There is no one-size-fits-all option for marketing technology, but a good tech stack generally includes tools for marketers’ most pressing needs, like analytics, automation, communication, content, customer relationship management, and SEO. Figuring out which marketing tools are most pressing ultimately depends on individual business needs.
“In order to pick the right tech stack, you need to, first of all, have your goal clear in your head and a very firm idea of what you need the stack to achieve and how it should help you to do this,” said Polly Kay, senior marketing manager at the retailer English Blinds. “From there, look to build a tech stack that will be scalable and only then get into the fine details of comparing the pros, cons, and extras of all of the various apps that could make up your eventual solution.”
How does your tech stack up?
Now, this is certainly not a comprehensive list of all possible tools, but it is an extensive, crowd-sourced guide to the tools that marketers need to consider when building out a tech stack in 2020. Oh, and it’s alphabetized by marketing function so that you can read through or jump to a high-priority section based on your marketing needs.
Here’s what we’re covering:
Let’s get started.
Marketers have tons of data at their disposal—and they need something to make sense of it.
According to Darren Taylor, principal consultant at digital marketing resource The Big Marketer, the analytics tool all marketers should use in 2020 is Google’s web analytics service, Google Analytics.
“The impact of analytics in determining and modifying strategy, conversion rate optimization and customer behavior is phenomenal,” he said. “It’s the core tool that will allow you to decide where to invest your marketing budget. It’s the tool that justifies all other tools.”
Calling it “an oldie but a goodie,” Tommia Hayes, digital communications manager at Community Health Charities, said Google Analytics provides insightful data that can provide a better understanding of what site content resonates and how to improve traffic, such as identifying content with lower exit rates, time spent on pages, and PDFs with high downloads.
“At my current organization, I immediately noticed our bounce rate was over 80%. With our bounce rate so high, the traffic was extremely low,” she said. “By using Google Analytics, I understood the low analytics and implemented ways to improve it. Within two months, the bounce rate went down by 20% and traffic increased over 12%.”
Oksana Chyketa, marketer at B2B lead generation platform Albacross, agreed, saying Google Analytics helps Albacross gather qualitative and quantitative data from its website for insights into its buyer personas and optimization opportunities.
Another free option to help users understand and improve how Google sees their websites is Google Search Console. Louis Watton, marketing executive at online transport marketplace Shiply, said it is particularly useful for diagnosing issues with a website that may stop it appearing on Google, as well as what keywords are being used to find your website.
And then there’s the reporting tool Google Data Studio, which turns data into customizable dashboards and reports. Steven van Vessum, vice president of community at SEO audit tool ContentKing, said this enables users to automate reporting and access up-to-date information on the results of marketing efforts.
For his part, Adam Thompson, director of digital marketing at the publication ReliaSite Insights, said to add business analytics service Microsoft Power BI to the list. Like Google Data Studio, Power BI brings together data from a variety of sources to create interactive dashboards and reports.
Thompson said he has found Power BI to be more intuitive than Google Data Studio and more powerful than Excel—and he noted it’s free as long as you don’t need to share and publish reports.
“With a tool like Power BI, you can connect to, process, and analyze data from multiple sources such as databases, spreadsheets and web platforms like Google Analytics,” Thompson said.
When it comes to analyzing the behavior of customers and site visitors, analytics tool HotJar was a popular choice among marketers like Ciara Hautau, lead digital marketing strategist at technology consultancy Fueled, who said she uses it for heat mapping, surveying users, and tracking funnels on the site.
“It gives us great insights into where users are exiting, clicking, and scrolling,” she said.
Or, as Julia Brolin of inbound marketing agency Leighton Interactive put it, “Want to get creepy and see how users are interacting with your website? This is the tool.”
In addition to heatmaps and scrolling behavior, it also creates screen recordings to analyze.
“As an agency, we use this for every single one of our clients,” she added. “It’s proven to be essential during website audits and helps us collect info when creating new website designs and nav.”
The data from these tools provides comprehensive information about user behavior, which gives users “a behind-the-scenes look at how your website users interact with your online offering,” added Sarkis Hakopdjanian, director of strategy and principal for business and marketing consulting agency The Business Clinic.
When it comes to communication, marketers suggest the popular instant messaging platform Slack.
