Why The Customer Stack Is The New Marketing Stack In 2019

Marketers love (and hate) buzzwords with a great deal of zeal.

Whether it’s “inbound marketing”, “growth hacking”, “account-based marketing”, they’re trying to communicate and spread a bigger idea. Generally, these ideas are grounded in something which makes sense:

  • Inbound marketing: attract, don’t distract attention
  • Growth hacking: Grow faster through experimentation
  • Account-based marketing: target your ideal customers only.

You get the idea?

Although these phrases divide marketers, that division is often around taste or miscommunication - "Bah! Growth hacking is just silver bullets!” - they’re not guiding marketers in different or in the wrong direction.

But, there’s one emerging buzzword that is guiding people in the wrong, harmful direction. A buzzword which is pulling teams apart, bloating budgets and driving inefficiency across the organization.

It’s the idea of a the “marketing stack”.

Back up. What even is a marketing stack?

The idea of a stack comes from computer science:

In computer science, a stack is an abstract data type that serves as a collection of elements

“Full stack developers” describe developers with mastery of the front and backend. As marketing becomes more technical, it’s only natural this language spills over into marketing and the marketing technology world.

Behold! The marketing stack is born!

Marketing technology is getting more and more complex. You’ve probably seen this before…


But that was it in 2011 when it first ran. This is it now..!


Scott Brinker does an incredible job keeping up with the marketing technology or “martech” world on his Chief Martech blog.

And as we discussed, marketers love buzzwords to condense complex ideas. The idea of the marketing stack grows…

This wouldn’t be a problem if it were simple, but marketing technology is complex to explain…

What really makes up a marketing stack?

The reality: most marketers struggle to understand and figure out what tools are and how they fit into their marketing stacks. Even with high profile, well known marketing tools.

This is a problem when marketing technology consumes more budget than advertising, and almost as much as the marketing team!

What this means is most of us end up with a messy combination of many different, duplicated and uncoordinated tools - not a marketing stack, but a “frankenstack”.


We need a simple framework for thinking about what tools we need for what purpose. Product managers use the jobs-to-be-done framework for understanding and explaining what customers are trying to achieve.

Turn this framework around - what are you trying to achieve? How is your team trying to do it? How do their tools enable them? What are the jobs to be done?

With something like SEO, we might be concerned with a few problems like rankings, technical SEO, links - a data set confined to a set of problems. A “search stack” makes sense. It’s a similar story with split testing tools (an “Experiment stack”) or writing tools.

But, most marketing revolves around a customer (or potential customer) profile. That’s the focus and key data point that everything ties back to.

But, just how marketing revolves around a customer profile…

So does sales…

So does customer support…

So does customer success…

So does your product…

So does every single customer-facing team.

The Big Problem with “Marketing Stacks”

Customer data is tied to customer profiles in tools.

As soon as you start thinking of marketing technology that is confined to your marketing team, you build a silo of customer data that other teams can’t touch. A marketing stack stops at marketing. But that collection of customer data is needed beyond just marketing.

What does every other team do? They have to build their own data silo.

Siloed tools = siloed data = siloed teams. And that’s a huge problem.

Siloed data means teams aren’t on the same page…

Siloed data means teams aren’t pulling towards a common goal…

Siloed data means politics emerges...

Siloed data means it’s tough to get buy-in…

Siloed data means it’s hard to test and experiment…

Siloed data means it’s hard to scale, automate and personalize your marketing…

Siloed data means your sales team wastes time with the wrong leads and asking qualifying questions…

Siloed data means your customer success and support teams have a headache trying to understand who customers really are and what’s going on…

Siloed data makes it difficult for everyone to do their jobs together.

The driving force behind this siloed data is the “marketing stack” - a ballooning number of different tools and point-solutions, out of sight of every other team.

A simpler, more prescriptive alternative: The Customer Stack

Remember the job-to-be-done framework?

Whether you're emailing a subscriber, calling a sales lead, or chatting with an existing customer, there are four jobs that matter to interacting with customers:

  1. Messaging people
  2. Tracking reactions
  3. Recording to a Profile
  4. Deciding Actions

These four jobs need to be linked together.

Together, this powers your customer operations. Customer operations and your customer stack bridges across marketing, sales, support, success, product - anyone or any team interacting with customers.

Without being on one page, these teams form separate silos - or "kingdoms". There, the data and insights sit confined to just one team.

