At a fundamental level, you won’t suffer from a headache trying to understand martech, or “marketing technology.” Much like “brunch” (breakfast + lunch), “motel” (motor + hotel) and “malware” (malicious + software), the term “martech” combines the words “marketing” and “technology.”  Martech refers to any software and technology tools marketers use to plan, execute, track, measure and analyze marketing campaigns.

In today’s digital world, technology has become fundamental to marketing. All brands utilize marketing technology, whether or not they refer to their tools and technologies as “martech.” All marketing in a digital environment – social media marketing, content marketing, email marketing and search engine marketing – relies on some form of marketing technology stack, be it for automation, scheduling, targeting or collecting and analyzing data.

As such, the martech market has grown exponentially during recent years, now valued at $100 billion. According to the latest annual Marketing Technology Landscape “Martech 5000 Supergraphic” from, there are 7,040 individual marketing technology solutions available to marketers.

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Of course, no marketing department needs them all. Most organizations, however, should invest in specific, must-have marketing technology tools.

Below is an overview of six different categories of martech tools – based, loosely, on the Martech 5000 Supergraphic – and some of the top providers in each category.

The 6 Core Categories of Martech Tools

Advertising and Promotion

Advertising platforms and tools are a crucial element of the martech stack. They are used to streamline paid ad efforts across search engine marketing (SEM) campaigns as well as social media advertising and programmatic advertising.

SEM is the process of gaining Website traffic by purchasing ads on search engines. SEM tools are used to research keywords, monitor competition and manage campaigns. Examples include Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords), Microsoft Advertising (formerly Bing Ads) and SEMrush.

Social media advertising tools are similar to SEM tools; the difference being they are designed to help marketers manage social media ads specifically. Examples include the Facebook Ads Manager app (for iOS and Android), StitcherAds and AdEspresso.

Programmatic advertising is a fast-growing industry. Rather than leaving the ad-buying process – managing bid rates, allocating budgets, negotiating prices, etc. – to humans, AI is put in charge. Essentially, programmatic advertising is the automated buying and selling of online advertising as well as the automated targeting of specific audiences and demographics. Examples include SmartyAds, and AdRoll.

Content Marketing

As defined by the Content Marketing Institute (CMI), “Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience – and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” There is a range of crucial martech tools in this category, including content management systems (CMSs), search engine optimization (SEO) tools, landing page tools and marketing automation and lead management platforms.

CMSs are essential to publishing content on the Web and are used to host an organization’s Website or blog as well as write, edit and publish their content. Examples include WordPress, SilverStripe and Drupal.

SEO tools are used to rank your Website higher in search engine results pages (SERPs), improve domain authority and generate more traffic. They are used to gather data on keywords and competitors, conduct SEO site audits and provide backlink analyses. Examples include Moz, Ubbersuggest, Google Search Console and Keyword Planner.   

Landing page tools enable you to build landing pages quickly and easily – often with a drag-and-drop interface – and usually provide A/B testing functionality, allowing you to test which version of the landing page generates the most favorable results. Examples include Unbounce, Instapage and Landingi.

Marketing Automation tools and platforms enable digital marketers to automate various marketing tasks, helping them to communicate with the right leads at the right time – including on mobile. Marketing automation is quite a broad term, so the examples in this sub-category are separated into email marketing, mobile marketing and more generalized marketing automation platforms (See the next section for social media marketing automation).

Social Media Marketing

Social media marketing connects your audience and promotes your brand across social media channels, including Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, etc. Social media martech tools are essential for managing and scheduling campaigns, tracking your conversations on social and tapping into the power of influencer marketing.

Social media management tools are designed to automate scheduling and posting and provide analytics for campaigns. Examples include Hootsuite, Buffer and Sprout Social.

Social media monitoring tools help marketers track all interactions with prospects and customers on social networks. These tools also track the competition and industry trends. Examples include Brandwatch Analytics, TweetReach and Digimind.

Influencer marketing is the process of gaining endorsements from industry influencers – i.e., people and organizations who are considered industry authorities and have a large influence in their respective fields. Influencer marketing tools are designed to help you find and connect with these thought leaders and influencers. Examples include BuzzStream, NinjaOutreach, BuzzSumo and FollowerWonk. 

