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2021 Marketing Tools (Beginner's Guide)
A marketing stack is a set of tools that help startups execute their marketing.
Most startups put zero thought into the design of this stack. They use whichever tools they used at their past job—and leave it at that.
But those startups who design their modern stack properly can outpace others. They:
- Grow faster—thanks to increased speed of iteration and more things being automated. No one has to be repeatedly reminded to make important growth decisions.
- Save resources—thanks to needing fewer hires and spending less time in dashboards.
Here's the challenge, however: there are over 7,000 marketing tools to choose from.
We interviewed 100+ growth marketers from the fastest-growing B2B, mobile, and D2C startups to identify which tools they use and how they connect them together for:
- Customer acquisition.
- Engagement and conversion.
In this playbook, you'll learn the answer to the question: Is my team actually using the latest and greatest marketing tools?
Unlike our other playbooks, which focus on advanced content, this an introductory playbook for beginners to acclimate to popular marketing tools and when to use them.
Generally recommended tools
Briefly, here's a list of the most popular tools startups say they choose—as of 2021. The rest of this guide adds context and strategy on top of these recommendations:
- Clearscope: Helps you optimize your written content for SEO.
- Ahrefs: Best for performing SEO research such as keyword and backlink analysis.
- SEMrush: More full-featured (and complicated) than Ahrefs, with a stronger focus on ads than organic.
- Unbounce: Unbounce is the most flexible landing page builder. It's used to create custom pages that convert new visitors into users.
- Instapage: Another landing page builder with slightly less flexibility than Unbounce, but some marketers prefer it due to its large design template library.
- Webflow: The most full-featured landing page builder, but a lot more complicated to use. You can use it to build entire sites from scratch.
- Zapier: Zapier allows non-technical marketers to do the work of a back-end engineer. You can have an action in one tool trigger an action in another.
- Segment: A customer data platform (CDP) tool. Segment automatically logs events such as user sign-ups then routes that data into your other marketing tools. It acts as the foundation for many marketing stacks.
- Intercom: The best all-around live chat/customer engagement tool.
- Drift: Best for sales-heavy organizations given its extensive chat automation features that qualify and book leads.
- Clearbit: You can use Clearbit to find "people data"—like emails and job titles. Then you can personalize your website or your marketing emails with that data.
- People Data Labs: People Data Labs is a wholesale alternative to Clearbit.
- Buffer: Best for smaller companies until they outgrow it and move to Hootsuite.
- Hootsuite: More suited for Enterprises due to its complexity, deeper features, and cost.
- Amplitude: A user-level tracking tool with the most generous free tier, plus an intuitive UI.
- Mixpanel: The most popular user-level tracking tool with rich features including live chat (like Intercom) and Zapier integrations.
- Google Analytics: The most common analytics tool on the web. Suitable for basic analytics such as page views, bounce rates, and time on site—but not as ideal for user-level tracking.
- Heap: Another major but less popular user-level tracking tool with an added benefit of allowing for "automatic tracking" where it generates events for, say, web form submissions and link clicks automatically. The UI, however, can be cumbersome.
- Google Optimize: A free A/B testing tool from Google that integrates with Google Analytics and Google Ads. Less featured than Optimizely, but it's free and does what most startups need.
- Optimizely: The most full-featured A/B testing platform on the market.
- Hotjar: The best tool for capturing heatmaps and user recordings to assess user behavior.
- Fullstory: A more expensive, better-featured, and more in-depth user session recording alternative to Hotjar.
- Singular: The top-rated attribution solution.
- Branch: The best mobile-focused attribution solution.
- Rockerbox: A popular option for ecommerce.
- Stripe: The go-to payment processing tool due to its ease of implementation.
- Bill.com: The go-to accounts payables and receivables platform. If vendors/customers are already using Bill.com, payments are frictionless.
- Braintree: A great payment processing option for ecommerce companies as it's known for its powerful fraud prevention tools.
- Affirm: Ecommerce companies use Affirm to offer payment plans to customers.
Before we dive in, here's a visualization of the common marketing stacks for each business model:
How to design your marketing stack
You design your marketing technology (martech) stack as the solution to your bottlenecks.
- Resource bottlenecks: For example, a B2B company that manually sends emails to nurture their leads. This can be switched to a semi- or fully-automated approach for greater efficiency.
- Conversion bottlenecks: For example, a B2C ecom company that struggles to convert users at checkout might use heatmaps to make UX changes that increase conversion. The goal is to eradicate large drop-offs in your funnel.
Therefore, your first step in tool selection is studying your customer's journey and identifying their bottlenecks. The second step is auditing your team's workflows for redundant tasks that could be replaced by software.
