7 Tips to Scale Your Marketing Automation Stack

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Free marketing tools are great. They’ve gotten thousands of super successful marketing teams going. They offer high returns for little investment (only the time it takes to learn how to use them), and they’re the perfect jumping-off point for start-ups who need to grow fast. 

Eventually, however, any good start-up will outgrow their free martech stack. There will come a day when it’s time to invest if you want to continue to increase efficiency, results, and your marketers’ sanity — not to mention your ability to improve and personalize your customer journey. 

This article explains how to know when that day has come and offers 7 tips on what to do when you get there. 


The 3 phases of free marketing tools

Typically, by the time an organization gets to the point that they’re thinking about scaling their martech stack, they’ve already been through 3 phases: 

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Phase 1: Product-centric

In the early start-up days, marketing is likely not the first business priority. Everyone is busy establishing the product and getting everything up and running. Slowly but surely, however, the organization becomes primed for marketing growth. These are some of the telltale signs you’re in phase 1: 

  • There is a need to generate more revenue against lower costs and achieve more with less. 
  • The budget needs to be burned against the highest possible revenue and against the highest possible profit margin. 
  • The marketing team isn’t big yet, so only one or two individuals are making everything happen. 


Phase 2: Grow marketing with free tools

The need for increased efficiency is often the catalyst for phase 2, when a marketer or small marketing team begins diving into marketing automation with free tools, such as the Google suite. 

Free or inexpensive tools are the logical place to start — they offer the basics and can do a lot to earn a company successful growth in the first few years. 

Building a free marketing automation stack is good for optimizing channels on an individual level, but once you have several of these tools running, it becomes increasingly difficult to get them to work together so you can optimize your marketing operations beyond the channel level towards a customer-centric level.


Phase 3: Plateau

Eventually, you know you aren’t reaching the full potential of omnichannel marketing automation, because the journey your customers are following isn’t seamless, and it’s full of blind spots resulting from fragmented data and disconnected systems. You have many more channels than you did in the beginning, and your customers now expect a more mature cross-channel experience from you as an established brand. 

How to tell you’re in phase 3?

  • Listen to your analytics: are traffic and conversions still growing, or have things leveled out? 
  • Listen to your business: are senior leaders asking for marketing results that just aren’t possible with the free tools you have?
  • Most importantly, listen to your customers: what kind of feedback are they giving? Are they frustrated with their experience? Do they need more support, better and faster? Are they having trouble finding what they’re looking for? Are you having trouble offering the perfect upsell or cross-sell at the perfect time?

If you’re answering yes to all of these questions, then you’re probably in phase 3. Now is the time to scale your marketing automation stack. 


7 tips for effectively scaling your marketing automation stack 

So now that you know it’s time to start leaving the free tools behind, where do you get started? What do you look for? How do you build the perfect stack? Here are 7 tips based on our experience with many companies who have been in this exact position: 

Tip 1. Leverage your first-party data. 

Your customer data is your most valuable asset, and now that you’re looking into scaling your marketing automation stack, you are in the perfect position to adopt tooling that will help you unify that data into comprehensive customer profiles. A journey orchestration platform like Relay42 will help you unify your customer data and then activate it across channels throughout the entire customer journey.  


Tip 2. Combine the power of your paid and owned channels to make sure they’re all working together. 

Use a tool that can integrate all of the data from your paid and owned channels in one place. By combining your CRM data, email data, social media data, website browsing data, etc. into single customer profiles, you’re able to form a holistic view of your customers. This will help you serve them as individuals, rather than segments. 


Tip 3. Offer a consistent experience across channels.

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Is it possible that you’re still retargeting customers who have already made the purchase? If someone who was just logged into your website calls customer service, can your call agent pick up the conversation where it left off online? 

Upgrading your technology stack is a great opportunity to take a good look at your messaging across channels and ensure you have the tools to offer your customers accuracy, efficiency, and continuity, no matter how they choose to interact with your brand.  


Tip 4. Eliminate the blind spots in your customer journey.

Not sure what happened to that lead? You’re not alone. 

Luckily, connecting your channels and unifying your data should clear up these little blips in your customer journey. Choose new tech that will give you insights to improve the customer journey. Keeping your customer as the focal point of your efforts will help you steer the project in the right direction. 

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Tip 5. Consider single-platform technology.

We believe it makes much more sense to choose single-platform solutions that cover multiple areas. Typically, the mishmash of different technologies that marketing suites offer doesn’t work in real time. They also require complex integration and almost never work together properly. This is because different technologies pass and store data in different ways, which means you lose granularity and real-time capabilities with every cross-platform data transfer you make. 

It doesn’t make sense to buy a platform to combine all data sources if you have to spread it across different tools again to be able to use it. Buying suites means slowing yourself down. 


Tip 6. Real-time marketing is a must.

Whatever tools you choose, if your goal is to optimize the customer journey, make sure your stack will work in real time. You want to be able to adapt to the choices people are making in this moment, rather than 24 hours later after the data has been processed.  

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Tip 7. Form a core team.

Eliminate silos and make sure that all of the core KPIs are covered so that team objectives are aligned.

This tip is right in line with the one Joost Kaart gave in his 5 tips for successfully implementing Relay42. We’ve found that creating interdisciplinary project teams is particularly relevant for digital transformation projects that will have a large impact across the organization. 

It’s important to note that this doesn’t have to happen right away. Your teams will evolve as your stack does. The essential part is that you have an interdisciplinary mindset from the beginning. Simplify things by getting started with one omnichannel expert who liaises with different channel teams or individuals as you transition to a fully omnichannel team. 


Bonus tip 

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Not sure which tech is right for you? Chat with some experts.

There’s nothing wrong with getting as far as possible with free tools. Free martech gives you time to figure out your strategy, get to know your audience, and learn more about what you want to achieve with your marketing across channels. 

You’ll know when you’re starting to reach the limits of what you can achieve with the free stuff when your tools are causing more issues than they’re solving. 

If you’re reading this now, there’s a good chance you’re close to that limit, and in that case, our best advice at this exact moment is to breathe, do your research, and talk to as many vendors as you can to figure out which tech is best for your business. Make a list, check it twice. 

If you’re interested in talking to a Relay42 consultant about whether an Intelligent Journey Orchestration platform might be the next logical step in growing your marketing stack, feel free to get in touch

Not ready yet? Then you might be interested in the eBook Connecting Online and Offline: The Marketer’s Manual. It’s all about taking the next steps in integrating your marketing channels and centralizing your customer experience. 

Learn more about Intelligent Journey Orchestration, the data-driven marketing strategy for hyper-personalized cross-channel customer journeys.

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