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How Startups Can Overcome Common Marketing Technology Challenges

The term “startup” is glamorous in the eyes of many. It evokes images of eager investors chasing million-dollar ideas, stylish office spaces, and limitless growth.

But tech professionals know the less glamorous reality behind the startup fantasy: just gaining a foothold in the market is an enormous hill to climb.

At GetApp, we help startups and other businesses find the software they need to grow and reach their goals every day, and we’ve learned a few things about business growth challenges and solutions along the way. 

To help startups in particular, we recently teamed up with Startup Grind – the world’s largest online startup community – to uncover startup leaders’ most pressing technical challenges. The struggles we heard most often from these leaders were building an effective online presence and finding software that solves identified problems.

So as a startup with limited resources, how do you get noticed online while finding the right technology, all without wasting precious resources?

The answer is building an effective marketing technology (martech) stack, and at GetApp we want to help you do just that. Here are my three tips to help you anticipate and overcome common martech challenges. 

Tip 1: Want your Martech to be effective? You need to have a plan in place

When talking to startup leaders, we discovered that almost 70%1 are already taking advantage of martech tools. And those who aren’t taking advantage aren’t helpless; more than half of non-martech users are getting marketing help from an outside marketing agency.

But what’s their game plan?

When we asked startups using martech tools if they have a plan and are following it, more than 40% said that they are just winging it.

This is a big obstacle to achieving an effective martech stack. GetApp’s startup survey found that startups without a martech plan are more than four times as likely to say their marketing technology doesn’t meet their business objectives.

We want to help you reach your business goals, and our survey results paint a pretty clear roadmap for getting there: Make a martech plan and stick to it.

Next steps: Assemble a planning team of representatives from across your organization, then schedule a kickoff meeting to determine which new tools you need along with a timeline for implementing them. Include a step in your plan to regularly audit existing marketing tools to ensure they’re still helping you meet business objectives. Share your plan with all stakeholders, and review and adjust as necessary.

Tip 2: Sure, Martech tools can be overwhelming, but there is a path to success and the improved engagement is worth the effort

Marketing software can be incredibly powerful in the hands of an experienced team, but the number of features and capabilities that come with modern marketing technology can also be overwhelming for new users.

The startup leaders we talked to cited an excess of unused and overlapping features and commented on the overall complexity of martech tools as some of their top martech challenges.

On the other hand, the benefits of these tools are well worth the challenges. These same startup leaders listed improved customer engagement, more precise targeting, and more effective marketing campaigns as the top three benefits of an effective martech stack.

So, how can you enjoy the benefits of your marketing technology while minimizing the frustrations and setbacks of feature overload? As a leader of a tech company, I can tell you that a martech stack audit is a great place to start.

Some extra training for end users can also go a long way toward demystifying your martech tools. And a proper martech plan should help you head off some of these issues at the pass by choosing appropriately complex tools in the first place.

The startup leaders we surveyed also offered some feedback on how they’re responding to these martech challenges. Their experience-based insight can help you craft your own response plan, should you run into similar challenges:

improve martech effeciveness

Next steps: Collect process documentation for your new marketing technology (either created in-house or provided by your vendor) and share it with all end users. Schedule regular training sessions (both staff-led and vendor-provided) and designate super users to troubleshoot and lead workshops. Set up a channel on your collaboration tool where users can ask questions and get help with your martech tools.

Tip 3: If you want to be successful, set aside at least 25% of your marketing budget for Martech investment

When plotting out your martech strategy, it’s critical to determine a realistic budget and stick to it. While minimizing martech spending to save budget can be tempting, skimping can put your fledgling business at risk of falling behind and stagnating. This is why benchmarking against your peers can be helpful.

Consider that 65% of the startups we heard from that spend more than a quarter of their marketing budget on martech said that their stack is meeting business objectives, while less than half (46%) of those spending less than 25% could make the same claim.

Only 13% of our respondents spend more than 40% of their budget on martech. Based on this information, devoting somewhere between 25% and 40% of your marketing budget to martech is a sensible approach, as far as peer benchmarking is concerned.

Startup budgets can vary wildly depending on the size of the business, but here’s a little more survey data on what your peers are actually spending on martech: 

  • 45% of startups spend $1,001 – $10,000/month 
  • <20% of startups spend $10,000+/month 
  • 38% of startups spend less than $1,000/month 
  • 56% of startups report using some form of free marketing software/a free marketing tool
startup martech budgets

To be fair, the COVID-19 pandemic has wreaked havoc on budgets across all sectors. But we found that even still, 63% of startup leaders have increased their martech investments over the past year. Less than five percent decreased their martech budget during that same period.

Next steps: After you establish your budget, test out a few free tools/free trials to see what works well for your team. Wondering which martech tools to start with? Our survey revealed that A/B testing, web analytics, and CRM software were the most effective tools at helping startups reach their marketing goals.

Download GetApp’s Building An Essential Martech Stack for Startups Guide

4 Steps To Optimize Your Martech Stack

As a startup, just reaching critical mass is a major accomplishment, and a sound marketing plan and effective martech stack are critical to getting there. Here’s a four-step plan to take the advice shared here away with you:

  1. Make a Martech plan: Assemble your team, decide which tools you need, devise an implementation plan and timeline, and share with your organization. Review regularly and adjust as necessary.
  2. Position your team for success: Provide your team with process documentation, collaboration tools, and staff- and vendor-led training to help them use your martech stack as efficiently as possible.
  3. Make a realistic budget and stick to it: If you’re spending significantly less than 25% of your marketing budget on technology, you’re at risk of falling far behind your competitors. Remember that it’s also OK to include free tools in your martech stack as long as they’re effective.
  4. Audit your martech stack: Periodically (at least twice per year) audit your martech stack and poll users to make sure your tools are still helping fulfill your marketing initiatives. Eliminate unused tools and consolidate those with overlapping features. Test new tools (using free trials when possible) to address unfulfilled needs.

Best of luck, we’re rooting for you. But we hope we can do more than just cheer you on from the sidelines. We’ve created a number of free tools and services to help you reach your startup goals, including our AppFinder tool and our Category Leaders based on more than one million verified user reviews.

Check them out, and let us know if there’s anything more we can do to help you along the way.


1GetApp’s 2021 Marketing Technology Survey was conducted February 18-25, 2021 among 238 respondents to learn more about the use of marketing technology tools by startups. Respondents were screened for leadership positions at startups in healthcare, IT services, marketing/CRM, retail/eCommerce, software/web development, or AI/ML.

GetApp’s marketing technology stack effectiveness question included all of the following choices (listed here in order of effectiveness according to weighted scores): A/B or multivariate testing, web analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), multi-touch attribution, social media marketing, content marketing platform, mobile marketing platform, website builder tools, customer data platform (CDP), search marketing (SEO/SEM), personalization platform, consent and preference management, marketing automation software, survey/customer experience platform, content management system (CMS). multichannel marketing platform, email marketing platform, online video advertising, employee advocacy tools.

Thibaut de Lataillade

Thibaut De Lataillade, GetApp GVP, has more than 25 years of experience in business management, sales, and marketing under his belt. He has a proven track record in cloud, mobility, digital marketing, CRM, marketing, sales, and growth strategies. Thibaut has held managerial and executive positions at large tech companies such as Cegedim and SAP.

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