Commerce and Sales

Sales automation, customer support and customer relationship management (CRM) tools are all essential additions to the martech stack, enabling marketers and smarketers ( another word combination – “sales + marketer”) to automate and manage various aspects of the sales and customer management process at scale.

Sales automation platforms and tools are designed to automate the entire sales process, from prospecting to lead enrichment to lead nurturing to call scheduling. Essentially, these tools help to increase productivity by automating the most manual, repetitive and time-consuming tasks. Examples include Pega Sales Automation, and Autoklose.

Customer supporttools enable streamlined communications with customers, helping you answer their questions, solve their issues and ensure they are well supported. There are a variety of these tools, including all-in-one helpdesk customer-service-support platforms, decision-tree tools (which help agents choose any of several different courses of action), self-service helpdesks and knowledge bases and virtual assistants (i.e., chatbots). Examples include:

CRM systems primarily provide a centralized hub that allows organizations to manage their business relationships and the data associated with them from a single location. With CRM software, businesses can store customer and prospect contact information, track leads and sales opportunities and organize and access task management and campaign management reports. Examples include HubSpot, Salesforce, SugarCRMand Freshsales.

Data and Analytics

Data and analytics toolsallow organizations to access, integrate and analyze data from multiple sources to gain a complete 360-degree view of the customerand the crucial insights needed to optimize campaigns. Important additions to the martech stack include customer data platforms (CDPs) and data analytics, visualization and Web analytics tools.

CDPs aggregate and organize customer data from a wide range of sources and touchpoints to create unified customer profiles with which marketers can easily work. Examples include Evergage, Exponea and Treasure Data.

Data analytics tools enable organizations to acquire data and extract insights from it almost instantaneously. The best incorporate visualization features, transforming hard-to-decipher data into easy-to-interpret charts, graphs, maps, dashboards and other visualizations. Examples include Klipfolio, Qlik, Looker, Tableau and Sisense.

Web analytics tools track and analyze Website traffic, visitor behavior and demographics – crucial data for optimizing site and campaign performance. Examples include Google Analytics, CrazyEgg, FreshMarketer and Hotjar.

Management and Collaboration

Management and collaboration tools are crucial for helping organizations become better organized and more productive. Communication tools and project management software are vital inclusions in the martech stack.

Communicationtoolsenable team members to communicate with one another easily – especially important when you have a remote workforce. Examples include Flowdock, GoToMeeting, Zoom and Slack.

Project management and workflow software are designed to help teams track and manage tasks and simplify workflow processes. Examples include Trello, Basecamp, Asana and

Final Thoughts – Best Practices in Marketing Technology

Investing in martech solutions and solutions that support marketing has clear benefits: saving marketers’ time by automating processes; gaining a better understanding of customer trends; better ad targeting; streamlined customer relationship management; and improved productivity and workflow. Organizations that make smart investments in martech will have the capability to build a comprehensive suite of tools that improve efficiency, effectiveness and decision-making.

It’s essential, however, to spend wisely, as many of the tools on the market can break the bank and might even be overkill for what you need. For example, some organizations use powerful marketing automation tools, such as Marketo or Pardot, to conduct basic lead nurturing, when all they need is SharpSpring, for example. It’s not how large of martech investments you make; it’s investing in the right tools at the right price.

Even so, martech stacks are commanding more and more of a CMO’s budget – according to the Martech: 2019 and Beyond report. In the UK and North America, brands have increased their spending on martech by 44%. To maximize the value of a marketing technology investment, however, organizations must be able to integrate the technology successfully and have the staff with the right skillsets to use it. Last year, a report by Econsultancy found almost two-thirds (64%) of companies believe they do not have the skills or talent to make the best use of marketing technology, and 45% cited this predicament as a top-three barrier to generating sufficient ROI from martech investments.

The future of any company won’t just be dependent on investing in the latest technological advancements. Identifying objectives (and the tech requirements to fulfill them), ensuring you have the right resources (including the key skills and competencies) to utilize the technology effectively, and, most critically, investing wisely are the keys to avoiding chaos and a positive return on your martech investments.

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