RubyApps Insights: Marketing Technology Stack Blueprint

RubyApps Insights welcomes back Jaron Rubenstein, Creator of RubyApps and Founder and President of RubensteinTech, for a discussion around the marketing technology stack, how having a visualization can help marketers and business developers to organize and optimize their technology systems, and what the strategic implications are for leaders and their direct reports.

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Episode transcription:

Alexander Kotler: Last time on RubyApps Insights, we discussed semiotics, including signs and symbols for facilitating better communication. This episode, we're continuing that thread by focusing on visualization, specifically mapping the marketing technology stack with a blueprint. Why? Tune in, find out and then download your copy. Our guest today is Jaron Rubenstein, creator of RubyApps and founder and president of RubensteinTech. RubyApps is a collaboration software platform that helps marketers and business developers work together more efficiently and productively to manage, share and distribute mission critical business content. Jaron, firstly, welcome and welcome back to the show.

Jaron Rubenstein: Why, thank you, Alex. It's always a pleasure to be here and always wonderful to have a conversation with you.

Alexander Kotler: It's a pleasure to have you here in a somewhat chilly Studio 55, so I know you're gonna bring the heat. Let's get into our conversation. So the RubyApps team has developed a blueprint for how to organize and optimize the professional services marketing technology stack. To digress briefly, what is the marketing technology stack?

Jaron Rubenstein: A marketing technology stack is really the collection of technologies that a marketing team or a marketing tech team is going to use to execute on their, their marketing and business development vision and, and goals for their organization. I think that marketers aren't always thinking about technology in terms of systems and how they interrelate probably more focused on what they do to solve a problem and then what the, how those problems ladder up to the goals they're trying to achieve.

Jaron Rubenstein: And, the interesting thing about the marketing technology stack in thinking about it in sort of a visual or systems-oriented way is, is this is really how technologists and, and true martech folks think, right? They think about how their system interrelate, how they integrate, how they work together to accomplish not just these individualized goals but the, the broader goals of the, the marketing strategy, how they implement all of that for an organization.

Alexander Kotler: So you've developed a blueprint which is, as you mentioned, a visual. How does it all come together, what's the purpose of having this documentation or visualization?

Jaron Rubenstein: Well, I think it's like any other map or blueprint, right? Or a, having, documenting it allows you to, to, to visualize it, of course, right, it allows you to see how these components interrelate, and, and it also allows you to look at maybe aspirationally, what it might look like down the line. So this is how your systems currently operate, this is what they do for you, these are the specific technologies you're using to implement these different requirements or, or, or system needs and maybe, maybe even looking at well, right now, we're using X4 CRM but we're growing by a hundred thousand contacts a, a, a, a month and we're gonna need to change that technology.

Jaron Rubenstein: We're gonna be changing to Y, so no, so seeing how that fist into the overall picture of your marketing technology stack, how it relates with all those other systems and maybe where those weak links are to continue to, to evaluate and, and grow your operations.

Alexander Kotler: I like how you mentioned that it's aspirational. You can document where you are today and you can document where you wanna be tomorrow but having this visualization gives you something so that you can be more tactical it seems.

Jaron Rubenstein: Yeah, absolutely and that, I think that's, I think that's the most valuable part of this exercise and having a marketing tech stack, for your, for your organization is that it transcends levels of organization and management. So depending on what your company looks like, what your organization looks like you may have a high level chief marketing officer, some, some, you know, someone to, with that sort of a role who, whose responsibility is, is very high level and they're not getting into the weeds of the technologies. Maybe they're not even getting into the weeds of the systems.

Jaron Rubenstein: Other organizations might have a CMO where they may know the systems, they know what you're working on, they know how they're integrated. They might even occasionally be stepping in and using some of those systems, right? And so there's a wide array of organizational structures there. And what's, what I think is most fascinating about the, the techno- the marketing technology stack diagram or blueprint is that it can transcend all those levels. So at the, at the lowest levels tactical uses, right, and the technicians I guess is what the word I'm looking for, right? The people that are actually making these things happen.

Jaron Rubenstein: They can look at this and understand maybe they're only responsible for email marketing. Maybe it's a big market in the organization. They're only responsible for email but how does that interrelate with CRM and with, you know, all of the other parts of the stack with the website, with event management, with, you know, advertising and social media and promotion.

Jaron Rubenstein: So seeing how their piece interrelates with everything else is critical kind of flipping that org chart around to the highest level from CMO, they can look at it and understand where their marketing spend is going. They can understand what are these systems, what these systems are, what they're doing, what they might spending money on and in terms of the, that whole aspirational concept, I think that's critical also to be looking out one to three years or however far your horizon might be in your organization for, for budgeting and for forecasting and for evolutionary purposes.

