resource, and if you’re not treating it that way, then you’re in trouble.

I laugh (to myself of course) when a VP Sales reaches out to me to ask me for my opinion or insights into complex issues like compensation, yet their website looks and reads as if it came from the 1990s. Your CMS needs to be able to deliver the right message to the right person, at the right time with the right context. A strong website will make everything else you do easier.

2. CRM

Just last week I had a bit of a debate with the CEO of a marketing agency. He was telling me that he wanted to get more into supporting sales enablement strategies, and he was going to start by focusing on CRM adoption. I asked incredulously, “What company could pay your fees and isn’t already using a CRM?”  I was shocked when he gave me a strong answer.

First, let’s be clear. In 2016, if you’re not using a CRM, you’re simply not serious about growth. There are too many simple, effective and low-cost (or even free) CRMs available for there to be any reason that a business doesn’t use a CRM.

Second, notice the emphasis there is on the word “use.” Selling and customer engagement are simply too complex to use spreadsheets, notebooks or even Evernote. For most of you reading this, who are using a CRM, the focus for you should be utilization and effectiveness. We’ll address this issue in a future post.

3. Marketing Automation Platform (MAP)

A CRM is to selling what a MAP is to marketing and demand generation. And note that a MAP is more than just a tool that allows you to send and schedule marketing emails. At a minimum, an effective MAP should do the following:

  • Marketing email automation
  • Landing page management
  • Support content management
  • Closed loop reporting
  • SEO support

4. Email Tracking

This is an example of a tool that made it all the way from part of the tertiary stack to the foundation. Stop for a moment and think about how many emails your salespeople send to prospects and customers?  

Email tracking enables salespeople to track when people are reading emails, clicking on links or otherwise engaging with important content. It also allows marketing and sales executives to track the effectiveness of sales emails in the same way they’re able to track marketing emails. Both aspects are important to continuously enhance your prospecting and sales activities.

5. Data & Analytics Tool

While a marketing automation platform and CRM will provide some important metrics and data, they no longer provide enough. Whether it’s email tracking, user behavior, content engagement data or more, today the ability to track and measure how prospects and customers engage is as important as tracking the quantity of engagement.

6. Lead Intelligence

Data on your leads decays at a rate of 23% per year. This means that if you’re not constantly keeping your database cleaned and updated it will soon become complex, heavy and increasingly useless.

Additionally, the more you know about the contacts and companies in your database the more effectively you can personalize and contextualize the buyer’s journey, and manage your limited sales resources to drive better results, faster.

Yet there is only so much information you can gain from forms and user tracking. The ability to confirm, augment and update lead intelligence and data is fast becoming a critical task for companies that want to sustain growth. Integrating such intelligence in your stack will put you in a strong position for today and the future.

If you haven’t done so already, pick a time to sit down with your growth focused team and review your thoughts and approach to technology. Review how each of these foundational tools can be utilized to support your efforts, and to create greater efficiency and velocity in your sales and marketing activities.