Let's start tackling our marketing objectives.
In this section, we'll focus on:
- Running ads.
- Creating content for search engines.
- Leveraging organic social media.
- Building landing pages that convert.
Ads are one of the most scalable and efficient means of acquiring customers.
There are a number of ad channels, including:
- Display ads
Facebook, Instagram, and Google account for over 60% of digital ad spend.
But there are tools that make creating, running, and tracking ads easier—especially when you're running ads across many channels at once.
AdEspresso allows you to run your Facebook, Instagram, and Google campaigns via one dashboard.
It makes sense to use AdEspresso if:
- You're running multiple campaigns across ad platforms, and you lack resources for thoroughly running each channel.
- You're a generalist who doesn't have time to learn the nuances of every ad channel's dashboards. AdEspresso is convenient—you learn their dashboard. That's it.
- You work with a team that requires sign-offs on your campaigns. You can queue ads up then a team member can later launch them with a few clicks.
Smartly is a tool for automating ads on social channels, such as Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Snap.
You can create ads, run campaigns, and analyze your data from one location.
Two key differences between AdEspresso and Smartly:
- Smartly includes social channels like Snap and Pinterest, but doesn't include Adwords. AdEspresso includes Adwords, but not Snap and Pinterest.
- Smartly leverages AI to dynamically show copy and creative that will hopefully resonate most with your audience.
Use Smartly if:
- You run ads on Pinterest or Snap.
- You'd benefit from dynamic copy and creative in your ads.
- You're new to ads and want to put them on autopilot. Smartly will automatically optimize your targeting, creatives, budgets, and bidding in an effort to improve conversion.
A quick note on Google Ads
Google Ads target people who are looking to answer a timely question or solve an existing problem. This is intent-based targeting: Searchers are actively seeking solutions to problems.
You can combine Google Ads with martech tools to get the most out of your campaigns:
- SEMrush provides data on keywords in your niche to help you make data-driven decisions about which to include in your Google Ads campaigns. You'll also be able to search for keywords that competitors are ranking for and run competing campaigns.
- Ahrefs is another keyword tool, but its emphasis is more on SEO and less on search ads. We'll dive deeper into in the upcoming Content section.
- Use Google Optimize (the A/B testing tool) for dynamic text replacement: On your landing page, you can dynamically insert the keyword that triggered your ad to be shown to the searcher. This improves personalization and hopefully conversion.
Recommended by TripAdvisor, LinkedIn, Netflix, Pinterest, and Adobe.
Ahrefs is a technical SEO tool that helps you find popular keywords that potential customers are searching for. You can place those keywords in your written content or search ads.
Use Ahrefs to:
- Study what your customers are searching for: Use Ahrefs to find keyword ideas. You can analyze their ranking difficulty and estimated traffic potential.
- Optimize your website: You can run an analysis on your site to find out exactly what’s holding it back from ranking higher for certain keywords.
- Analyze your competitors: See which keywords your competitors are ranking for, and learn what keywords they're running PPC campaigns for. Then consider creating campaigns that challenge competitors.
Recommended by Twilio, HubSpot, Intuit, and YouTube.
Once you've identified your top keywords, you can use Clearscope for optimizing the Google search ranking of your content.
Clearscope is a keyword research and content optimization tool:
- You copy and paste your content into Clearscope.
- It analyzes and returns keyword modification recommendations.
- Then its grading tool tells you how likely you are to be a top 10 search result, and what terms should be included in your headers, sub-headers, and body in order to get there.
How to convert your traffic
When people arrive at your site through your content, you need a way to incentivize them to give you their email address. Then you can later turn them into customers.
- Email capture tools: Most email marketing platforms (from Customer IO to MailChimp) have built-in tools to capture emails, like popups and in-line email boxes.
- If your email marketing platform doesn't provide this feature, check out Sumo, Optinmonster, and Sleeknote.
- Quiz tools: Entice users to take a valuable quiz, but make them submit their email address to get their quiz answers.
- You can use Typeform or SurveyMonkey to create your quiz.
Leverage organic social media
There are two types of social media channels: persistence channels and hit-or-miss channels.
Twitter and LinkedIn are persistence channels, meaning that growth comes from posting regularly. If you post excellent content consistently, growth is all but guaranteed.
Hacker News, Reddit, and Product Hunt, on the other hand, are hit-or-miss channels. You're chasing a viral hit, which means ranking at the top of the leaderboard. To rank high, you must outperform others via phenomenal content.
The ROI of pursuing hit-or-miss channels is volatile, and it's hard to be consistent. So we recommend focusing on persistence channels.
