In 2011, entrepreneur Marc Andreessen famously wrote, software is eating the world. In many ways, Andreessen was right. Think about how many software tools you use on a daily basis. A single smartphone can have hundreds of software applications on it. And that’s just one small device in your pocket.
Now, let’s apply that same idea to the business world. A single company could use hundreds, if not thousands, of software solutions. From finance to human resources and sales, every department relies on technology in some capacity. It’s become integral to conducting business in today’s world.
Marketing is no different. Many modern marketing teams rely on various software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions to fuel cross-team collaboration, manage ongoing projects, and track campaign performance. But with over 7000 SaaS products just in the marketing space, it can be difficult to separate the must-haves from the nice-to-haves.
In this article, I’ll discuss exactly which software solutions are integral to your marketing tech stack and why. Plus, I’ll share some specific examples along the way.
What is a Marketing Stack?
The term marketing stack refers to the collection of software tools and technologies used by marketers to do their jobs. It falls under the greater umbrella term tech stack which is frequently used by IT professionals to include programming languages and frameworks for application development.
A marketing stack is essentially a list of must-have solutions that empower your team to do its best work. These tools are integral to boosting efficiency, fostering collaboration, and improving communication.
How to Build the Ultimate Marketing Tech Stack
Nowadays, there’s software for almost everything. The way I see it, there are two types of SaaS tools: must-haves and nice-to-haves.
The must-have tools are those that are essential to performing your job function. The nice-to-haves are well, just nice to have. They might help you be more creative or organized, but it’s still possible to hit your goals without them.
It’s important to keep your marketing stack lean. Why? Because software is expensive. Really expensive. Businesses can waste thousands of dollars on unused software licenses if they don’t carefully consider which tools are necessities.
Additionally, having too many SaaS products can be confusing and make it difficult to stay organized. Software is supposed to make your life easier, not harder.
Below, you’ll find a list of the must-have SaaS tools for your marketing tech stack:
Customer Relationship Management
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is designed to help businesses grow engagement and build relationships with their existing and prospective customers.
Most CRM tools act as a database that stores customer information and interactions. Within the tool, users can see the entire history of the relationship with a customer, as well as information related to sales deals that are currently in progress.
CRM software is primarily utilized by sales, marketing, and executive teams.
Sales teams rely on CRM to organize information related to prospects and opportunities. Executives use it similarly, to keep a close eye on revenue and sales pipeline. On the marketing side, CRM is useful for tracking marketing-qualified leads and opportunities.
CRM is essential to bridging the gap between marketing and sales teams and achieving better alignment throughout an organization.
There are hundreds of different CRM tools on the market. Here are a couple of standouts:
- Salesforce – Salesforce is a leading provider of cloud-based CRM software for businesses of all sizes. Although CRM is Salesforce’s core offering, the company expanded its product lines to include customer service, marketing automation, and commerce solutions. With nearly 19% total market share, Salesforce dominates the CRM space. And for good reason – the platform is consistently top-rated among users and researchers for its robust cloud capabilities, especially when it comes to the enterprise space.
- Less Annoying CRM – Less Annoying CRM is designed specifically for small businesses that are in need of a simple tool without all the bells and whistles. It’s straight to the point, and you could say, “less annoying”!
Project management software allows teams to streamline communications, manage workflows, and keep tabs on current project initiatives, all in the same place.
It’s common for marketers to work in collaborative environments that are primarily project-based. No matter the marketing discipline you work within, a project management tool is essential to stay organized and track project progress.
Many solutions in this category will also allow you to create custom workflows for daily/weekly tasks, helping you to stay accountable for upcoming deadlines. This is especially helpful if your team works fully or partially remote.
Project Management Software Examples
Project management is a crowded market, with many solutions at different price points. Examples include:
- Asana – Asana is a consistently top-rated project management solution for businesses of all sizes. The tool offers a variety of task management features that allow for collaboration and customization. Asana supports team productivity as well as individual work, allowing the user to customize their own task flows and contribute to team initiatives. Users can even build their tasks into a calendar, making it easy to see what’s due and when.
- Wrike – Wrike is a project management tool that’s built with enterprise-level features for businesses in hyper-growth mode. Although Wrike offers many enterprise-grade integrations, the solution is still fully functional for mid-market and small businesses as well.
In 2016, the company expanded its product line to include Wrike for Marketers, a tool designed specifically to mimic common marketing workflows.
Wrike for Marketers is uniquely positioned to help marketing teams stay organized and execute on common initiatives such as content creation, event management, and go-to-market launches. The tool even provides project templates to help get you started.
Marketing automation software helps marketing teams automate workflows related to lead generation, social media posting, and email marketing activities.
Aside from the obvious time-saving benefits that come with this type of tool, marketing automation software also helps to create personalized messaging across different campaigns without the need for manual effort. These campaigns can be set up to run around the clock, even if you’re not there to manage them.
Marketing Automation Examples
It’s common for marketing automation tools to be combined with other technologies into one all-encompassing platform.
- HubSpot – HubSpot is a popular go-to growth platform aimed at providing businesses with the sales, marketing, and customer service tools they need to succeed. HubSpot’s Marketing Hub is the platform’s leading marketing automation offering. The tool has a breadth of capabilities related to lead generation, email marketing, and analytics.
- MailChimp – What began as solely an email marketing service grew to become MailChimp’s popular all-in-one marketing automation platform geared towards small businesses.
MailChimp is especially appealing to small businesses due to its flexible pricing plans.
