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In today’s busy marketing environment, there’s simply too much to do without the right set of tools at your fingertips. If you’re not automating every task you can and turning data into better performance, you’re not getting the best return on your marketing investment – it’s as simple as that.

This is where marketing tech stacks are fundamental to everything online brands do. With the right combination of tools at your disposal, you can build a marketing strategy that continuously improves, generating more leads while allowing less of them to slip through your fingers.

There is a problem, though. Choosing one tool can be a challenge when there are so many options around – so how do you choose more than a dozen that all need to work together? Read on…

Stage 1: Lead generation

The first thing your tech stack needs to do is generate leads and research from Ascend2 gives us an idea of what the most effective lead generation tactics are.

While this graph is useful, I would argue it’s got the wrong idea about lead generation. For example, your email marketing campaigns and landing pages can’t do anything until you get traffic on your site. They’re not actually generating leads; they converting or nurturing them. Lead generation starts with traffic and this is what our first collection of tools will be taking care of.

#1: Google Ads

When it comes to driving qualified traffic to your site, Google Ads is still the fastest way to get results. Not only are you targeting people who show a specific interest in what you’re selling, Google Ads acts as a first point of contact for lead nurturing tactics like remarketing, email marketing and conversion optimisation.

#2: Social advertising

Facebook has dedicated ad formats for lead generation.

While Google Ads allows you to target highly qualified leads, social advertising on Facebook, Twitter and other networks tends to generate traffic with a lower buying intent. That may not sound too appealing right now but think of it this way: would you rather nurture those lead until they’re ready to buy (with you) or let them go to one of your competitors later on?

The only way to really maximise your conversion rates, ROI and everything else that matters in marketing is to play the long game with “low-quality” leads and make sure it’s your business they turn to when the time comes.

#3: Hootsuite

Hootsuite allows you to manage your entire social media strategy from one place and collect reports from across your networks. You can also schedule posts to make your content go further, which is a vital part of maximising your social leads – especially for time-sensitive networks like Twitter and Snapchat.

Note: A lot of people get Hootsuite (above) and HubSpot (below) confused, but they’re completely different tools.

#4: HubSpot

HubSpot is like a complete inbound marketing system – almost a full tech stack by itself. It has three main products: CRM Software for nurturing leads; Marketing Software generating new leads; and Sales Software for automating the sales process.

It’s not the cheapest piece of software you’ll ever buy but it’s a serious piece of kit for brands who want the most efficient marketing process.

Stage 2: Lead conversion

With a steady stream of traffic coming to your site your marketing tech stack now needs to convert those leads into something more profitable. Whether it’s signing up to your newsletter, downloading an e-book or buying from you there and then – these tools are all about lead conversions.

#5: Unbounce

Every PPC campaign you run should have a relevant ladning page and this makes tool like Unbounce, Leadpages and Instapage invaluable. The ability to create and manage all of your landing pages from one place is a huge advantage in converting paid traffic into higher-quality leads. The three tools I’ve already mentioned are all good platforms but you’ll see why I’m suggesting Unbounce very shortly.

#6: Leadformly

Lead generation forms increase conversions

Too many businesses slap a few forms on their site and expect them to convert leads. The problem is forms generally don’t perform too well and this a big deal when most conversions involve a form of some kind.

So every good marketing tech stack needs a form optimisation tool like Leadformly. This will pinpoint where users are running into problems with your forms so you can put them right and lift your conversion rates to where they should be – which is especially important for traffic you’ve paid for.

#7: Unbounce Convertables

This is why I recommended Unbounce for your landing page builder earlier. A relatively new feature (added late last year) is Unbounce Convertables, which allows you to run a number of non-intrusive pop-ups on any page of your site (not just your landing pages). You can get similar pop-ups from other providers but choosing Unbounce means you get this, a landing page builder and more for the price of one tool.

#8: Intercom

Marcus recommended Intercom for lead generation last year and it’s only become a better tool since then. Intercom isn’t a chatbot platform but it looks very much like one. You can integrate the system on your site, inside mobile apps and into your email marketing to reach leads across every platform.

Trigger messages is an incredible feature you can use to prompt users with a notification after a certain period of time or action of your choice. There’s a whole lot more you can do with this platform, too, so be sure to check it out.

Step 3: Lead nurturing

Once you’ve got that first conversion, it’s time to nurture those leads further along the buying process. This is where your marketing tech stack really starts to shine, turning your “low-quality” leads into potential and, ultimately, paying customers.

#9: ActiveCampaign

Email marketing is your strongest weapon in lead nurturing, allowing you to get hyper-specific with your messaging and target people on an individual basis. But to do this you’ll need to segment your email list into smaller chunks, based on what you know about each user and where they are along the sales funnel.

To automate this process you’ll want a solid email marketing platform like ActiveCampaign, which helps you manage these micro-lists and guide your leads towards the next purchase.

#10: Google Ads and social remarketing

Source: Google

Google Ads remarketing is another killer tool for nurturing leads and its biggest strength is people don’t even need to sign up to anything (unlike email). They simply need to visit a page on your site and you target them with messages based on what interest they have shown and actions they’ve taken.

Facebook (and subsequently Instagram) also offers some great remarketing features and you can also integrate these with your email marketing lists to reach new audiences that show similar interests to your existing customers.

#11: Keap

Keap is designed to automate as much of your marketing and lead nurturing tasks as possible. It’s a powerful platform that’s capable of a lot of things but the main aim is to save you time on repetitive tasks so you can focus on maximising sales. So, if you’ve got a large customer base or a large inventory of products/sales to manage, this tool can save you a lot of pain.

#12: Adobe Target

Adobe Target is an enterprise-level testing platform, offering great options for conversion optimisation, A/B testing, real-time data and so much more. However, there’s one feature in particular that makes Adobe Target so great for lead nurturing – automated personalisation.

With this, you can build real-time profiles of individual users, based on their interactions with your site, and then target them with personalised content to match their changing needs. You’ll find similar options with VWO, Optimizely and some other testing platforms but Adobe really nails it with advanced, automated personalisation.

Stage 4: Analytics and optimisation

With your marketing tech stack successfully generating and nurturing leads across the buying process, its final task is to reduce the number of leads that get lost along the way. This is where analytics and optimisation take a front seat and your tool choices will look something like this.

#13: Google Analytics and Google Ads

Of course, Google Analytics is the obvious choice here – and with good reason – but you’ll want to integrate it with Google Ads to get the best out of both platforms. This allows you to set up things like events tracking for your remarketing lists and view data like bounce rate and time-on-site from inside Google Ads.

#14: KISSmetrics

KISSmetrics is an advanced analytics system that collects data and then uses it to reveal where your sales funnel is leaking leads. It also breaks down your leads into audience segments so you can see which groups are growing or shrinking so you can see where to focus your efforts.

#15: Hotjar

CrazyEgg is probably still the best-known heatmap tool and it’s a great option. However, Hotjar offers significantly more features, including session recordings, user feedback options, funnel analytics and more. It’s not a complete analytics and optimisation tool but it makes a great addition to the other platforms on this list.

Time to build your own marketing tech stack?

If the prospect of building your own marketing tech stack is too daunting (or expensive), there is another option. Marketing agencies are able to sign up to enterprise tools that bring all the tech stack advantages to your marketing strategy at a fraction of the cost. So, even if you have your own in-house team, it might be worth speaking to some agencies to see what they can offer you on the software side of things.

Aaron Brooks is a copywriter & digital strategist specialising in helping agencies & software companies find their voice in a crowded space.

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