It’s here, and frankly I couldn’t wait to speak to my favorite part of the funnel—nurturing your lead. It’s my favorite part for a couple of reasons, but mostly because much of middle funnel success is buoyed by email, and what’s not to love about EMAIL. Forget all these kids and their social medias (disclaimer: over 68% of people on Earth between the ages of 50-64 are on Facebook) and SEO? Just another channel you’ve got to play the game on (disclaimer: organic search drives 51% of all visitors to B2B and B2C websites, trumping all other non-organic search channels, including paid search (10%) and social (5%)). But you email purists know what I mean. Email is communication to your owned audience that has been consistently the number one channel for ROI for over 59% of marketers. Yet, while I’d love to jump right in to discuss middle funnel marketing through email, we’d be missing a key component to what makes our middle of the funnel efforts not only successful but also possible–your martech stack. 

A What?

Your martech stack is a “grouping of technologies that marketers leverage to conduct and improve their marketing activities.” We can’t just skip to nurturing and building a relationship with the consumer without ensuring we have the right tools in place. You wouldn’t invite a first date to your house if you hadn’t cleaned, showered or gotten out of bed that day would you? No, you would want to be ready to show off your best at any time. A clean kitchen to show you take care of yourself, a strategically placed book they mentioned they liked to show you’re a good listener, and perhaps a few photos of friends to show how well liked you are. Just like that prep needed for a first date, you need to be ready for that lead.

Identify your starting line-up

A typical martech stack will consist of these main players: your CMS system, CRM, Email Platform, your Advertising Serving Solution, Social Media Tools, Analytics and Reporting Platform, and your Unified Database (aka database of record, aka universal database, aka centralized database, aka data warehouse). The capabilities of one of these may likely overlap with one another, but you won’t know what those overlapping capabilities are until you take inventory. Creating your martech map will help you identify redundancies and most importantly, move towards the ultimate goal of a martech stack--seamless communication among platforms. 

The crown jewel

For years, major publishers have been looking to build their ultimate centralized database. And while some of the big players have the luxury of building their own proprietary systems, most small publishers and brands don’t have the budget … and quite honestly, they don’t need to with some of the viable options on the market. Our personal favorite? HubSpot. For the many reasons we discussed here. Whether it’s HubSpot or another database platform, the key functions needed of any centralized database are the ability to integrate with other platforms within your stack, segment audiences, and house complex data information in an easy to access way. 

The ability to integrate communication to your unified database cannot be understated. The nature of digital is getting more complex, and likely you’ll be adding more systems and platforms to your stack overtime. The ability to integrate with your one core database will allow you to maintain a vision and 360-degree profile of the consumer despite the ever-changing complex digital environment. Your crown jewel, as I’m calling it, should be able to retain your customer’s web, buying, social and email behavior all in one location. Centralizing this information is not enough on its own. Your chosen platform should be able to create custom segmented lists for you based on any, all, or some of the criteria listed above.

Other Key Functions Needed in your Martech Stack

The platforms that you utilize in your stack is completely up to you, (though we have plenty of opinions, we’ll gladly share), however there are certain functions your stack should ABSOLUTELY contain. 

Personalization - We’ve said it, our friends at HubSpot have said it, but context is just as valuable as content when it comes to email and other digital campaigns. Personalization goes beyond just using a first name in the subject line! Can you personalize by other information you know of them? Whether they’re a social follower, member, subscriber, frequent site visitor, cat lover, new mom, just married, have a birthday coming up, have a wedding coming up, etc.  What you know of your user can make all the difference in their level of engagement with your brand.

Automation - I can’t say enough about how much more valuable work you can get out of your employees when you take manual list management away from them. Rather than clicking, downloading, uploading, in and out of Excel, a platform that automates puts them back in the strategic driver’s seat. They’ll have more time to think about ways to increase your newsletter list size and get more subscribers out of your current newsletter list. The possibilities are endless when you have more time.

Ability to take preferred payments - How many times have you added something to your cart and had to get up to get your wallet and then you realized your wallet was in the car, so you just abandoned your cart? This one is of the quintessential things for any purchase tool out there, let people pay how they want to. Of course you’ll need to take VISA, Mastercard, AMEX, but also take Paypal, Apple Pay, and even Amazon pay. Don’t make your customers get up to get their actual wallet, especially if they’re on mobile.

Live reporting - The kind of data that you, your editors, reporters, and ad sales team can act on can change the way you operate as a business. You can see what kinds of articles readers spend their time on, figure out what pages they filled out a form, and what type of content they keep coming back to. Some of our clients have adopted a feedback loop reporting structure where the author of the piece knows how far people scrolled on their stories, if people signed up for the newsletter, or if they subscribed after reading. With this information, editors can curate what content should be produced based on user interest. In some cases, producing more content isn’t the answer, its producing content that readers want to read … and live reporting can get you there.

Email - Having an email platform that integrates with your core customer database is absolutely crucial. You should be able to segment your database to send out automated emails to different audiences, slicing and dicing your customer base to serve them proper messaging. We’ve written about this at length, and our regular readers know how much we love HubSpot, so we’ll end that rant early.

Now that we’ve identified the tools to help you nurture your lead (and, well, have a kickass date), our next part of the series will focus on how to do so efficiently and effectively using the key systems you have in place.