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December 1, 2017
Apps & Tools  |  6 min read

How Small Businesses Use Integrations to Make Their Tech Stack Work

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John Rampton

Having a marketing and sales tech stack that works effectively is the underlying framework to any company's success. However, as a small business, it can be challenging to have an ideal tech stack. This is due to the lack of resources and tech expertise. Many founders may have some marketing knowledge or have the budget for a CMO. Yet, they may be seriously lacking in the IT space to build out their own tech stack.

What typically happens is a small business adds technology tools as they appear on the scene and they appear to be necessary to complete some aspect of the daily operations. However, what may then happen if a founder is not careful is the appearance of silos.

In reality, what needs to happen is that everything works together and interlocks to minimize redundancy in tasks as well as speed response time and results. Your tech stack has many components. These include CRM, content performance and search, social, digital analytics, and customer experience. Sometimes, it also includes digital commerce. Each must be accessible while also working together in a seamless manner. That's where integrations provide the solution for making tech stacks work and scale. Numerous companies provide prime examples of how small companies can leverage an integration strategy for their marketing tech stack.

Due: An online invoicing and payments company constructed from integrations

For my own startup, I knew that there was no one platform out there that would be capable of doing what I wanted to provide other small business owners so they could improve their cash flow and attract more customers or clients. I ended up purchasing the online invoicing technology from a few defunct companies that had developed part of a solution. Finding ways to integrate these provided me with a more comprehensive technology solution to market to this audience. And, it was APIs that connected everything together for us.

Additionally, as I grew to understand more about what my target audience needed, it was the ability to integrate other tools and features into the overall platform that provided further traction to grow the customer base. Likewise, the marketing and sales tools used to reach more of this audience resulted in a greater return. This was because the integrations initially provided a more effective data collection and analysis method for the marketing team that shaped campaigns. Additionally, tools were integrated into your calendar, collaboration, and more.

Overall, every place we have used integrations has enhanced our tech stack across the organization in terms of what we could do internally with it as well as the type of platform we could provide to our customers and target audience, including payment processing. In turn, the level of integration offered to customers enhanced their own tech stacks as fellow small business owners.

John Wiley & Sons: A tech stack that enhances a non-tech focused company

Since many small businesses may not be tech-focused, it's important to include a prime example of how these types of companies can still leverage integration for the technology stack they do use on an internal basis. In fact, many small businesses have no technology products to offer their customers but instead focus on a non-tech product line or service. As a publisher, John Wiley & Sons fits the bill of a good example for this model.

Even with multiple platforms, the functional capabilities of social, sales, and marketing automation that are put into clusters and connected to work more effectively. Their use of integration even helps where their business still relies on some type of manual process, which is common practice in many traditional small businesses.

Clarifai: Even AI companies can leverage integration

Stacklist shared a complex example of how integration takes a tech stack to the next level by illustrating what is involved in the tech stack developed and used by Clarifai, an AI company. Both internally and externally, there are numerous tools across functions and processes to reduce labor and repetitive tasks. This includes analytics, CRM, collaboration, content marketing, design, file sharing and more.

Practically everything is connected to the company's tech stack. They selected tools based on what works together and what technology improves how they perform. That even includes their NPS scores, news and trend content tracking, payment processing, hiring, productivity, and social media management. Even when a small business or startup is deep into using technology to provide a solution for other companies, there is still room to learn and leverage other technology. In this case, Clarifai recognizes the value of technology integration. This is why their tech stack has become so complex even when there are fewer than 250 employees. This early focus on integration will work well as the company scales up.

Lessons learned

The biggest lesson is to use performance-led tools customized to your business needs and goals. That's because there is no one right tech stack to use for marketing or other areas. Every business has specific requirements and should personalize their tech stack to address those. To create that ideal stack through integrations, look for those tools that will directly impact your key priorities. For example, you can align your integration solution with the preferred customer experience. Others are looking to develop a way for maximum information flow through, inside, and outside the company. For each priority, the tech stack will be different. Each has the tools that deliver each defined strategic performance priority.

As you grow, your tech stack may become increasingly complex in terms of the number of integrations. However, if you continue to use your strategic priorities as the blueprint, you will sustain performance no matter how big you become.

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John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru, and startup enthusiast. He is the founder of the payments company Due.


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