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What the Stackie Awards can teach us about the perfect martech stack

30-second summary:

  • The Stackie Awards are presented each year at the annual MarTech Conference, a conference series put on by, Third Door Media, and MarTech Today.
  • There were 48 entries in the 2019 Stackies, with five winners. We reviewed all entries to glean some insights from how all entrants (not just the winneres) visualize their martech stack.
  • There is no perfect martech stack. Each stack is custom fit to match a company’s industry sector, marketing approach, and unique needs.
  • The Stackies don’t require entrants to stick with specific categories, but most included variations of the following: planning/strategy, Creative, Engagement/Marketing, Customer, and Measurement/Analytics.

The Stackie Awards are presented each year at the annual MarTech Conference, a vendor-agnostic conference series put on by, Third Door Media, and MarTech Today.

The Stackies challenge entrants to visualize the tools in their martech stack, illustrating how each marketing category is connected.

This helps clarify a company’s marketing and digital transformation strategies, shedding light on how they’re using technology to facilitate operations, work with customers, and approach prospecting, nurturing, and sales.

It also illuminates how companies track and measure their customers and marketing initiatives.

There were 48 entries in the 2019 Stackie Awards and five winners (the 2020 winners haven’t been announced yet). All 2019 entries were published on, a blog maintained by Scott Brinker, VP of Platform Ecosystem at HubSpot.

I think there’s a lot we can learn by reviewing the Stackie entries, starting with trying to answer the question: what does the ideal martech stack look like?

There is no ideal martech stack

It’s a good thing I wasn’t expecting to have an epiphany about what the perfect martech stack looks like because, just like fingerprints, each Stackie entry is unique.

That’s not surprising considering the martech technology landscape contains more than 8000 martech solutions across six main categories and numerous subcategories.

martech landscape


The Stackies don’t limit entrants to a specific number of categories, so one of the most interesting aspects of each visualization (in my opinion) is how entrants chose to categorize their tech solutions.

AB InBev, the parent company of Anheuser-Busch, included only three main categories, but their visualization includes many more subcategories (32 total).

Other companies mapped their tech to the customer journey. This made much more sense to me at first, until I realized it often left out the important step of strategy and planning, starting instead with acquisition.

AdWerx Enterprise, a marketing automation platform, grouped tools like Slack, Salesforce, and Facebook within Lead Gen & Prospecting. Theirs was one of my favorite slides, though they weren’t a winner.


There’s a considerable amount of crossover with tools, which can add some confusion to the visualizations.

For example, as demonstrated in Adwerx’s stack, Facebook can be used for lead generation and prospecting, but also for customer outreach and communication. Elegantly visualizing this crossover wasn’t an easy task.

Top martech categories from Stackies entrants

While there isn’t a fixed list of martech categories in the contest, most entries included a variation of the below list. It’s worth mentioning that these categories don’t have to be linear.

Some entrants represented them in a circle—the perpetual cycle with no beginning or ending, while others represented them as more of a maze, and still others listed them out in funnel form.

  • Planning/Strategy: A surprising number of entrants didn’t include strategy or planning in their visualizations. Those that did included research tools which are typically baked into the planning process. Google Analytics, SEMrush, and MOZ are examples. Strategy can mean many things, but it’s dependent on collaboration. The tools people use for this understandably facilitate connection—Zoom, Airtable, Google Drive, etc. The following is a partial view of marketing agency Element Three’s entry, showing the many tools they use for research and planning:


  • Creative: The Creative category includes tools and platforms that enable design and content creation (e.g., Adobe Creative Cloud and Office 365), but also design/workflow collaboration platforms like InVision. Web development/CMS platforms like WordPress and SquareSpace arguably fall within this category too. I like the way New Zealand-based Kiwi Wealth included creative as a separate category within their stack and clearly labeled each step of the marketing process to incorporate a category for design tools, collaboration, and content delivery.


  • Engagement/Marketing: The combined categories of Engagement and Marketing essentially encompass lead generation and awareness. It’s a wide net here, with tools like HubSpot sitting side by side with ad networks and platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Google Ads, and Wistia. It’s not as easy to visualize this category as it might seem. Many entrants chose to bucket advertising platforms like Google and The Trade Desk into a larger (more philosophical) category. For example, Sargento Foods included them in a category called Activate.  Sargento’s stack, one of the five 2019 winners, is also one of my favorites mainly because they kept it simple—just four categories: Plan, Create, Activate, and Measure. Activate incorporates all their engagement and marketing tools, from the commerce experience management platform Salsify to Amazon and Facebook.

martech stackSource:

  • Customer: Many of the B2B entries included the broad category of “Customer” with tools that focus on customer engagement, customer service, nurturing, and retention. HubSpot falls squarely in this category (in fact, HubSpot shows up in just about every category throughout the entries). Customer experience and engagement tools like Adobe Experience Manager, Eventbrite, and Zendesk are examples. ABM-platform Demandbase created my favorite B2B visualization. They illustrated a near-perfect B2B tech stack (in my opinion), clearly illustrating the category crossover that occurs within a complex tech stack that encompasses many tools.


  • Measurement/Analytics: If there was any single category that was the great unifier of martech categories, it was measurement and analytics. Nearly all entrants included this category in some form. From Airstream’s “Measure Meadow” to Esri’s “insights & Analytics Viewpoint,” this category tended to include a range of tools. Esri, another 2019 winner, created a beautiful (and simple) visualization of their entire martech process. The analytics category contains robust tools like Adobe Sensei, an AI-based marketing automation tool that works with Adobe Analytics, Informatica, and PowerBI (business intelligence reporting).


One stack to rule them all?

Reviewing the Stackie Entries really clarified the complexity of the martech landscape for me, and the challenges that organizations face in trying to manage and maintain the many tools available to them.

I deliberately focused on the martech side of the Stackie entries, but there are categories missing from my analysis—eCommerce and operations tools like CDPs and DAMs, for example.

Simplicity was the exception rather than the rule with many of the 2019 entries. A key challenge in 2020 (and beyond), will be for companies to not only understand how all of their tech fits together, but how to simplify it.

To this end, it can be extremely helpful to see what martech stacks look like for other companies within your industry which is why I found the Stackie entries so fascinating.

They represent not only the tech use to facilitate a company’s overall growth strategy, but provide insight into their marketing strategy and philosophy.

We asked Scott Brinker of his thoughts on the Stackies. Brinker responded via email: “The discipline of marketing technology management is still quite young. The field has advanced rapidly in a very short time, and as a community, martech and marketing ops professionals have a lot to learn from each other. That’s what I love best about The Stackies: through the generosity of those who share their stacks and the way they conceptualize them, we all benefit from seeing a wide variety of real-world examples of martech toolsets. It’s a gold mine of ideas, patterns, and trends over time.”

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