“As marketing teams grow more and more remote and company culture becomes a key selling point for top employers, a marketing tech stack isn’t complete without a solid communication tool and a task management system,” said Christopher Foust, CMO of marketing agency Motus Creative Group. “I’m a huge advocate of Slack and [project management software] Redbooth. Slack keeps my teams connected, conversations organized and [is] a great way to share project files.”
Zalan Taller, digital marketing specialist at SEO tool Morningscore, recommended Slack because of its integrations—and Chyketa said Slack’s in-house Slackbot also helps create to-do lists.
Options abound for marketers looking to create and optimize content.
Another free option from Google is online word processor Google Docs, which Jake Rheude, vice president of marketing at Red Stag Fulfillment, said helps his team collaborate on content like blog posts.
In addition, Chyketa recommends Google’s file storage service, Google Drive, for managing content.
“We can keep track of a huge amount of content,” she said. “And what’s more, every team member can have access to the content.”
“[MarketMuse] will help you research, plan, and craft your content to make it more relevant to a niche,” said Bart Turczynski, editor-in-chief at career website Zety. “These AI-driven strategies not only help you save time but also build truly powerful and compelling content.”
In addition, Andrew Helling, owner of REthority.com, an online resource for real estate professionals and their clients, suggested writing app Grammarly. Here’s what Grammarly’s help looks like:
“Although I consider myself an above-average writer, I am also human,” he said. “Grammarly points out writing mistakes and even suggests word changes to fit your article’s goals. Users can set their writing style, audience type, and delivery goals, and Grammarly suggests words that fit these goals.”
What’s more, it has a plagiarism checker to ensure content is unique.
Another option is plagiarism checker Copyscape, which Helling said is “so cheap that there’s no reason not to use it.”
Content management system
Many marketers recommend website- and blog-building tool WordPress.
According to Hautau, WordPress has an easy user interface that allows for plugins such as optimization tool Yoast, which helps content to be found more easily by search engines.
As Hayes explained, Yoast scores the readability of a given webpage and provides the metatags, suggested keywords for tags and internal linking suggestions.
“As you write, it’ll tell you if you’ve stuffed keywords or written consecutive sentences,” Heller added. “For marketers seeking to remove the guesswork from on-page SEO, Yoast is the plugin for you.”
Customer data platform
The lesser-known customer data platform (CDP) is software that collects consumer data across touchpoints to create individual profiles.
Brooks Manley, digital marketing specialist at marketing agency Engenius, said CDPs are essential in 2020 to help marketers extract data and insight on customers and to predict their next moves for optimized marketing. In particular, he recommends Exponea, as it can optimize omnichannel campaigns, track customer interactions, recommend products, and predict customer needs.
Not surprisingly, Mark Osborne of identity resolution firm Neustar said the most important topic in customer data today is identity resolution, which allows marketers to reach consumers across mobile, laptop, connected TVs, and other devices and ties real-world identities like home address to digital identities, including cookies and IP addresses.
“Without identity resolution, all the analytics, ad targeting, and business intelligence coming out of tech stacks is wrong due to inaccuracies in who you are talking to,” he said. “Identity resolution also helps marketers build an understanding of customers beyond cookies.”
Plus, with increasing privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, and Safari and Chrome stripping cookies, marketers without identity resolution will be left in the dark.
“Overlaying identity with third-party data turns anonymous users into rich profiles for website [and] call-center customization engines, lead scoring, A/B testing etc.,” Osborne added. “Feeding CDPs and DMPs with identity helps accurately scale from existing customers across multiple devices, to intelligent look-alikes for improved advertising performance.”
Customer relationship management
The mantra of digital marketing has long been getting the right message onto the right device at the right moment to provide the best possible experience for customers. This, naturally, requires some kind of customer relationship management (CRM) tool.
Of all the options out there for CRM, Reuben Yonatan, CEO of VOIP comparison resource GetVOIP, said inbound marketing, sales, and service software HubSpot has effective tools like marketing automation and live chat to help convert leads to customers.
“HubSpot is used to manage and update website content, create specialized landing pages, schedule social media posts, etc.,” Zelenko said. “Also, it generates reports on your website analytics to help you make more well-informed decisions about your content and SEO strategies.”
For her part, Anna Burtan, content marketing specialist at custom software development company Netguru, uses Hubspot Analytics to measure organic and paid traffic. She also uses Hubspot to measure the number of qualified leads resulting from marketing efforts like content and events.