Recommended by Stripe, Intercom, Basecamp, Trello, and Github.
Buffer helps you publish content across social media platforms—Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter—in just a few clicks.
It lets you:
- Schedule posts for the best times of day—for maximal engagement. While we're on the topic, here are the best times for the top 4 social channels:
- Facebook: 12 pm EST.
- Twitter: 11 am to 1 pm EST.
- Instagram: 12-1 pm EST.
- LinkedIn: 7:45 am, 10:45 am, 12:45 pm, and 5:45 pm EST.
- Collaborate with your team to go through rounds of review before publishing.
- Connect Buffer to Slack to trigger a message when you receive replies on Twitter.
You can also use Buffer's built-in analytics to measure and continually improve the performance of your content.
Recommended by Marketo, SXSW, and Melia Hotels.
Hootsuite is a social media management tool trusted by many Fortune 500 companies. Startups often find themselves choosing between Hootsuite and Buffer.
Here are the key differences:
- Buffer is less expensive, but Hootsuite provides deeper features at every plan level.
- Buffer has a cleaner interface, but it lacks some advanced organizational features that bigger businesses prefer.
- Hootsuite has a more advanced dashboard: Buffer shows your scheduled posts, while Hootsuite shows your timelines and replies.
In short, Buffer is good for small teams, but larger organizations should try Hootsuite.
Additional social media tools
A few additional tools worth considering:
- Sprout Social: A highly-rated social media management tool that is a competitor to both Buffer and Hootsuite. It's best-suited for enterprise businesses. It's functional, easy to use, and intuitive, but it's expensive compared to the other options.
- Later: Best for businesses that rely on Instagram as their primary channel.
- Later for Reddit: Schedule Reddit posts in advance.
- Tweetdeck: Social media dashboard for Twitter accounts.Build landing pages
A landing page is the first page that people see when they come to your site. They're one of the most important assets for on-site conversion.
Further, great landing pages decrease your cost per click by improving your advertising quality scores on Google.
Your goal is to make multiple landing pages that are segmented and personalized.
We recommend taking advantage of landing page builders to:
- A/B test different value propositions quickly.
- Use heatmaps to see where users stop engaging.
- Use long-tail keywords to write hyper-specific landing pages that convert better than generic ones.
- Modify CTAs to match search terms for higher conversions. For example, if someone is searching Google for “rent living room furniture,” they might be more likely to click a CTA that says “Rent now” rather than “Sign up” on your page. On landing pages, context reinforcement is important.
- Leverage location data to make your product pages more relevant. A visitor from Germany should see a "We ship to Germany!" message.
The two most popular landing page builders are Instapage and Unbounce. These tools allow you to create custom pages that integrate with your domain—and they don't require coding expertise. You then iterate on these pages using A/B testing tools.
The typical approach to using page builders is to create a subdomain on your site, such as get.demandcurve.com, which becomes the home to these landing page tests. This keeps your main site uncluttered.
Recommended by Helix, Within, Later, and Zola.
Unbounce is a very easy-to-use landing page builder. Here are some features worth knowing:
- Use their "dynamic text replacement" feature. It lets you display text on your landing page based on the search queries visitors use to arrive at your site.
- A/B test pages and compare your results through their built-in analytics dashboard.
- Include an email capture on your Unbounce page. Then use its native integrations to add new email subscribers to segmented campaigns in your ESP like Customer IO.
Use Unbounce if you want the most flexibility for creating pages. It's suitable for experienced marketers with advanced needs.
Recommended by HelloFresh, Ebay, Okta, and TrueCar.
Instapage is another highly recommended landing page design tool.
People love Instapage because of its library of pre-built page templates.
Instapage has similar A/B testing and analytics functionality as Unbounce, and it offers lead capture forms that can directly connect to your CRM.We prefer Unbounce for its design, ease of use, and dynamic text replacement. But many startups prefer Instapage. We suggest experimenting with both free trials before choosing one. Speaking of which, Unbounce lets you preview their builder, so you can test it before you sign up for a trial.
Engagement and Conversion
When leads are coming, the next step is picking the right tools to move them further down the funnel.
Here's what we'll cover:
- Marketing automation (mostly via email)
- Live chat
- Data enrichment
If you think of a CRM as a sales team's home base, marketing automation software is the home base for growth marketers.
Marketing automation helps you automate touchpoints with leads throughout their entire journey.
- Email marketing
- Lead nurturing
- In-app messages and push notifications
- Retargeting ads
- Operations automation
- SMS marketing
- And more
Email: Customer IO
Recommended by Segment, Reddit, and Codecademy.