By bringing all your customer-facing teams together around a common customer profile you can align your teams, automate previously manual work, and convert and qualify more leads.

Here's how it works.

1. Messaging People

Sales calls. Emails. Ads. In-app chat. Whatever it is, whether they’re sent by a tool, person, or carrier pigeon - it’s all sending messages to a person.

MTPA - Message

2. Tracking Reactions

After sending a message, we want to track how they reacted. Whether this is capturing data from a from, measuring website activity, recording notes from a phone call - it’s all tracking reactions.

MTPA - Tracking

3. Record to a profile

With tracked reactions to messages, we want to record this to a profile. Whether it’s identified (Joe Bloggs whose email is…) or an anonymous (like a cookie) person - it’s all recording to a profile.

MTPA - Profiles

4. Decide actions from a profile

From your customer profiles, you have the data and context to decide what actions to take. Whether it’s enrolling in a drip email campaign, dropping them a phone call, or adding them to an ad audience with manual work, automated workflows or AI - it’s all deciding actions.

MPTA - Action

These actions then trigger more messages.

MTPA - Closed Loop

To take a few examples:

Message Email Ads Sales Call
Tracking Clicks Clicks Call notes
Profile Contact Cookie CRM Contact
Actions Drip Flow Audience Task

The point is it’s all the same. For every customer interaction, you send messages, track reactions, record to profiles, and decide actions.

Customer Stacks should form a loop.

Specifically, a closed loop.

Without this, data gets siloed and you build in inefficiency.

A broken loop around deciding actions means it takes manual work to send messages and campaigns.

If your customer stack doesn’t have the logic to “think” and decide what action comes next and what message to send, then a human has to step in and do the thinking. Your “manual” customer stack has built-in inefficiency and misses opportunities.

  • Manual email campaigns instead of automated drip email campaigns
  • Manual lead qualification instead of automated deep lead qualification
  • Manually uploading and maintaining ad audiences instead of dynamic ad audiences

Similarly, a broken loop around tracking and profiles - having all your customer data scattered across many different places - means you don’t have the full context of each person to send them the most relevant message.

Without being able to send the most relevant message, you miss out on the opportunity to convert and close.

Customer Stacks should form a ~~loop~~ spiral

Taking this one step further, you need a loop for every stage of your customer lifecycle. This should follow onto the next stage of the lifecycle.

The messages you send, the reactions you track, the profiles you record, and the actions you decide change for every stage of the customer lifecycle - from stages of the marketing funnel through the sales pipeline to customer success management.

MTPA - Lifecycle

A broken spiral is especially painful in the handoff between teams:

  • Emailing and advertising special offers to recently closed customers
  • Wasting peoples time with qualifying sales questions they’ve already answered
  • Sales not picking up on marketing’s qualified leads fast enough

With a connected system of tools and data, you can scale and automate a personalized experience across the entire customer lifecycle. Most teams use a combination of these six techniques to connect customer data across their difference tools.

The Customer Stack gives a way to think how to connect the messages, tracking, profiles, and actions across different tools.

Congrats! A new marketing buzzword!

“Customer Stack.”

Right? It’s got everything…

  • Only two words
  • Sounds “techy”
  • Whirling, swirling diagrams…

Is this trying to fix a marketing buzzword term with yet another marketing buzzword? Perhaps.

But, it is grounded in the reality of how customer data flows. It’s possible to describe it - messaging people, tracking reactions, recording profiles, and deciding actions across your customer lifecycle. It’s possible for that description to mean the same thing to many people.

Now #CustomerTech doesn’t have quite the same ring or zeal to it as #Martech. And marketing technology is still and will always a thing.

But beware, beware..! The trap that is the “marketing stack”. Don’t silo your customer data away into your corner of the organization. Think instead of the connected system - a spiral - across the entire customer lifecycle.

… and stop calling it a marketing stack!

Like this post? Hate this post? Let’s debate it! We’re at @hull, I’m @edfryed

"Sync sync sync"

That's the jazz track that plays when your sales and marketing tools finally talk to each other 🎺🎷 🥁

Does your stack work in harmony, is it more of a FraNkenSTack? Take the free assessment.


Ed Fry

Prev 'Ed of Growth at Hull, working on all things content, acquisition & conversion. Conference speaker, flight hacker, prev. employee #1 at inbound.org (acq. HubSpot). Now at Behind The Growth

If you've questions or ideas, I'd love to geek out together on Twitter or LinkedIn. 👇