Announcing the 2016 Stackies to be awarded at MarTech

The Stackies: June 2015 — 21 Marketing Technology Stacks

I’m excited to announce the second annual Stackies awards.

The Stackies: Marketing Technology Stack Awards

Last year, we ran the inaugural Stackies as an experiment with two questions:

  1. How do marketers visualize their marketing technology stacks?
  2. How many of them would be willing to share an illustration of their stack with the rest of the community?

To add a little extra incentive, we offered to donate $1,876 to the charities of the winners’ choosing.

It was a terrific success.

At the end of the competition, all entries were published publicly on SlideShare — 21 marketing technology stacks — so everyone could learn from the ideas those entrants shared. I know that many readers found this helpful in advancing the practice of marketing technology management.

So this year, we’re going to do it again — but we’re upping the stakes:

  • Winners will be celebrated on stage at MarTech in San Francisco, March 21-22. (You don’t have to be present to win, but it would be fun.)
  • The conference will donate $5,000 to charity — each of the top five winners will have the opportunity to nominate a charity of their preference to receive a $1,000 donation.
  • There will even be groovy trophy statues (much cooler than Golden Globes).

Seriously though, while the recongition, trophy, and charitable donation in your name are intended to make this a fun little contest, the real point of the Stackies is to share your ideas with the marketing technology community and to learn from others.

Marketing technology stacks — the collection of marketing technology products that your company uses and how they’re conceptually organized — are an important part of modern marketing management. We can learn a lot by seeing how our peers conceive of their stacks and the pieces that they assemble together.

All entries into the Stackies will be publicly shared in a SlideShare deck at the end of the contest — so everyone in the community benefits from the effort invested in these, and everyone who enters gets recognized for their contribution.

Rules and guidelines for the 2016 Stackies

So what do you need to do to enter the Stackies? These 4 steps (follow carefully):

  1. Create a single 16×9 slide that visually organizes your marketing technology stack however you think best represents the way you think of it.
  2. Send an email to with the subject line “Stackies entry” with your slide attached as an image, a PDF, or a PPTX file any time before midnight Friday, March 11 (Pacific time).
  3. Include in your email the sentence, “I give you permission to publicly share my entry in the Stackies.”
  4. Optionally include in your email a paragraph or two that describes the rationale behind the way you’ve organized your stack and any guiding principles that you feel are important in its architecture.

The judging committee will select the five best entries as the winners. Entries will be judged on the following five criteria, in this order of importance:

  • Alignment — how well-aligned is your stack with your business
  • Concept — how effective is the conceptual organization of your stack
  • Clarity — how easy is it for a reader to understand your stack
  • Design — the aesthetics of your slide and its visual appeal
  • Detail — more detail is generally better, within reason for a single slide

A note about “detail.” We prefer that entries in the Stackies include the specific products that are being used. This isn’t for endorsing any particular vendor, but to help us collectively see examples of where specific products fit out in the wild.

However, this is not a requirement. If you don’t wish to disclose a particular vendor, simply put a generic placeholder label for that product in your stack (e.g., “Data Management Platform”). A Stackie entry that has anonymous product placeholders can still win. But if you are willing to name names, we’d greatly appreciate it, as it does make these stack visualizations considerably more tangible.

An example of what a Stackie entry could look like

Since I am a co-founder at ion interactive, we sadly aren’t eligible to win a Stackie. Nonetheless, my co-founder and ion’s CEO, Justin Talerico, offered to illustrate how our company conceives its marketing technology stack (click on it for a larger version of the image):

An Example of Marketing Technology Stack by ion interactive

To give you a sense of the thinking behind this sample Stackie, I asked Justin a few questions about the rationale of its representation. Overall, his feedback was that designing a Stackie entry was “a very healthy exercise” for the marketing team and he “really enjoyed doing it.” (I swear, I didn’t coax that out of him!)

What was the organizing concept of this stack?

“I wanted to show the technology we use in the context of how we grow relationships, from the first time we first connect with a prospect, through them becoming a customer and eventually an advocate. I was thinking of a modern version of AIDA, or a more contemporary take on the funnel. The stages of Attract, Educate, Match, Package, Transact, and Advocacy felt like the right way to align our needs and our customers’ needs.”

Can you share a bit about the visual design of this stack?

“The idea of the ribbons — the orange, blue, and green pipes that run through multiple stages of the buyer’s journey — was to represent the three main tools we use across the lifecycle of prospects and customers: (1) ion’s own interactive content platform, which is frequently embedded in our website, (2) our marketing automation platform, and (3) our CRM. We have two other classes of tools: ‘helper tools’ that interface with those major pipes at specific stages and then overarching marketing operations software, such as tools for agile marketing and our marketing dashboards.”

What about the interplay between marketing and sales shown in this stack?

“The lines in this slide between marketing and sales are dotted because, through the eyes of a prospect or customer, those roles are often blurred. At any point, a marketing conversation can turn into a personal selling conversation — yet marketing still continues even when you cross that line. The alignment between marketing and sales needs to be complete throughout the entire buyer’s journey.”

Any guiding principles you’d share about how ion adopts marketing technology?

“We get pitched on many tools every month. For us to consider adopting something, the vendor needs to demonstrate that they will add real value to us and our customers in the buyer’s journey. That bar is pretty high. We’re opportunistic in our willingness to consider new tools, but we evaluate them through a fairly skeptical lens. It’s also a requirement that all of the components in our stack be able to talk with one another with relevant data — and that we can rely on that data flow as being rock solid. It’s not a fragile ecosystem, but we don’t want to introduce anything that would make it fragile.”

Of course, you don’t have to mirror your Stackie after ion’s — that’s just one idea. Feel free to riff on that concept if you like, but I’d encourage you to explore other ways of visualizing your stack. After all, what matters most is that your Stackie respresnts your vision of your marketing technology infrastructure.

Marketing technology vendors — you should definitely enter

However, one other takeaway from ion’s Stackie — there’s one group out there who really should submit entries to the Stackies: marketers at marketing technology vendors. As with ion’s example above, it’s a great way to illustrate how your own product fits into a company’s marketing technology ecosystem.

You vendors out there might also consider encouraging your customers to enter the Stackies, as it would be good for your brand if your product was included in many of the entries. (Stacking the Stackie deck, so to speak.) If you want to go so far as to offer matching donations to charity for entries that include your product, reach out to me, and I’d be happy to promote your support.

I’m super eager to see what you come up with. Ready? Set? Go!

P.S. There’s not much fine print to the Stackies, but to be safe, I’ll add this: I reserve the right to disqualify slides that are offensive (sorry, no nude pictures in your stack — that’s thinking too far out of the box) or trivial (if you use just a single marketing tech product, I’m happy for you, but there’s no value to the community in sharing that stack-of-one) or for some other yet-to-be-determined reason seems inappropriate or outside the spirit of this exercise.



  1. Scott,

    I’m excited to see this year’s Stackie entries and glad ion could at least share its marketing (and sales) technology stack.

    But we really wouldn’t be ion interactive if we didn’t take it further than a PDF. So here’s the first ever interactive infographic Stackie:

    Explore and click around for more information and color on the marketing and sales technologies we use and how we use them. Cheers!

  2. Are we required to attend MarTech in order to submit an entry for the Stackies? My team and I won’t be able to come this year, but we would love to share our stack with the community and take a chance at winning!

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