Customer IO is an email automation tool that helps you send targeted messages to users based on how they've interacted with your website. It also doubles as a newsletter sending tool.
Customer IO is a flexible and easy-to-implement solution for data-driven startups and SMBs. It's made a splash with startups due to its ease of use, great design, and flexibility. You can create very complex funnels with ease.
Some use-cases for Customer IO:
- Send "broadcasts"—like newsletters—to a sub-group of your overall mailing list.
- For ecom startups: integrate with Shopify's open-source Liquid logic for additional customization.
- Set up advanced email and SMS workflows that send relevant messages to subscribers and move them further down your funnel.
- Welcome flows introduce your brand and what customers should expect from your emails.
- Nurture flows provide subscribers with valuable resources and nudge them to purchase.
- Plus, transactional emails like receipts, shipping confirmation, and delivery of digital products.
- Then analyze your flows by metrics such as open rate, click-through rate, and conversion. Optimize your emails accordingly.
- You can also push customer engagement data into Customer IO then enrich with contact details using Clearbit. This helps you get their job title, company industry, and more. Use this information to send personalized emails at scale.
Workflow automation: Iterable
Recommended by DoorDash, Fender, Zillow, and Asics.
Iterable is a leader in automated customer outreach. They span email, SMS, cross-channel insights, and workflow automation.
It's suited for less-technically savvy marketers as it offers powerful features that don't require engineering resources:
- A clean and powerful drag-and-drop interface for automation flows.
- Dynamic personalization and segmentation features.
- Omni-channel campaigns.
Iterable's cost structure is best for:
- Mid-sized companies.
- Companies with over 100k emails on their list.
Workflow automation: SendGrid
Recommended by Uber, Airbnb, Spotify, Yelp and Instacart.
SendGrid is a widely trusted email marketing platform. SendGrid's two largest benefits are deliverability and scale:
- SendGrid provides domain authentication, compliance and deliverability coaching, and proactive ISP outreach, which means your emails more often land in inboxes instead of spam folders or firewalls.
- Transactional emails are important. SendGrid's above-average deliverability improves email performance at scale.
SendGrid is best for:
- Email marketing automations and reliable transactional emails.
- Developers and technical marketers, although non-technical marketers can use their drag-and-drop editor.
Workflow automation: Hubspot
Recommended by SurveyMonkey, Classpass, Trello, and Soundcloud.
HubSpot is an all-in-one marketing automation tool and CRM—packed with everything from social media management to sales automation.
Its marketing platform provides email automation, landing pages, analytics, and a CRM in a comprehensive package.
Hubspot's key benefits:
- Developers don’t need to integrate many different tools via APIs.
- Its comprehensive CRM allows for more granular segmentation than less data-heavy email marketing platforms, like MailChimp.
- It comes complete with a stack of native integrations, and easily connects with CDPs (like Segment) to personalize email campaigns.
Hubspot is best for:
- Marketers looking for comprehensive solutions and tools for inbound marketing—an all in one package.
- It's mostly for B2B companies that run inbound marketing.
The downside? It’s expensive. And, more importantly, you're sacrificing the quality of each individual tool (email software, CRM, landing pages, etc.) for the convenience of an all-in-one provider.
Sales emails: Mixmax
Recommended by Canva, Typeform, and Trend Analytics.
Mixmax help sales teams close leads through email.
It integrates with Gmail and allows you to send automated sequences to large lead lists.
Use cases include:
- Tracking opens, clicks, downloads, and RSVPs by person and by message type—and then iterating on sequences to improve response rates.
- Receiving real-time notifications when people take action on your emails. For example, your sales reps will be able to see when a lead opens messages, which could be an ideal time for them to reach out.
- Sales leaders can integrate Mixmax with Salesforce to monitor their sales team's performance and ensure all accounts are up-to-date.
Alternatives: [Mailshake, Reply IO]
No-code integrations: Zapier
Recommended by Spotify, Adobe, and Buzzfeed.
While the automation tools we've covered so far involve your communication with customers, Zapier solves a different problem: It's the only tool that lets marketers build automations across all these tools we're discussing.
When two tools lack a direct integration, Zapier is a way to connect them. You create "Zaps" which are custom automations that work across the stack.
For example, say you want to alert your sales team via Slack when a large customer pays via Stripe. You can create a Zap that sends a Slack message to your team's #Sales channel when a transaction is processed via Stripe. Then one of your sales reps can reach out to your customer to congratulate them on the sale and walk them through onboarding.
- After a user signs up a zap can enrich them using Clearbit, add their data to an Airtable, database, and/or CRM, ping a channel in your Slack org, email them using Gmail to welcome them, and log an event in Mixpanel.