Jaron Rubenstein: How are these systems going to evolve, what, what systems maybe we, do we not have in our marketing tech stack today that we are going to need because of changes in the business or, or changes in the, the, you know, opportunities or what have you.

Alexander Kotler: There's a couple things that occurred to me while you were saying that one is that this also seems to be a communication vehicle, a way for people that are thinking strategically at the high level that are decision makers can relate to and understand the roles, job descriptions and, and functions of these technicians in a way that they might not have previously done while also being able to use this to the people that they make business cases too for future spend and say, "We use X percent of our marketing technology stack to accomplish Y percent of whatever activities we're conducting." So that seemed to be one thing, this, this internal communication vehicle but also just this notion of cataloging and organizing.

Jaron Rubenstein: Yeah.

Alexander Kotler: I've never worked at an organization where you've had a document such as this to say, "These are all of the technologies that we have."

Jaron Rubenstein: Yeah, yeah. For sure, and I think that it's interesting to see ... This is really sort of starting to be the convergence of technology and marketing and in the truest sense because technologists always think about thing ... I don't wanna say always but frequently think about things at a systems level and they have to because there's data flows and there's, you know, servers and there's applications on servers and users and permissions and publishers, all those kinds of concept from a systems level that applied to technology, really apply to marketing as well now with this, with, with the way things are blending in, in marketing tech.

Jaron Rubenstein: I think that the, the way that the systems are looked at is continuing to evolve and the key for a lot of organizations to succeed in, in the, you know, current times in terms of their marketing and really their sells, their business development efforts really ties back to, I think, for most organizations, some form of multi-channel marketing.

Jaron Rubenstein: They have multiple channels. It's not just the website that we're communicating to clients and prospects on or customers on. It's not just social media, it's not just email, it's not just newsletters, it's not just podcasts (laughs). It's, it's literally all of these different channels of communication.

Jaron Rubenstein: And, and, and as a result of that, I think that the CMO or whoever is at that level of the organization has a unique opportunity to look at all these systems, see how they can interrelate and integrate and, and try to ensure that the holy grail, I think, is that all of these systems are integrated to the level where, if a, if a prospect engages with you via email, they, that engagement is noted and is carried over and they come to the website. They are known, you know who they are, you're maybe able to personalize that content carrying that on to social media and to events, you know.

Jaron Rubenstein: They, if someone comes to the event, if your systems are all integrated, you would know this person has been on our webinars, they've engaged with us via email, they've, you know, come to other events. It gives you a whole profile of them from your own perspective and then allows you to perhaps, target them specifically at that event or for future marketing means.

Jaron Rubenstein: So I think that, I think that having that picture of how all the systems can, are, are, are laid out and then are integrated allows you to make better decisions about what to do with that information, what to do with that data and how to, how to maybe more cleverly work on your, you know, or, or execute on your vision for the market.

Alexander Kotler: We've referenced systems and in the absence of having the visual for our conversation, at least for our millions of listeners at home, let's talk about what the specific systems are. You talked about CRM. What are just some that you would find as part of the marketing technology stack that are featured within the blueprint?

Jaron Rubenstein: So there, you know, there, there are an enormous number (laughs) of systems out there that are part of what we currently talk about at marketing technology or martech. You know, s- Scott Brinker is the blog, is, is, well-known for c- creating the kind of marketing technology landscape document, which as of 2019 has over seven thousand products, that fit into a series of categories, that are, that are deployed by, by most marketing teams these days. Anyone, you know, doing anything digital for sure.

Jaron Rubenstein: There's a bunch of, there's, there's a handful of categories that they can kind of ladder up into. I think of those the most important is data. I think that's where it all starts, and more and more marketing organizations are being tasked or expected to be more data-focused and more data-driven. And so information, those systems within the data category might be things like competitive intelligence, it might be analytics and dashboards which I'm sure everyone has heard daily for years now.

Jaron Rubenstein: It might be things around, you know, other sources of, of real information, of content, of data that then, can then be employed in, in various marketing tactics and other systems. There's, there's management systems, there's sales and business development solutions, you know. If you're in eCommerce organization, then there's of course everything related to eCommerce would possibly fit within that sales category.

Jaron Rubenstein: There's a category for social and relationships, so that's things related to social media, social media management, you know, customer relationship management, CRM, right? That's sort of the first thing that people think about when they think about marketing technology. You need to have a solid CRM to manage those relationships with your prospects, with your clients.

Jaron Rubenstein: There's content in experience which is your content management system, your email marketing, your marketing automation, optimization, SEO, that sort of thing. Obviously, RubyApps being a content management system that's an area where we think about very frequently and we're very focused on,  because in a lot of ways, the content is the hub for all of these other systems. The content allows, or it, or it creates these other engagements, these other interactions with your clients and prospects.

