Much of what I do in both my CTO and e-commerce advisory services is help organizations choose and transition into the right tech stack for where they are now and where they will be going in the future.
These are often painful and expensive moves that are forced when the original technology can no longer support their current business growth and needs.
I would much rather see you pick a tech stack early on that you can grow with and allows you to pivot into other verticals without needing to rebuild… everything.
To do this I use a set of principles I’ve created over the years which combines modular business architecture with customer centric design.
Technology Changes, Businesses Grow
Change will come, and you will grow into new markets or need to be on new platforms. Too often that need requires changing the entire tech stack and most of the tools and software your business is being run on. There’s a much better way…
If we build with software and tools that are modular pieces of a larger business and marketing tech stack, then we never hit a ceiling and new platforms are added on rather than needing to rebuild the tech stack.
What does this look like?
Modular Business Architecture
I’m going to give you that framework.
First, every business is unique and there is no one-size-fits-all business tech stack. But, when the tools are modules, we often end up with a similar core and the tools that connect to that then become more obvious. This tech stack is aimed at small to mid-size businesses and organizations, so it’s balancing lower costs with feature sets and scalability. I’d invite larger businesses to check out my CTO services.
And without further ado… the ultimate business & marketing tech stack!
The Ultimate Business & Marketing Tech Stack
The ultimate business & marketing tech stack is broken this into four components: core (customer centric), logistics, marketing, and reporting.
The Core Tech Stack: Customers & Contacts – Engaging Your Tribe
Technology is all about people and the core of your tech stack needs to start there. The core is all about how you know and server your customer.
Oversimplified, this would be your CRM or customer relationship management system. I like to break this into modules as well and usually start with and recommend ActiveCampaign for the top-level CRM. ActiveCampaign is most known as an email platform and more accurately an eCRM or electronic CRM. It’s perfect as a top layer both because of the way it allows you to interact with your customers and visitors as well as ActiveCampaign’s focus on integrating with other systems.
For many businesses, ActiveCampaign might be the only CRM they need. It has all the standards for contact and account details as well as deal pipelines and automations, but we’re talking modular business design here…
As your business grows, ActiveCampaign may become your pre-lead, or top-level CRM. One of my clients has 500k contacts they are nurturing in ActiveCampaign, but only 10% are well qualified leads that they want to have in their base-level CRM, which is Salesforce. Your base-level CRM might be Pipedrive for sales, Mindbody if you are a wellness professional, or Wealthbox if you are a financial professional.
You also might just add functionality to ActiveCampaign rather than a base CRM. If you needed a phone system you could connect CloudTalk or JustCall. For live chat you could connect Liveagent…
We’ll cover more of this in the other components, but the point is by embracing modular business design, you won’t get stuck. If anything, you’ll have too many options and for that I can recommend my book Simplify Online: An Entrepreneur’s Guide to Technology and Marketing where I break down how to choose technology based on understanding who your customer is, what they want, and the lifestyle you want to create – or you can connect for a consultation.
Business Logistics Tech Stack – Serving Your Tribe Well
This is so key. Logistics are all the pieces around how you serve your customer. For a digital product, this can be as straightforward as the payment processing and customer support. For e-commerce, it can be a bit more complicated. In my e-commerce advisory, I usually start with logistics before going into anything else. This is where you create the experience of your customers. It’s really easy to do everything else right, but drop the ball here and never get the momentum you should have had.
As I mentioned, this is huge for e-commerce and there will have to be a future article dedicated to that. The shipping, inventory, fulfillment, tax, payments, support – they all have a role in creating the customer’s experience with your brand and products.
Something that is more universal is support. I don’t recommend leaving this up to email. Emails get lost in transit and they get lost in inboxes. A support desk of some kind will help you and your team make sure every request gets and answer. This isn’t just true of emails, but most support desks now have some level of social media integration as well, so you can also keep track of and reply to comments on Facebook or other platforms.