In addition to HubSpot, Megan Upperman, analytics manager at digital marketing agency Augurian, said SalesForce is a CRM with custom fields and website form tech that allows hidden dynamic fields.
“The concept is that you can then get your attribution data into your CRM so you know what channels, campaigns, platforms, etc., are working and then send your lead status updates back into your analytics platform so you can integrate the sales process seamlessly into your marketing data,” she said. “That means you can spot a bottleneck in your pipeline and identify exactly where the improvement is needed to drive more revenue.”
Tools abound to help marketers simplify email marketing.
That includes email marketing service Mailchimp, which Taller called “an amazing tool for email marketing.”
“We have set up multiple different flows, and it is so simple to manage the whole process,” he added.
Online marketing company Constant Contact is another option.
Yet another option is ecommerce CRM Drip, which helps users segment mailing lists, tag them, and start campaigns, as well as to access analytics to help adjust campaigns, said Sneh Ratna Choudhary, content marketer at proximity marketing firm Beaconstac.
In addition, Chyketa recommends email outreach tool Mailshake, which provides reports showing how well users are connecting with a given audience and tips for improvement.
Then there’s the bulk email validator Clearout.io, which Arnie Singer of digital marketing agency Onrush Digital said helps ensure email addresses are real and confirms that the emails marketers send end up in their targets’ inboxes.
“The last thing you want to do is send a cold email to a list and get a whole bunch of bounces,” he said. “That could get you flagged by your email provider, damage your domain reputation and possibly get you banned as a spammer.”
There’s also markup generator MailtoLink.me, which Will Kennard, SEO team leader at digital marketing and web design agency Yellowball, said helps quickly generate pre-populated email header and body copy.
“Personalizing this process can help you to lead the person contacting down the right route and increase the likelihood they will actually convert,” he added.
Marketers also have a number of options for graphic design tools, but one free tool to consider is Canva. Andy Grider, digital marketing manager at contractor software firm Stack Construction Technologies, said it’s easy to use to create banner ads, social media graphics, and downloadable content—and you don’t need to be a Photoshop wizard to make sense of it.
Marketing automation helps marketers streamline repetitive tasks to save time, but also create a better customer experience.
HubSpot and Adobe’s marketing automation platform Marketo are among the more popular options for marketers looking to not only automate, but also measure marketing engagement, tasks, and workflows.
“Not only does it help to acquire new customers and turn existing customers into brand advocates, but also it monitors the engagement of potential customers to ensure they are brought through each stage of the buyer’s journey,” said Alexandra Zelenko, marketing and technical writer at software development firm DDI Development.
Another option to consider: SharpSpring, said Anna Tracy, head of marketing at healthcare marketing company Vortala.
With so many ongoing projects and tasks in any given organization, how are marketers supposed to keep track—and keep their teams on schedule? That’s where task management tools come in.
Chyketa recommends Trello, the Kanban-style tool that enables teams to see the status of projects, share updates and communicate directly.
“Collaborating with the development and design team would be utter chaos if not for Trello,” Choudhary added. “We use Trello’s new templates to rapidly create cards, and the gamified experience is easy on the eyes and helps everyone on the team know the exact status of a task.”
“Email can be a nightmare when trying to get feedback on ad copy or input on keyword research as there can be so many threads [it] often gets lost,” said digital marketing consultant Ryan Scollon. “Whereas with Asana, it’s all in one place for everyone involved to jump in and check on the progress.”
Redbooth, on the other hand, integrates with Slack and has an intuitive user interface, which means faster onboarding for new users, Foust said.
Backlink and SEO analysis toolset Ahrefs was certainly one of the most popular SEO tools cited by marketers for its capabilities in keyword research, content mapping, backlink analysis, competitor analysis, site audits, and more.
Its Keywords Explorer feature gives detailed information on each keyword and users can filter keyword suggestions by difficulty and volume, which Chyketa said is “super useful” for new keywords in particular.
“If you want to send your organic traffic to the moon next year, the best tool you can use is Ahrefs,” said Roger Maftean, career expert and content specialist at career advice website ResumeLab.
That’s because in part it also helps content marketers determine what users are searching for and analyzes their ability to rank for those keywords.
“With this platform, you can also analyze your competitors’ platforms to determine what is and isn’t working for them,” Heller said. “If I could have only one tool to help me build a content strategy, it’d be Ahrefs.”
