I’m the first to admit that when it comes to my company’s ever-evolving marketing stack, I am over-invested. I am always willing to talk about it, read blog posts about others’ stacks, and snoop around to find new ideas and technologies. Why? Because I believe having a hyper focus on the marketing stack delivers real ROI—not just for me, but for my team and my customers too.
Just saying you have a stack is not enough.
Let’s start with the obvious: Every SaaS company has—or should have—some sort of marketing stack. And not just any marketing stack, but one that is robust, diverse and always experimental. If the extent of your entire marketing stack comprises Salesforce and Marketo (or something similar), you have the basics, but not much more. Demand generation success in today’s SaaS environment requires a minimum of ten data and software providers, each one connected and optimized. This approach certainly works for SocialChorus where, from the start, we’ve believed in creating and supporting a team that is small in number but huge in productivity. Our marketing stack is one of the primary ways we do that.
The proof is in our people.
Nowhere is the connection between people and software more prevalent than in our marketing programs department. It’s not a department, really; it’s four people. Together, leveraging our marketing stack, these four people do the work of at least seven or eight. Every day. This productivity is a testament to their smarts, experience and work ethic. But it’s also a living case study for a marketing stack that, quite frankly, blows the doors off companies ten times our MRR.
Four reasons a marketing stack matters.
Reason 1: A superior marketing stack saves money.
The more “busy stuff” you can get technology to do for your people, the more it’s going to help your bottom line. Gina Melani, our Director of Growth Marketing, used to spend 5-10 hours every month combing through Salesforce data to determine campaign ROI. That’s an incredible waste of Gina’s time. The savings we realize across the board by automating these basic (and mind-numbing) business tasks add up. That’s why we are committed to making sure our people—not just in marketing but in every department—have the software they need to focus less on the busy stuff and more on the hard stuff we’ve hired them for.
Reason 2: A superior marketing stack attracts superior talent.
When it comes to new hires, I am always on the look out for people who want more from their jobs. Who want to think instead of toil. In short, I want people my competition wants, too. So how do I get a top prospect to come work for SocialChorus instead of, say, Facebook or Uber? Take Gina, for example. Like most super smart and ambitious people, she takes a proactive approach to growing her career. How was I able to convince her to come on board. Could I offer her a VP of Marketing title? Nope, I already had one of those. Could I empower her to hire more people? Sorry. (See earlier statement about our commitment to doing more with less.) How about the chance to build one of the most effective marketing stacks in the SaaS industry from the ground up? Now that I could offer. And when Gina leaves SocialChorus (hopefully several years from now and not a week after a recruiter reads this post), she’ll take with her a LinkedIn profile and résumé that makes her an ideal candidate for a VP of Marketing.
Reason 3: A superior marketing stack retains superior talent.
So if it’s my obsession with the marketing stack that gets people in the door, it also helps keep them here. Great demand gen is a lot of quickly executed creative tests—and to have the time to do that, the team needs good software. Give them the opportunity to identify and deploy the tools that make their jobs easier, and they’ll stick around. (This is not just a marketing thing, either. I’m constantly asking everyone in this company—CS, Sales and Engineering included—if they are using enough software to get their jobs done. If someone at SocialChorus is not logging into five to ten software tools during the course of their day here, we are not serving them well.)
Reason 4: A superior marketing stack protects our business.
Getting employees poached: It’s a fact of life for a startup. And SocialChorus is no exception. But our marketing stack helps lessen the blow. Because when people leave to pursue new opportunities, they don’t take my business intelligence with them. Our stack and our systems still talk to each other, still learn from each other, keep getting smarter with every customer and prospect interaction. The cookbook is still here, too, ready for the next ambitious, smart marketing mind to take the reins and perhaps add a chapter or two to make it even better.
Too little time, too many choices.
So why are so few SaaS companies out there really pushing the limits on their own marketing stacks? One real obstacle is the abundance of tools to choose from. Yes, there are a lot of players out there in every marketing category. Which one do you choose? Which one has the right data sources? Which one has best chance of being here a year from now? Two years from now?
Six Tips for Overcoming Evaluation Paralysis.
1: Pick a vendor, any vendor.
At SocialChorus, we can’t afford to waste time evaluating every vendor who walks through the door with a killer PowerPoint presentation and demo. We have a simple but effective rule of thumb for choosing software vendors: If three CEOs or marketers I respect are using the same tool, we’re going to try it, too.
2: Keep your bets small.
Our relatively small size makes it easier for us to make a lot of small marketing bets on campaigns and on the tools we use. We never bet the quarter on any one marketing program or one software or data vendor; that’s just dumb. Some of our bets pay off well. Others have proven more disappointing than Terminator Genisys. But the relatively small size of each of those bets makes it easy for us to keep evolving toward that perfect marketing stack.
3. Set reasonable goals.
Optimism is great, but keep it in check when setting goals for a marketing test. Over-expectation leads to over-promises from vendors eager to get your business. And that almost always ends badly.
4: Believe in karma.
I’ll admit there’s a karmic element to our “just do it” philosophy. How can I ask customers to have faith in SocialChorus if I don’t show the same faith in marketing tech startups that can help my company?
5: Give your team permission to fail.
If you don’t let your people choose a loser now and then, they are going to wait to pick a winner and that’s just another form of death for a startup. Big companies can afford to wait two years to see who delivers on their road map and who doesn’t. You can’t.
6. Trust your gut.
It’s funny that in a business driven by data and math, your gut still sometimes proves the best predictor of success. Running the numbers is essential, but always leave room for a gut check come decision time.
One stack. 42 parts.
Constant evaluation. A spirit of experimentation. And a strong connection between tools and data. These are the tenets that have built our marketing stack into what it is today. I’d like to end this post with a quick peek inside that stack. It currently comprises 42 marketing technology and data vendors. And we’re testing another two to three more every quarter. I hope you’ll use it to discover a few vendors you haven’t heard of, and maybe share a few suggestions that we have yet to try out.