First, I need to clarify something… The single most important characteristic of successful marketing tech is simplicity. So, if this seems basic to you, good.
Tasks We Needed to Accomplish
As we started Beacon9 we needed our martech to stay out of our way so we could:
- Publish a blog of categorized articles in a usable, responsive website
- Distribute and share our content via as many channels as possible
- Register subscribers as well as inbound leads
- Build and service email nurture lists
- Differentiate our brand to visually complement our content
I think I’ve been a Squarespace customer for a decade. Some previous use-cases were for entire websites, while others were for just pieces of sites. Today, at Beacon9, we use Squarespace to publish our entire website. Big picture, it’s usable on both the front- and back-ends; it plays well with others; and it’s cost effective at $216/year.
Squarespace works well for the core task of publishing a user-friendly blog. But, what I really like about it is secondary to its core publishing…
- It let us start with a template and customize it deeply enough to richly define and differentiate ourselves visually.
- It let us easily secure and wire up domain names, inclusive of smoothly and easily integrating mail services like Google G Suite and MailChimp.
- It enabled us to easily distribute content by seamlessly integrating with and pushing to Apple Podcasts and Apple News.
- It includes convenient implementations of helpful conversion-focused bits like lightboxed and pop-over forms.
I’ve been a MailChimp customer for a long time as well. I originally pulled it into the ion stack for the narrow purpose of aggregating and auto-emailing multi-blog RSS feeds. MailChimp has evolved (a lot) from the basic email tool it once was. Today’s MailChimp provides a rich feature set for subscription/campaign management; email marketing and even basic marketing automation—for about $120/year.
MailChimp is fully and seamlessly integrated with Squarespace. When I create a subscription or lead form in Squarespace, I simply tell it to post its data to one of my MailChimp lists and bam, I have the contact in our database and the email engine ready to go.
MailChimp has also evolved on the email customization/authoring environment front. Last week I setup an automatic RSS-to-email campaign that sends an aggregated newsletter of the prior week’s new content. This took all of a couple of hours, including customizing and testing the email template. Each Sunday morning at 4:00CT our newsletter of the prior week’s content is dropped to our subscribers.
So, MailChimp is where we send and store prospect records and where we segment and email them.
There are some core tools that aren’t really martech per se, but are integral to the mission and part of the ultimate mix:
- Google G Suite — Users are created directly within Squarespace as part of the domain (Squarespace is a G Suite reseller): One-to-one email; Email groups ([email protected], [email protected], etc.); Metrics (Google Analytics—Also integrated into Squarespace and MailChimp for third-party analytics); Advertising (Google AdWords); Calendaring/Video and Audio Conferencing (Google Hangouts/Meet); Collaboration (Google Docs) — all hang off of our G Suite base.
- Trello — Thin project management for agile marketing
- Slack — Chat
- Dropbox — File Storage/Management/Sharing
- Adobe Creative Cloud — Creative/Productivity Apps; Stock Photos; Fonts (TypeKit) — (TypeKit is also seamlessly integrated into Squarespace, by the way.)
So there you have it. My simple, effective and complete B2B SMB martech stack costs several hundred dollars per year and delivers everything we need. It was spun up in a few weeks, but I will say that the smooth onboarding and integration of these tools is the result of previous experience and expertise. My cousin, who, in parallel, was adopting the same tools for similar purposes, had a very hard time accomplishing much less than we did. You not only need to understand what tools can do for you, but also how you get them to actually deliver on their promises. That’s the old tool vs. craftsman argument and one better left for another post.