There’s a free model that provides all the basic marketing automation functions for businesses in their early stages. MailChimp even offers a pay-as-you-go plan for teams that only plan on using the tool here-and-there.
Search Engine Optimization Tools
Search engine optimization (SEO) software is crafted to enable businesses to improve their organic search rankings and become more discoverable.
SEO tools provide a variety of useful features to help marketers conduct keyword research, build backlinks, and perform audits of existing web content to improve digital growth overall. Many of these solutions also have built-in analytics capabilities that help users track and measure the impact of their SEO efforts.
The most effective marketing stack empowers your marketing team to make decisions confidently. As an SEO, it is crucial for me to have access to a keyword research tool like Semrush, link building tool like Ahrefs, and an analytics tool like Google or Adobe Analytics. Everything else is nice to have, but not necessary.
Liam Barnes, Senior SEO Specialist at Directive
SEO Software Examples
Good news. You don’t have to be an expert to know how to leverage SEO software.
Many SEO software solutions are intuitive and easy-to-use, even for beginners. On the other hand, there are advanced SEO tools out there too that require more technical software capabilities. It all depends on what goal you are looking to accomplish through organic search!
- Ahrefs – Ahrefs offers a comprehensive suite of SEO tools with a variety of capabilities including keyword research, rank tracking, link building, and reporting. This is an all-in-one product designed to help marketers and SEO professionals of all experience levels boost their organic traffic rankings.
Ahrefs began as primarily a backlink tool; however, its expanded offerings have catapulted the company as a major player in the SEO space. If you need a simple on-page SEO tool that does (almost) everything, Ahrefs might be the choice for you.
- ScreamingFrog’s SEO Spider – ScreamingFrog is a UK-based search marketing agency known for its SEO Spider product. The SEO Spider is a popular web crawler used for conducting in-depth technical SEO audits. Using the tool, marketers discover broken links, audit redirects, uncover duplicate content, and more. The SEO Spider solution serves a very specific function that’s most relevant to technical SEOs. This tool is best used in combination with an all-in-one SEO tool, such as Ahrefs. If you’re new to the technical side of things, ScreamingFrog offers a free version that still has basic auditing functionalities.
Social Media Management
Social media tools provide functionality that allows users to schedule posts, access advanced user analytics, and monitor brand mentions…to name a few.
This can be especially useful for agencies or bigger companies that run multiple social media profiles at once. Posts can be scheduled out for days or weeks in advance, giving you the ability to spend more time on creative strategy rather than publishing each post manually.
Social Media Management Examples
Some social tools are all-in-one with many different functionalities, while others are platform-specific or focused on one specific feature, such as social media monitoring. Let’s look at a couple of examples:
- Sprout Social – Sprout Social is an all-in-one magic tool for social media management. The solution provides users with an entire suite of features that include post automation, granular engagement analytics, and performance reporting.
Sprout Social is known for its user-friendly interface and advanced reporting capabilities. If social media marketing is a major revenue driver for your business, Sprout is well worth the investment.
- Hootsuite – Hootsuite is a popular social media management platform designed for individuals and businesses of all sizes. The tool offers regular features such as post scheduling, as well as more advanced features such as customizable dashboards, social ads management, and business intelligence analytics.
Hootsuite’s major differentiator? Its affordable pricing. There’s even a free tier that allows for limited scheduling capabilities. If your team wants a more cost-effective solution that’s still fully functional, Hootsuite is a solid option.
Content Management System
A content management system (CMS) provides functionality to manage, store, and publish digital content. This includes the text, designed images, video, audio, and all other digital assets that add to the website experience. A CMS allows you to host all of this content without needing to build out new code from scratch.
If your team aims to create new content regularly, then a CMS solution is a necessity. Most CMS tools also offer additional SEO functionalities that make it easier to optimize content for organic search – which can help make it more discoverable.
Choosing the right CMS for your business can be tricky because the tool needs to seamlessly integrate with your website’s existing infrastructure. Luckily, most content management solutions are designed to do just that. Below, you’ll find two popular options:
- Hubspot CMS Hub – As mentioned earlier, HubSpot is a leading provider of software for marketing, sales, and customer service teams. HubSpot’s CMS offering is a popular option for many content marketing teams. Notable features include content authoring, a rich text editor, and robust reporting dashboards.
Since the HubSpot platform already comes with other built-in solutions like CRM and marketing automation, this is a smart option for marketers that want an all-in-one product. Additionally, the HubSpot CMS allows you to mix and match features. If you want to host your blog on a different platform, but still use HubSpot’s CMS for your website’s landing pages, you can.
- WordPress – WordPress is an open-source content management system. The software works in a way that allows users to install various plugins and templates to customize the functionality and appearance of their website.
WordPress is one of the oldest and most widely-used CMS tools on the market. With that said, it’s also a self-hosted tool, which means that you still need to find a web hosting provider and create custom code in order for it to work.
For the tech-savvy marketer who wants endless customization opportunities, WordPress will be your best friend.
Make It Yours
It’s important to note that this list isn’t even close to exhaustive.
If you’re a jack of all trades, you might use all of these software tools and then some; you might have different tools that work better for your goals. If your role is focused on a hyper-specific function, such as digital advertising, it’s possible that your marketing stack looks a bit leaner.
The great thing about a tech stack is that you have the power to make it your own. With these tips in mind, you can narrowly define the most vital tools that will make your marketing team uniquely successful.
Marketing software is only as powerful as the person that's using it. Discover how the Directive team can help your business extend past your tech stack to deliver serious search marketing results.
Disclosure: There are affiliate links used throughout this article.