- When a customer schedules a call with a sales person, you can get a zap to email them from the sales person, log an event in Mixpanel, change their stage in a CRM to "Scheduled Call" and notify the sales person in Slack.
- When you cancel a customer's subscription in Stripe a zap can then email them a confirmation, log an event in Mixpanel, and then remove them from a
- When you change someone's Airtable or CRM record to "Sent Contract" you get DocuSign to send them a contract. When they sign the document another zap can then set their record to "Signed Documents" and ping the sales person.
Chat is typically seen as a customer support feature. But it's also an opportunity to connect with qualified leads at the critical moment—and close deals.
After a while, once your live chat tool has collected sufficient data from your interactions with customers, you can begin automating:
Recommended by Shopify, IBM, Udemy, and Microsoft.
Once you install Intercom, you'll have a small chatbox on your site where customers can quickly get in touch with your team. It can be critically useful for both support and sales.
While most people know Intercom for its support functionality, it's also loaded with features for engagement and marketing.
- Engagement: Use interactive messages and product tours to onboard and activate new customers while also reactivating current customers.
- Marketing: Use personalized messages, bots, and real-time chat to convert people on the spot.
Some of the top use cases for Intercom include:
- Integrating with your CRM through Segment to automatically qualify leads based on their chat responses.
- Integrating with Calendly so VIP customers can quickly book calls with your sales team.
- Asking customers questions that are specifically related to the Google search query they used to arrive to your website.
- Using geotargeting to only allow customers within your key geographies to access your valuable support team labor. For instance, if you're selling a product to Canadians, then geo-fence to only show to Canadians.
Data enrichment is the process of consolidating user data (data you already have and publicly searchable data) to get a better understanding of each of your customers.
Say you have an email address, you can then use data enrichment to get personal and company data associated with that email address—like first name, city, income bracket, job title, and so on.
You can use data enrichment to customize your landing pages with visitor-specific value propositions, and you can use it to significantly improve your onboarding experience by showing users the product features that you know their persona most cares about.
Recommended by Notion, Outreach, Pantheon, and Flexport.
Clearbit is the industry leader in quality data enrichment—up-to-date and accurate data on your leads. You can use Clearbit to find email addresses, LinkedIn profiles, job titles, and more of almost anyone with an online presence.
When you integrate it with Gmail, Clearbit will show you information about the people you're emailing in your sidebar.
Clearbit's use cases allow you to:
- Automatically qualify leads (filter out those who aren't a good fit).
- Create personalized onboarding flows.
- Turn anonymous web traffic into full company profiles that inform your sales process.
- Turn an email address into a full profile to use for cold outreach.
- B2B companies: run ads on Facebook with LinkedIn-level firmographic data. 100+ B2B targeting filters including title, industry, company size, and technology used.
People Data Labs
Recommended by IBM, Paypal, and Stripe.
People Data Labs (PDL) is a data aggregation company that provides work emails and social media account details of over 2.5 billion people around the world.
It has a rich dataset of high-profile decision-makers in the US, UK, and Canada.
You can use PDL to enrich your customer (or prospect) data and make better-informed decisions.
- B2C: Running your CRM through PDL's database of over 2.5 billion profiles to update your data. Then use the updated data in your marketing campaigns.
- B2B: Run a sales prospect list through PDL's database to improve personalization of your cold outreach.
Analytics and Optimization
Analytics tools allow marketers to collect meaningful behavioral data. This is then used to optimize campaigns across landing pages, emails, ads, product features, and more.
Most tools—like landing page builders—already come with built-in analytics, but they're generally underequipped. The best analytics tools focus only on analytics.
It's best to house all of your data in one analytics tool.
For instance, it's inefficient for your email team to collect data in Customer IO while your paid acquisition data lives exclusively in Facebook Ads Manager, and so on.
Most marketers are familiar with Google Analytics (GA)—Google's free analytics dashboard. We recommend GA for as a baseline, but you should upgrade as soon as you can afford to.
As growth marketers, we're constantly running high-leverage growth tests. Paid analytics tools offer deep, event-based insights that GA does not provide. The improvement in insight quality will cover the cost of these tools.
Analytics is one tool category you don't skimp on.
Recommended by Instacart, Paypal, Dropbox, Rappi, and Blue Apron.
Amplitude generates analytics at the user-level by tracking users and events across every interaction with your business.
Unlike GA, Amplitude is good at tracking people when they switch devices (phone → laptop). This is important for accurate and thorough data in multi-device experiences.