Jaron Rubenstein: And then the last category that, we often think about is advertising a promotion. So for firms that, are doing some sort of, of content syndication, maybe public relations. Certainly if you're doing any kind of search or social advertising that fits under that advertising promotion category but it's really about getting the message out there to your, your audience, or audiences.

Alexander Kotler: I know that in April of this year you presented at the Legal Marketing Association's national conference and of course that talk was focused on legal marketing and the legal marketing stack. Are there other applications or is there one standardized application across the professional services scope or would you say that it's nuanced as you look to different verticals?

Jaron Rubenstein: So when it comes to looking at, at marketing technology, I think that the B2C marketers, the business to consumer marketers sort of have the, the best toys (laughs), the best budgets often and, and the most ... I, I, I don't wanna, I don't wanna downplay their, their jobs, it's certainly challenging but in some ways, it's the most easy to connect sales to initiatives on the B2C side, especially if you're in an eCommerce industry where you're able to attract leads or potential customers to your eCommerce site and ultimately they're able to add things to a cart, check out, purchase-

Alexander Kotler: It's transactional, right.

Jaron Rubenstein: Transactional experience. You can tie the line from beginning to end, right? And so in, in that case, they have a sort of unique customer journey there, but it's, it's usually, it's often. I don't wanna say usually. It's often a straight line when you're trying to map that because you can close the loop on a lot of these open variables.

Jaron Rubenstein: For B2B businesses, they're often gonna have somewhat differently shaped customer journeys than B2C, and, and depending on the nature of the business that's, that would vary significantly. So for professional services organization, what we often see is that-

Alexander Kotler: They're trapezoidal.

Jaron Rubenstein: The (laughing) trapezoidal. It's (laughs), it's a dodecahedron, it's a some sort of complex three dimensional object (laughs). It's a, I, I think ... it's often that the marketing technology stack is going to be involved in certain aspects of the sale. Let's call it the sale, a transaction. Probably not all of them and probably not in a straight linear path from beginning to end. It's probably going to kind of bounce around a little bit.

Jaron Rubenstein: So for example, the marketing technology might be involved in, in lead generation and getting that lead and find out that someone's interested but once that happens, perhaps it's a, it's a human, it's a personal relationship that has to occur from there. Perhaps it starts with a personal relationship but then there's that consideration phase. Well, that person is, you know, that, that prospect is maybe going to engage with your website content. Maybe they're going to get some sort of drip marketing email campaign.

Jaron Rubenstein: And then the, the conversations will start at some point in a professional services engagement, usually the professional (laughs) has to engage with the prospect, right? And so where that happens, I think, in that path is, is gonna vary quite a bit.

Jaron Rubenstein: So, so it's kind of circle back on what your actual question was there. It definitely varies from organization to organization and from, from type of organization, whether it's a law firm or a, you know, asset management firm, a consulting or whate- what have you. Each of those organizations is probably gonna have different approaches and different customer journeys but the, the end result is that the systems that drive that journey are going to vary from, from firm to firm.

Alexander Kotler: Right. Specifically the technologies used there might be one preferred brand given the nuance of that specific vertical but essentially, there are some similarities within professional services at large and subtle differences as you look at what the type of journey that happens within that specific field is.

Jaron Rubenstein: Yeah, I, I believe so, yes. I believe so, and I think that, you know, even across professional services there'll be commonalities to, yeah, to different organizations.

Alexander Kotler: Just touching on organizational size. What are some of the things that you would find in terms of the stack either flexing or expanding depending on the complexity of the organization and whether it's national, regional, local or global?

Jaron Rubenstein: There, there, there's a lot there. Firm size, organization size is going to have a lot of impact on, on the resources that one can deploy to these systems, you know, at a certain level perhaps you can only have one system that does everything versus having five kind of, you know, best in class solutions to do each of those, you know, best in class CRM, best in class email marketing, best in class this and best in class that versus having, like, one system that does them all, maybe sufficiently but not necessarily the best possible way.

Jaron Rubenstein: So different size organizations will typically have varying team sizes as well, so it's not just the resources as far as financial but it's also the, the people (laughs) resources, and the marketing team or if they have one of their marketing technology team is going to vary in terms of levels of sophistication and needs. You know, it's really important for any organization these days to be thinking from the start about integration, about how these different systems are going to integrate with one another.

Jaron Rubenstein: That, that's critical because there are no more data silos. It's not, it's not reasonable for an organization to have a silo of here's our customer information, our CRM and here's email marketing and, you know, we have to copy spreadsheets back and forth or something to get them to talk. That's just not feasible for, for any organization at, at a, at a smaller size. Usually that, you know, let's say one or two marketers are just completely overattached and don't have time to ferry spreadsheets back and forth.