My current recommendation for a support tool would be Helpwise, which has solid integrations with email, social media platforms, other platforms, and I like the way they integrate with ActiveCampaign – it’s more than just data syncing. Other options that integrate well with a top-level ActiveCampaign technology stack include Freshdesk, HelpScout, Intercom, LiveAgent, Zendesk and Zoho Desk. I wouldn’t say any of the other ones are bad and, in the end, the best choice depends on what is going to enable you to have the best conversations with your tribe. The most important thing for you may be a specific social channel that you want integrated with your support desk, or it might be the best mobile app if that’s the way you plan on communicating. Those questions are worth exploring, and what matters to you and your tribe is the most important factor.
Marketing Tech Stack – Attracting the Right Tribe
The marketing piece of the ultimate business & marketing tech stack is where the modular structure matters most. You need to be able to be where your tribe is. That might be engaging or advertising on a specific platform. It may be a specific funnel or partnership. Either way, by building on the modular business architecture, you have the highest chance of being able to have your technology support you in engaging with whatever platform that might be.
Starting from the most basic platform, your own website, the modular architecture will integrate with anything you are using. Usually directly, and if not that, then through other tools that integrate with your web platform. In my book and web course I talk about using the simplest platform you can. I’m a big fan of WordPress, but if you have your own WordPress site created on your own hosting (not wordpress.com), then you need to understand that YOU (directly or through a web agency) are responsible for upkeep and security. It’s a big commitment and risk.
If you don’t need to that route, then choose something that is service based where they are responsible for the upkeep and security. I’m a big fan of Leadpages because it’s landing page software focused on helping you generate leads and conversions. And that also offers a website building tool as well as landing pages. This site (bisvi.com) is on WordPress because I need the functionality, but I have many sites that are on Leadpages, including benjaminkamp.com. In addition to that I use Leadpages for specific campaign landing pages that will usually be on a subdomain of the main site. A landing page vs a website is a single page, ideally made for a specific campaign, to maximize the conversion rate of visitors into leads or customers.
Beyond your core website, there’s a world of different tools and platforms you might be using your modular business tech stack to connect with. I’ll give you some real-world examples:
You want to get people on the phone. Connect CallPage to your tech stack and give visitors a website pop-up that, during business hours, offers a callback within 28 seconds. The visitor types in their phone number and CallPage immediately calls the number(s) you set. If you pick up they then call the visitor and connect the call. If you want to get people on the phone their numbers show 75% more calls and 21x conversion rate to qualified lead.
You want to sell digital products, courses, or services. SamCart is a powerful e-commerce funnel system that helps you sell more by including upsells, order bumps, and affiliate management. Since it’s just the e-commerce or digital ordering piece it can be placed on anything, even a Leadpages site or landing page.
You want to engage your social following in contests like photo, essay, referral, or vote contests, then Wishpond can plugin to your modular setup. Wishpond is also a landing page builder, so it can be a strong choice for any business that has a focus on multiple forms of social engagement.
Reporting Tech Stack – Understanding Your Tribe & Doing Everything Better
The last component is reporting. You have to know your numbers. What channels are generating wins for you and what do you need to stop doing. This is not so straightforward. Attribution (assigning value to a specific lead source) has always been a bit of a science, but now with increased privacy settings on both browsers and platforms like iOS, there’s a lot more guesswork involved.
Again, we need layers of modular data to help make the best decisions.
For keeping track of multiple systems in one dashboard, I usually turn to Databox. They cover most of the software I use and allow custom queries and integrations as well. Databox can pull in all the numbers and metrics I want to see from ActiveCampaign, Google Analytics, Facebook, Linkedin, SEMRush, Stripe, Salesforce, and more. These can be shown as separate metrics as well as calculated and custom metrics.
For e-commerce where the ad spend to conversion matters all the more, I would add another layer to track attribution and connect ad spend to revenue. Segmetrics is the primary tool I use here as it’s pretty quick and easy to integrate and has solid tracking and numbers. You’ll quickly see where you can put more spend to get more profit and what marketing channels you can turn off.
Building The Ultimate Business & Marketing Tech Stack
The Ultimate Business & Marketing Tech Stack is the perfect technology and marketing stack because it’s built for your business, your needs, and your growth.
Remember technology is all about people and your tech stack should be built at the intersection of what they need and where you want to be (See Simplify Online).
Start with what matters the most and add new tools when you are ready to enter new platforms or markets.