You can also use Amplitude to identify behavioral trends that help you make meaningful product optimizations—not just marketing automations.
Amplitude provides customizable, user-friendly dashboards that allow you to sync all of your data in one place.
Popular use-cases for Amplitude include:
- Tracking funnel drop-off.
- Tracking revenue segmented by persona.
- Tracking sign ups segmented by referring domain or source.
- Tracking how many people purchase after reading a blog article.
- Tracking blog traffic growth weekly.
Recommended by Docusign, Uber, Skyscanner, and Twitter.
Mixpanel is similar to Amplitude in the way that it tracks "events" that people take on your site. You'll capture details on button clicks, scrolling, and navigation and get a clear picture of what users are doing on each page or view.
A popular use case includes integrating with live chat tools like Intercom. You can automatically start a conversation with customers based on certain actions they take on your site.
Additional analytics tools
- Heap: A user-level tracking tool with an added benefit of allowing for "automatic tracking" where it will generate events for form submissions and link clicks automatically. If you don't know how to set up tracking yourself, this feature is helpful.
- Google Analytics
Optimization tools are used alongside your analytics dashboard to run and validate growth experiments.
Common use cases for A/B testing include:
- Landing, product, and pricing page copy and design.
- User onboarding flows.
- In-app UX.
- Landing page personalization. You can detect location, UTM tags, or Google Ads ID to personalize page content and test if the personalization had a measurable impact.
Recommended by Mailchimp, Stubhub, Salesforce, and Blue Apron.
With Optimizely, you can run A/B tests to see which copy, creative, and design variations convert the best.
Additionally, you can use Optimizely to redirect visitors toward individualized funnels. For example, only some leads are worth your limited sales bandwidth. So you could use your lead scoring data to send visitors with priority sales personas into a more hands-on sales flow.
If you’re already using Google Analytics and Google Ads, consider Google's A/B testing tool: Optimize. It's a good enough and completely free alternative to Optimizely.
The main difference between Optimizely and Google Optimize?
Optimizely offers better flexibility and insights. We suggest starting with Optimize then getting a sales demo from Optimizely to see if it's worth the upgrade.
Recommended by Brex, Adobe, SurveyMonkey, and Jet
Hotjar is a click heatmap and screen recording tool that provides insights into how users interact with your website and app.
Heatmaps allow you to see where users click on your page and how far down they scroll. This is a proxy for how engaging your page's various elements and value propositions are. It helps you learn what to cut and what to revise.
Heatmaps are equally useful for discovering what distracts users. For example, if users spend a lot of time looking and clicking in a low-value part of your page that doesn’t help them convert, it could make sense to remove that partof the page.
Use cases for Hotjar include:
- Compare heatmaps across mobile, tablet, and desktop. Each has its own UX idiosyncrasies. A site that converts well on desktop doesn't necessarily convert well on mobile.
- Run heatmaps alongside Optimizely tests to see how your A/B tests are affecting page interaction.
- By studying scroll-maps, you can identify where on your page users gravitate. You can use this data to reorder the sections of your page to put the best content first. The goal is to keep iterating until your page contains nothing but attention-grabbing content that leads visitors to the next step in your funnel.
Attribution is the process of collecting visitor and user information at different journey touchpoints. You often do this using cookies or UTM tags in your URL.
Attribution tools help determine which touchpoints drive conversion. For example, if you're running a multi-touch campaign, attribution can show you which ads effectively drive purchases.
But it gets tricky: customers rarely convert after engaging with only one of your channels or pieces of content.
Instead, customers engage with your brand across a journey. For example:
- They'll see your FB ad.
- They'll Google your company and click to your website.
- They'll read one of your blog posts.
- They'll forget about you for a month.
- ... Then they hear your brand name in a podcast ad, return to your site, and purchase.
Out of all that, which touchpoint led to the sale?
Well, all of them played a part. And it's this type of cross-channel attribution that's tough to track. So that's where attribution tools come into play.
Recommended by Wish, Wealthfront, LinkedIn, Airbnb, and Doordash.
Singular is a marketing attribution platform that aggregates data and calculates the ROI of your campaigns. It integrates with over 2,000 tools.
Singular has 50% of the top 200 grossing apps among its customers. It's as safe pick.
Its main value proposition is aggregating ad channel performance into a single dashboard, rather than looking at multiple dashboards.
Use Singular to:
- Measure the ROI of specific channels in a multi-touch campaign. This helps uncover your least profitable campaigns and the breakouts you should double down on.
- Thoughtfully portion ad spend across the entire customer journey.
- Operate as the source of attribution truth for marketing campaigns.
Recommended by Pinterest, Strava, and Instacart.
