The marketing technology industry has never been more competitive, had more choices or been more vital to the overall success of marketing. This became abundantly clear at last week’s MarTech Conference in San Francisco.
Consider these numbers:
Scott Brinker unveiled his marketing technology “supergraphic,” which grew 87% in the past year and now includes more than 3,500 martech companies.
There are more than 150 martech vendors each in key areas of the marketing stack, such as sales automation (220), social media (186), display/programmatic advertising (180), content (160), and mobile (156).
The marketing technology stack has gotten more complicated, especially for larger businesses. Enterprise marketing teams are leveraging 60 to 80 different marketing technologies.
It got me thinking, as the marketing technology landscape grows, shifts and changes, what does that mean for marketers — both B2C and B2B — trying to keep up with it all? Have we reached the martech saturation point? Will there be consolidation within the space? Where are there missing pieces and challenges? And ultimately, what’s the next big thing for marketing technology?
Martech vendors have a lot hanging in the balance when it comes to the future of the industry and I had some great conversations with the marketers in the MarTech exhibit hall on these very issues. From my perspective, three trends emerged from these conversations: simplification, customer journey and integration.
One of the things I heard over and over was marketers’ habit of pursuing “the new shiny object.” As new technologies have become available, marketing departments have invested in solutions in a piecemeal fashion, instead of considering how a solution fit into an overall strategy.
Marketers can’t really be blamed for losing track of the big picture. There was a time not that long ago when Excel was the primary technology marketing had to analyze its efforts. With thousands of tools now at marketing’s disposal, organizations face real challenges in not only defining an end-to-end customer journey, but also finding the right tools to measure its effectiveness.
In some ways, the marketing technology space is a reflection of the shifting sands of marketing in general. There is less talk these days about the traditional sales funnel and more discussion about the customer journey and customer experience. Visibility into the end-to-end customer experience from first touch to purchase to advocacy is not something marketers dream about; it’s a necessity.
“Marketing is increasingly starting to own the customer experience,” said Anne Murphy, Content Marketing Manager for Kapost. “It’s falling on marketing to craft the buyer journey and the customer journey so technology needs to catch up with those expectations.”
The challenge for marketers right now is aligning their martech stacks with their strategic priorities and then finding the right technology and people to execute. Organizational structures within marketing departments are adjusting to reflect this new way of thinking.
“We are seeing the introduction of new functions like marketing operations and marketing technologists; specialist digital marketing roles; customer acquisition and retention marketing; and stronger, cooperative alliances between marketing and IT,” said Sheryl Schultz, Co-founder and COO of CabinetM.
These specialized positions will play a key role in the future of marketing technology. One of the problems to date with martech is the lack of central oversight and vetting of technology before purchase, which only serves to highlight the need for increased communication between marketing and IT. As marketing and its related technology embeds itself in the full customer journey, a cooperative relationship across departments is essential.
Marketing technologies are available to offer insights into every piece of the customer journey, but integrating them to give marketers a full picture of their customer and the effectiveness of their marketing tactics is where martech is headed.
“As we move forward, marketers are going to adopt fewer systems that can accomplish more, and have the flexibility to link to other platforms within their technology stack,” noted Scott Vaughan, CMO of Integrate, adding technology should support an agile, creative and collaborative process. “Through technology, marketers can accomplish multiple tasks and gain a wide breadth of insight from one place, and ultimately improve the customer experience.”
Much like how marketing and IT need to work together, diverse technologies across the marketing stacks need to be built with integrations in mind. While working with dozens of vendors and technologies may work for large marketing departments, it’s not going to work for the majority of businesses. The ability for marketing technology to surface insights, rather than pages upon pages of data is a crucial part of its future.
As marketers, we have to remember that having the most sophisticated marketing stack is not the end goal. The end goal is providing a superior experience to customers that ultimately translates to sales, retention and customer advocates.
Nancy White is a member of the content marketing team for KoMarketing, a B2B online marketing firm based in Boston, Mass. A former journalist, Nancy brings eight years of writing and editing experience to the role.