Burtan said she uses Ahrefs to see how her high-intent keywords are performing in Google and then checks the performance of ads on platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram to inform her content quality and positioning.
For Hautau, Ahrefs is the go-to link-building and analysis tool.
“We find it’s the most accurate when it comes to determining domain authority and allows us to easily track link wins, lost links, spammy links, and broken backlinks,” she said.
Online visibility management platform SEMrush is another popular option.
Calling it a “great all-in-one tool,” Hautau said Fueled uses it for site audits, SERP tracking, and keyword research, but noted it also includes social media and ad management.
“Its SEO Toolkit is pretty expansive, and I’ve found it to be my go-to for whenever I’m figuring out user intent,” said Bryan Arnott, content marketing manager at content marketing agency 256 Media. “Its Keyword Magic Tool lets me filter keywords by questions asked from a certain location … its Content Marketing Toolkit is also becoming the de facto starting point for my topic research, especially when we’re onboarding a new client.”
Zelenko said SEMrush can also help track competitors’ backlinks to uncover their link-building strategies.
But there are free services, too. Take Google Search Console, which helps users understand and improve how Google sees their sites.
“Better visibility on the search engine and ranking on the first page is possible because of Google’s Search Console,” Choudhary said. “It has a pretty neat interface and has gone through a recent update to show you the results and CTR of rich featured snippets separately.”
Google and Bing also offer free programs to make ad management easier.
“Google Ads Editor and Microsoft Advertising Editor make it easy to quickly mass update bids, add and delete keywords, copy, ad groups, and a whole lot more,” Grider noted.
In order to get a better sense of site performance, marketers might consider an audit. And for that, website crawler Screaming Frog came highly recommended as a site audit tool. It has both free and paid versions. Another free option is Google Optimize, which enables users to run site experiments to determine the optimal experience for each group of visitors. This helps conduct A/B tests, like whether a red or a green button converts better or which headline drives more leads, Grider said.
Social media marketing
Plenty of tools exist to help brands manage their social media presence.
Chyketa said social media management tool Buffer makes it simple to schedule posts, track performance of brand content, and manage accounts.
“Buffer has gone through a massive overhaul and has become extremely intuitive to use,” Choudhary added. “It suggests the times of day that you should post on each channel and even has a great preview option.”
Another option is the Hootsuite dashboard, which Osama Khabab, founder of MotionCue Digital Media Agency, said also helps with social monitoring and listening and social media and web monitoring tool Mention, which Taller recommended for scheduling and listening.
Marketers hate silos, right? That’s where workflow automation comes in.
Online automation tool Zapier helps connect over 1500 apps, including Gmail, Slack, and Mailchimp, and comes highly recommended by marketers.
Chyketa said it enables her team to automate manual tasks and save lots of time—and marketing consultant Vishal Srivastava says Zapier helps create a more holistic view of the purchase funnel.
“The real reason Zapier remains the #1 marketing tool in my stack is that with every new software tool I end up using—I generally connect it to Zapier for one reason or another,” added Pete McPherson, founder of blogging resource Do You Even Blog. “Whether it’s making sure data gets integrated with your email service provider or updating Facebook Ad custom audiences based on outside trigger events, Zapier is still the top marketing tool all marketers should have at their disposal.”
No matter which tool you use, Daniel Twigg, marketing manager at SaaS application integration platform Cyclr Systems, said integration tools are valuable because they integrate campaigns with customers systems, like CRMs, to more efficiently attribute where leads and sales are coming from to help justify marketing spend. In addition, marketing channel integration allows users to create automated bidding strategies with external data sources and customer data.
“Is your customer seeing traction in confirmed sales from a particular location? Then up the bidding on the campaign to make the most of this niche,” he added.
Website tag manager
The tag management system Google Tag Manager is a free tool that allows users to easily update measurement codes on their websites and mobile apps.
“Being able to install one small piece of code on your website that contains all the numerous advertising tracking pixels and other website tool installation codes makes life a whole lot easier,” Grider said. “Just about everyone I know, including me, uses Google Tag Manager.”
Review and refresh your tech stack
Regularly updating your tech stack seems like a daunting task—let alone an expensive one. But it’s important to review your marketing strategies and goals and then make sure your tech stack includes everything you need to help you meet and exceed those goals.