Branch provides best-in-class attribution for mobile. It uses deep linking, which means that it pieces together fragmented identifiers from a customer's journey to provide a full picture of their journey across the web and into your mobile app.
Branch is helpful in a post-IDFA world—it uses a predictive attribution algorithm to track conversions when there is no universal tracking ID. The rest of the industry is reliant on basic probabilistic methods with accuracy rates of 60-70%, whereas Branch appears to have better data and better results.
Additional attribution platforms
- Rockerbox: A DTC powerhouse that covers attribution for both digital and “non-UTM” channels (e.g., TV, radio, direct mail).
- AppsFlyer: A mobile attribution platform that specializes in app-install attribution. Due to its cost, it's best for mobile companies spending at least $1mm per year on advertising.
Integrating your stack
Now, let's walk through integrating your new marketing tools into a scalable marketing engine.
Creating your data foundation
The first step to creating a unified marketing stack is setting up a Customer Data Platform (CDP). This is the foundation of all of your tools.
CDPs provide your marketing team with autonomy from engineering. They integrate all of your tools, and provide code-free access.
Recommended by Peloton, Houseparty, Imperfect Foods, Instacart, and 30+ more.
We recommend Segment as your CDP. Segment integrates with the tools we introduced above and provides all companies everything they need to run a modern marketing stack.
Here's why having a CDP is valuable:
No switching costs
Combining independent marketing tools via one unifying platform, like Segment, helps you avoid having to sacrifice the quality of market-leading tools for the convenience of an "all-in-one" tool (like HubSpot).
Let's say you're unsure which email tool you want to use. You can try multiple providers at the same time (all of which integrate with Segment in a couple clicks). Then you run tests side-by-side to determine which is best for your needs. You then remove the ones you're not using, and Segment takes care of the engineering changes automatically under-the-hood.
Further, if you later switch to a different tool, Segment can "replay" past data into a new tool. It doubles as an ongoing data archive.
For example, if you need to switch from MailChimp to Customer IO, Segment can send all of your MailChimp events and data to Customer IO so you're not starting from scratch with your customer engagement history.
Do more with fewer technical resources
Segment also acts as your marketing team's data engineer. Instead of asking developers to interface with marketing APIs, Segment automatically integrates with them via a drag-and-drop interface.
Your marketing team will also get autonomy when debugging: Say you’re having data issues with your Facebook ads and landing pages, the engineer who installed your Facebook pixel would typically be the one responsible for fixing these bugs. However, Segment's debugging tool allows non-technicals to source and fix the issues on their own now.
As you scale, your engineering, sales, growth, and customer support teams might start building their own analytics dashboards. You can maintain unified customer profiles in Segment that can then be shared across Customer IO, Intercom, Facebook ads, and all other marketing software.
Airtable is a wildly powerful productivity tool: it's a database-like replacement to Google sheets for non-calculation work. It's sort of like a spreadsheet on top of a database.
Airtable also provides a convenient way for you to organize project tasks. You can switch views between spreadsheets, calendars, and galleries. You can also create fully-customized forms to allow people to add things directly to the Airtable.
- Create a sales CRM.
- Build a content distribution queue or content calendar. (You can even use Airtable's Twitter app to automatically tweet on scheduled dates.)
- Creat project management dashboards similar to Trello or Asana.
- Track job applications using application forms.
- Build NoCode versions of products using embedded Airtables. For example, Demand Curve's job board.
Airtable keeps a database of templates and use-cases, called Airtable Universe. Check it out here.
Notion is a powerful content workspace for teams. Notion allows you to create custom systems for project management, note-taking, and knowledge management.
Think of Notion as a company Wiki + Google Drive replacement + project management tool.
Your team can collaborate and share all of your most important files in one workspace.
Notion is also useful for preparing external documents to share on the web. Some startups (and even individuals) go as far as using Notion for landing pages.
Here are some of the most popular use cases for Notion:
- Create a company wiki to answer questions and onboard new employees.
- Visualize your product roadmap and work cross-functionally to build it.
- Create a content release calendar.
ClickUp is an all-in-one project management tool. Compared to other project management tools like Asana and Trello, ClickUp has become a startup favorite for its ability to management tasks, docs, chat, and goals in one spot. It's a super-app that replaces everything else.
ClickUp is also a more attractive option for smaller startups because its free plan includes more features than Asana's. And when you do upgrade, ClickUp is half the price of Asana.
Here are a few problems that ClickUp addresses:
- Having to navigate many tools (Google docs for spreadsheets, Basecamp for announcements and file access, Asana for project management, etc.)
