At the 2016 MarTech Conference, Scott Brinker, head of the conference, unleashed the highly anticipated 2016 Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic. With 3,874 logos featured, there’s only one appropriate word to describe Brinker’s updated visualization of the martech space: overwhelming.
“This is the squinting conference,” Brinker joked during his keynote as he revealed this year’s graphic. In Brinker’s estimation, the number of vendors represented in the supergraphic is up 87 percent from last year. (In case you’re wondering, Vision Critical is under the “Community and Reviews” header in the graphic.)
Photo credit: Scott Brinker
So, what’s driving the continued growth of the marketing technology landscape? Brinker theorizes that it’s because “the scope of marketing has grown, probably by an order of magnitude, [and] the scope of software success has grown.”
For business leaders, the growing martech landscape poses three critical challenges.
1. Shifting focus
On the same day that Brinker’s graphic was released, the website MarTech Advisor (MTA) released its Spendscape graphic, a visualization of the hottest software categories in martech.
Photo credit: MarTech Advisor
Among MTA’s biggest findings: marketers are spending more and more on software that will help them improve the customer experience.
“Voice of the Customer/Customer Experience tools for creating better customer feedback and customer service experiences is a high-growth technology, which many marketers are planning to adopt in 2016,” writes Pranav Vadehra, director of content at MarTech Advisor. According to the study, 37 percent of companies plan to spend more in these solution—a significant jump from 2014, when only 28 percent of marketers indicated the same.
Vadehra adds, “Marketers are now tending to look at all the customer touchpoints, and seek ways to influence and nurture the customer throughout the buying journey.”
MTA’s finding is just another reminder that CX is the new marketing battlefield. Companies are snapping up martech tools that will allow them to understand the end-to-end customer journey. More than tools, companies needs a customer intelligence strategy to provide a more seamless experience at every customer touchpoint.
2. Balancing innovation and scalability
In his keynote, Brinker noted that one key challenge for companies when it comes to their marketing stack is balancing innovation and scalability.
“Marketers, I believe, are being asked to manage two very different kinds of organizational responsibilities,” Brinker tells the ion interactive blog, about this martech challenge. “On one hand, there is this drive to innovate, but on the other side you also have the need to be scalable in your operations, in what you’re delivering.”
For many companies, the solution has been to pursue “bimodal marketing,” a concept borrowed from the IT practice. The idea is to identify “which activities we’re doing in marketing are we going to run on a scalable methodology and which ones are we going to run on a light, quick, agile, experimental approach, and just being very clear about which one is which.”
In his estimate, 70 percent of software in the martech stack are core, required technologies while the rest are innovative and experimental. The challenge, as MarketingLand’s Barry Levine notes, is “transitioning edge tech to core.”
In the evolving martech landscape, companies shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with shiny, new toys. At the same time, however, they must quickly identify which new technologies drive business results and integrate those platforms into the company’s marketing infrastructure.
3. Not a silver bullet
Despite the overwhelming number of vendors in the market, having budget for martech does not guarantee you’ll have effective marketing campaigns. That’s because companies sometimes forget why they need marketing tools to begin with: to get closer to their customers.
“While testing and trying new tools to extend reach and drive down the cost of customer acquisition is important, you need to test the premise of the solution against your marketing strategy and buyer personas,” Anita J. Brearton, founder and CEO of the discovery platform CabinetM, said in an interview with CIO.com. “Ask the question—is this tool going to help me reach or connect with my specific buyers?”
Tyler Douglas, chief sales and marketing officer of Vision Critical, offers a similar view, arguing that one of the key roles of technology should be to deliver a deeper, more authentic understanding of the customer.
“You’ve got to get close and connect with the people behind the data points,” Douglas writes in the ebook. “The martech stack requires more than social media analytics and big data crunching software. Brands need solutions that bring non-stop, iterative learning about the customer experience—that means getting insight about your customers that informs and refines what you learn about them next.”
“Brands need solutions that bring non-stop, iterative learning about the customer experience.”
And because the marketing practice continues to evolve and customer expectations shift quickly, companies should frequently re-evaluate their marketing toolset. “Keep in mind when you build your marketing stack that you’ll have to swap out some of those components or add new ones two or three years from now,” adds Brearton.
These challenges underline how the exploding martech landscape is just in its infancy. To get more out of marketing technology, companies need to adopt a strategic approach—one focused on meeting specific business objectives and on building a more meaningful relationship with the evolving customer.