What Marketing Technology (MarTech) tools do I need?

This is Bryan McCarter’s first article for Savvyeur.

Everyone has this question. If you already have a go-to list of tools you love and are happy using them for the rest of your life, this article may not be for you. (But maybe give it a quick skim just to be sure).  If you are ready to grow your Marketing efforts but aren’t sure how to start, then let me save you some time.

Most small business owners and startup teams spend a great deal of time looking at different tools, asking colleagues for recommendations, and checking out product websites as they decide which tools to start using. And, if they don’t have a full Marketing team, they usually end up making their final selections in a slight panic. They have a day job, and it is not making MarTech decisions. There are many tools, most great in their own way, so how do you choose? As a consultant, I have often heard “This is what we have; I don’t know if it is right.” Or, “We got a cold call from this company, but I don’t think we are getting what we thought.”

In my experience, the best MarTech tools for small businesses or early-stage startups are usually the most common ones. The main reasons for this are: 1) these tools are tested, 2) they are low-cost or free and, 3) it is very easy to tap into external resources. You need to spend your time growing your brand, not learning how to use a bunch of new support tools. Here’s my advice:.
  • Pick something that many people already know how to use so you don’t have to train them.
  • Don’t invest in complex technology built for the long term that isn’t core to your business.
  • Use tools that provide heavily tested, high performing templates and functionality right out of the box so you know 100% of your customers will receive and be able to easily navigate what you create.

Custom options are very tempting, but are usually harder to implement than you think going in and often do not perform as well as the standard templates most tools provide. You can always experiment with more custom options down the line, but wait until you see the performance data on several Marketing efforts before you make any decisions. This is particularly true with email. People read email in a functional way; they scan it for something that interests them enough to take an action. If scanning is too complicated they may miss an interesting piece of content or just give up. Well-tested templates are designed to accommodate this behavior, so though they may seem less ‘designed’ at times, their purpose is to encourage the maximum number of readers to take a next step, and that’s what most brands really want.

Here are five tools to implement today:

MailChimp for brand newsletter/customer marketing database
Shopify for your e-Commerce website
WordPress for your blog
Asana for productivity
Slack for team communication

Why did these tools make the list? I’ve used all of them extensively and have a high level of confidence in their performance for brands. Often, I have a love-hate relationship with them. Expect to curse openly while using all of these (except Slack; it’s a delight.) They are tools that started at a basic level and grew organically and opportunistically in all directions, like a tree. If you could cut them open, you’d see lots of stress-growth rings and everything would become clear. Since you can’t do that, many of the steps you have to follow may seem illogical (or even ridiculous), which can be frustrating. This is pretty much true for any piece of technology you use (e.g., why did Word hide the strikethrough button? I use that all the time.)

These tools all started as tiny startups, just like yours, and grew as their customers’ needs evolved. That is why they work the way they do and also why they are tools that can help your business grow right out of the gate. As a user, just accept the quirks and move on. Like you do when learning German—no one knows why the verb goes at the end, it just does; don’t fight it.

A Short Learning Curve

You really can begin productively using each of these tools on Day 1, usually in under an hour. You get better as you go along, but the learning curve is quite short. Most companies find that it is easier to accommodate some Marketing tasks than others. For the tasks that don’t fit well within your current team structure, bring someone in short-term until you are ready to hire someone full time. In my experience, the types of tasks smaller companies find hardest to absorb are those that can’t easily be automated. Things like building an email template, deep-dive analytics, paid search, SEO, writing regular blog articles, target definition, and overall Marketing strategy. 

Most small businesses and early-stage startups don’t need a full time senior Marketing executive at first, but they sure do benefit from that level of expertise. Just buy what you need when you need it. Set up relationships with marketing organizations like Savvyeur that cater to entrepreneurs and small businesses to help demystify the often confusing Marketing landscape.  These organizations can help you create your first newsletter template, help you write blog articles and quickly straighten out any kinks you encounter. It really is better in the long run to bring in a subject matter expert for a surgical strike vs. trying to figure everything out for yourself. Using basic tools like the ones listed above set you up so that you can always find people to help when you need them (literally, everyone knows how to use MailChimp…well, almost everyone), and cross-training is easy so team members can step in if someone takes a vacation. Using popular productivity tools allows you to manage Marketing in a plug-and-play way; anyone you pull in will be familiar with the tools, so there is no outsider learning curve.  For advertising and social efforts you will want to add to this list, but let’s save that for day 2 (and another article; stay tuned!)
Bryan McCarter is a marketer with an affinity for small businesses & startup brands. His background includes New York advertising agencies and several global brands though he is now focused on helping growing brands establish their Marketing capabilities via ad hoc consulting services.
Contact Bryan at bryan@bryanmccarter.com