- Not knowing what everyone o your team is working on. You can use transparent "spaces" to get a feel for what each organization is prioritizing.
- Poor cross-team collaboration. Your designer and your VP of growth can now share a dashboard to collaborate on ads before running campaigns.
Figma is the go-to collaborative design tool. Use it to design ads, landing pages, social media content, and more—across your entire team.
Figma’s benefit is the ability to have multiple people working in a single workspace. This can't be understated. You can now work on a project with other team members without worrying about overlapping edits. This is useful for projects where there are many handoffs between marketers and designers (or developers) before publishing.
The other benefits of Figma include:
- You can easily (and rapidly) prototype product suggestions without wasting valuable developer time.
- It uses CSS properties so anyone on your team can copy-paste its visuals into code.
Canva is another simple, easy-to-use design tool. We like Canva for its thousands of free templates, and we believe it's best used for laypeople to quickly create creative of nearly very type.
Example marketing stacks
Here are a few case studies showing how different companies leverage their stacks.
1. Create an automated marketing workflow
You run a small DTC e-commerce company. You've been experimenting with marketing automation by using Customer IO to build email flows that sell on your behalf. Simultaneously, you're testing PPC through Google Ads to drive traffic to your site.
Here's a look at a potential interaction with one of your customers:
- Marketing action: You start by using SEMrush to find a list of high-intent search keywords. Then you run Google Ads using them.
- Customer action: A lead searches for a keyword, clicks on your ad and arrives at your landing page.
- Marketing action: Your email capture popup in Customer IO triggers when leads scroll halfway down your landing page.
- Customer action: The visitor reads your content, scrolls, and then signs up for your newsletter via the popup.
- Marketing action: You set up a newsletter welcome email via Customer IO that sends a welcome message to all new subscribers. It's segmented by engagement, so when a lead clicks on a link in your welcome email, they'll get more content relevant to that specific link two days later.
- Customer action: She's greeted with a welcome email and clicks on a link inside. Two days later, she receives a relevant blog post related to the link she clicked. She reads the post.
- Marketing action: In parallel, you're running a retargeting campaign on Instagram (through FB Ads Manager) to people who've visited your site twice in the last 7 days.
- Customer action: While scrolling on Instagram one night, she clicks the retargeting ad and decides that she's interested in buying. So she adds your product to her cart, but fails to checkout—she was interrupted when a friend called her.
- Marketing action: You set up your abandoned cart email in Customer IO that emails people when they've added items to their cart but don't complete their purchase.
- Customer action: Later in the evening, she receives an email that reminds her that your product is in her cart. She clicks through the email and buys the product.
The best part about the above interaction? No one on your team had to lift a finger. The ads and emails were built once, and can now sell your product well into the future.
Optimizing your onboarding flow
Imagine you run a startup that sells a Chrome extension. You acquire customers with ease, but a large percentage drop off during onboarding. Here's how you can solve your bottleneck:
- Set up Amplitude to determine the precise step at which most users fall off. You identify that the majority of users drop off on an information capture page.
- Next, use Hotjar's heatmaps and screen recordings to identify the reason for the drop-off. You notice that users start filling out the sheet, but they seem to get frustrated by the form's length and bounce.
- You hypothesize that you'd have a higher onboarding rate if users didn't have to fill out so many data fields.
- The bottleneck is fixed, but you decide that you can improve your onboarding conversion rate ever further.
- You decide to use Optimizely to test improvements at each step of your onboarding process. Run A/B tests to see if adjustments in copy, CTAs, visuals, or design make significant improvements in completion rates.
The result? A significant boost in onboarding completion—which translates to a lower acquisition cost.
Grow top of funnel through a giveaway
Let's imagine you're the head of growth at a DTC brand. Product giveaways are a proven channel for you, so you run them frequently. For the first time, you're putting ad dollars behind the giveaway:
- You create a custom "giveaway" landing page with Unbounce.
- You use Buffer to schedule an organic social media post highlighting your giveaway (with a link in your Instagram bio to your giveaway landing page).
- Once the post is live, you run Instagram ads (through your Facebook Ad Manager) using a lookalike audience of your existing customers. The CTA on the ad brings people to your giveaway landing page.
- The ads, combined with the giveaway, help you capture emails of best-fit customers—at a lower cost/email than you'd realize without the giveaway campaign.
- As you capture emails through Instagram, they're automatically added to a segmented flow in Iterable that works to move them down funnel towards a purchase.
Staying up-to-date with tools
As your company scales, your needs will change. Don't become too dependent on your setup, and continually research new options as you grow.
Read our free content and join our advanced marketing community.
Researched by Demand Curve