Jaron Rubenstein: And then the larger sized, the level of sophistication, the numbers of contacts and things like that, we're talking about just making them plausible. There's a foo- an importance of integration that's never existed before and it's something that more and more from the start smart marketers are looking at and making sure that it happens out of the box and that it, that there's flexibility, that there's APIs and integration points so that the things that you don't know about today are able to be integrated tomorrow.

Jaron Rubenstein: So there's a whole future of technology options that you either know about that don't have or don't know about and don't have but will need one day, and being able to integrate these solutions in the future is critical to sort of ... the longevity of your, of your solutions. The other aspect that affects different size organizations is insuring that the technology that you're selecting is right sized for your team and for your, your ability, your needs, your goals but really your team.

Jaron Rubenstein: We frequently see smaller teams that maybe somehow they got a large budget for something and they buy the biggest tool they can possibly afford and they say, "This is the tool for us, you know. It's the best out there." I don't want to name any brand names (laughs) so I'm purposely being opaque about that but, you know, I, I, I have this much and I bought this and, and then what they come to find out is that routine things that they need to do might take five steps, might take 10 steps, might be horribly inefficient for one way or another, for one reason or another. And, and the reason ultimately is that the technology was not right sized for that team and for their needs.

Jaron Rubenstein: On the c- flip side, a, a large organization might purchase a solution that's, that's too small for them, perhaps because of budget, perhaps because of, you know, there's, the, the way the technology was selected at the time and that may limit what their team can do towards their marketing goals. So it may not be possible to have two users in the system at the same time and at a large organization, you might have 10 users that need to access it.

Jaron Rubenstein: You know, it might not be possible to have appropriate levels of roles and privileges so that you can delegate tasks to different people on the team based on their level of ability and, and knowledge and that sort of thing. So really right sizing the technology to the team is probably the most important aspect of that.

Jaron Rubenstein: And of course, making sure that what the marketing vision is for the organization is able to be fulfilled by the systems, by the technology and looking into the future and again, it's up to you what your horizon is. Maybe that's one year or maybe that's three years, maybe that's five years, but ensuring that whatever technologies you choose today are going to still be able to scale and support you in during, you know, throughout that horizon.

Alexander Kotler: I know you have a few upcoming speaking engagements and you'll be presenting to a variety of audiences some of which include decision makers at professional services firms, but just for our listeners today regardless of where they are within their organization and what their focus is, what are two takeaways that anyone listening today or one takeaway if you (laughs) if you only can have one, what should they leave with and be thinking about as they go back to their work?

Jaron Rubenstein: So I think that if I have, if I have one takeaway to, to share, it's, you know, download the RubyApps marketing technology stack blueprint and take a look at it and really think about how it applies to your organization. It may, it, it, it, it may not, in fact, it likely is not the exact solution, the exact blueprint for you, right? It's meant to be sort of a model and what you really need to do is own it and make it your own.

Jaron Rubenstein: So, look at that stack, figure out what components do you have, if you don't have this documented already. If you have it documented already, look at that and compare it to, to our positioning and what we're thinking about and what we posit to be a good model to follow. And then really continue to evolve your stack and do- and visualize it in some visual way block diagram, we think is fine, so that you can really think about it and communicate it to other levels of the organization. That's, I think, number one.

Jaron Rubenstein: Number two is I do recommend that you also curate that aspirational version of that, of that blueprint, of that marketing technology stack of what, what do we want this to look that a year from now or three years from now and, and then, you know. If that's real enough and valuable enough, then obviously plot the path to get there because we think that it's important to have those systems in place before it's a crisis, before you need them because your marketing strategy requires data here or integration there or what have you.

Alexander Kotler: So for anyone tuning in today, Jaron, how can they get a copy of the RubyApps blueprint?

Jaron Rubenstein: So they can download the RubyApps marketing technology stack blueprint  via the URL,, B-I-T.L-Y/RubyAppsBlueprint.

Alexander Kotler: One word?

Jaron Rubenstein: One word. R-U-B-Y A-P-P-S B-L-U-E-P-R-I-N-T.

Alexander Kotler: Affirmative.

Jaron Rubenstein:

Alexander Kotler: Amazing. Well, that concludes our conversation and thank you once again to Jaron Rubenstein for joining the RubyApps Insights.

Jaron Rubenstein: Thank you for having me, Alex. Always a pleasure. I look forward to future conversations.

Alexander Kotler: Thanks for listening to this episode of RubyApps Insights which was recorded in the Studio 55 and hosted by me, Alexander Kotler. You can subscribe to RubyApps Insights on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Pandora. If you liked this episode, please leave us a five star rating and a comment. Equally, if you didn't or if you'd like to hear a guest or a topic on a future episode, send an email to Until next time, have an awesome every day.