As Technology & Best Practices Change, Collaboration Helps Marketers Succeed

4/27/2017
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MarTech 2017--the annual conference for senior level marketing, IT, and digital executives and experts at the intersection of marketing, technology, and customer experience--is fast approaching. At the conference, Scott Brinker will unveil his updated MarTech landscape, ushering marketers into the latest wave of marketing technology innovations. Last year’s landscape showed 3,874 marketing technology solutions, almost twice as many as the previous year. You can check out his pre-release of the 2017 Marketing Automation category here; this piece of the landscape alone is up 36% from the 2016 version.

In preparation for this year’s conference, which takes place in San Francisco May 9-11, TrustRadius talked with two of the conference organizers and martech thought leaders, Barry Levine (right) and Marc Sirkin (left), about the biggest trends influencing the marketing technology landscape right now, and how collaboration, integration, and strategic investment in technology can drive better marketing practices. Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Marc Sirkin is VP eCommerce & Marketing, Third Door Media.



Data Accessibility & The Evolution of the MarTech Stack

What makes a marketing tech stack effective in 2017? What are the biggest differences you see in the technology landscape, as "Martec's Law" continues to unfold?

BL: The “effectiveness” of a marketing stack depends on the answer to one key issue: will you use a large marketing platform to cover most if not all of your needs, or will you mix-and-match “best of breed” solutions? (Or something in-between, but let’s keep this either-or.) If the former, you will probably have to accept less-than-great solutions for some areas, such as social media management or chatbots, but you’ll get a higher degree of integration and orchestration. If the latter, you’ll be better able to get the tools you really want, but you’ll have to work harder to manage them all. It’s like ordering a meal: you can get a la carte, and hope they all go together, or you can get a full course meal, where all the courses are planned so they go together. Until relatively recently, the trend seemed to be toward bigger and bigger marketing platforms, but now there are so many excellent individual tools -- and most of them have APIs, direct integrations or direct data exchanges -- that a la carte seems increasingly popular. But major platforms have also developed key integrations and significant ecosystems, which means that there are variations on the theme of Single Big Platform versus Best of Breed.

As for differences, AI/machine learning is taking over from rules-based actions, which is good because the rules can only go so far. And the marketer’s task is about to undergo another seismic shift, as marketers begin to communicate not directly with customers or businesses, but with bots or other intelligent agents acting on the customer’s behalf.


MS: As a practitioner and long time digital marketer I can say that these are really exciting times. New marketing technologies are making it easier and easier to engage prospects, customers and partners. They also provide us with unprecedented access to data we can use to enhance those relationships. That said, marketers need to learn how to effectively use these new tools quickly as the customer journey becomes more fragmented across more and more devices. I think that marketers who find a way to fuse proven processes into their marketing technologies will have a big advantage over those who chase shiny new objects and unproven ideas.


How to Navigate the Explosion of MarTech Vendors

Do you have any specific advice for attendees navigating the expo hall? Are there any new questions they should they be asking vendors? Any types of technology they might not think to check out that they should be learning more about?

MS: This year’s Expo Hall features more than 100 martech vendors. We’ve filled up every nook and cranny at the Hilton to give our attendees as many opportunities to connect with sponsors and vendors who are there to answer your questions and to demonstrate their products and services. We’ve also created a “Solutions track” as part of the conference agenda that features presentations by SnapApp, Demand Fuel, IBM, Concentric, Lytics, LookBook, MediaBeacon, aprimo and Seismic.

As for navigating the Expo Hall, once you register, I suggest attendees download the MarTech conference mobile app and see who’s going to be there and try to set up meetings in advance to maximize your time.

Because of how fast the martech space is evolving, I always suggest you take a close look at familiar brands to see how they are expanding their offerings. We’re starting to see some interesting acquisitions from some of the bigger players who will be integrating and expanding into new and exciting areas.


BL: Questions to keep in mind: Are there pre-built integrations between this tool and tools in my current stack? If AI or other new tech is touted, what are examples of use cases that I could now do (or more easily do) that I couldn’t before that tech arrived? (In other words, what difference does it make?) If I’m thinking of a large marketing platform, should it be based around email, web and CRM (like Adobe and Salesforce, for instance) or around social (like Sprinklr)? And, especially, are there new ways to handle all the data from all the tools -- either through platforms with unified dashboards like TapClicks, through voice/bot interfaces like Datorama or Sisene, or through AI layers as in Adobe or Salesforce? Data management is becoming the single biggest operational issue for marketers.


Marketers--as you download the conference app and develop your plan for navigating the Expo Hall, make sure to check out the vendors you’re planning to meet with on TrustRadius. Reading reviews of their product(s) beforehand can give you a sense of whether people like you are already customers, and tell you what it’s really like to work with the vendor. Reviews can also arm you with some good questions and important topics to probe that vendors might not bring up otherwise, especially in a promotional booth setting. Discovering this user feedback of time will make your path through the Expo Hall more efficient, and your conversations more effective.


Innovation Around Customer Experience and Analytics

Besides MarTech strategy, the other two core tracks this year are CX design and data and analytics. What are the biggest trends you see in these areas? In your opinion, are most organizations in need of new technologies to help with these initiatives, or do they simply need to leverage their existing technologies differently?

BL: CX design trends: integration of similarly branded experiences across channels, with emphasis on mobile; making voice/text natural language interaction work; understanding that everything is now centering about customer experience, because -- for digital products or services -- customers can now “go” someplace else in seconds; and, of course, elegant simplicity is best for interaction. New tools coming for voice/text interaction and for new channels like VR/AR, but otherwise existing tools for existing channels work pretty well.

Data and analytics: trend toward making data understandable to non-data scientists, including platforms that surface the right answers before you ask, like Salesforce’s Einstein layer is supposed to do. New tools emerging every day to make data work for you, not the other way around.


MS: It’s easy to say but really hard to understand how dramatically the customer journey has changed over the past few years. Understanding how to connect the dots for your customers isn’t just a good thing, increasingly it’s the entire ball game. What’s cool about how Scott Brinker programmed the show this year is how each of the tracks supports the other to help you understand how to effectively drive digital transformation. Winning the marketing game is not only about being clever or using technology wisely, it’s about all those thing and much more - aligning your people, your goals and your processes in this the digital world.


Whether you’re wearing your tech marketer hat--thinking about how to enable your customers’ buying process--or you’re wearing your tech user hat--thinking about adding tools to your own marketing technology stack--as you learn more about CX design, you may be interested in our research on The B2B Buying Disconnect. It takes a data-based look at how the customer journey has changed, and where marketing practices can adapt to improve the relationship between buyers, vendors, and customers, and ultimately influence sales outcomes.


Recognizing the Importance of Collaboration in Marketing

Another theme seems to be around the value of diversified skill sets and cross-pollination, in terms of individuals with multi-disciplinary backgrounds as well as collaboration in cross-functional teams. Why is this important for Marketing right now? What is the role of technology in facilitating a collaborative, or art-meets-science marketing strategy?

MS: Again, through the lens of a practitioner looking back at some 20+ years of digital marketing, things have never been more complex or sophisticated and yet, there has never been a greater need for the fundamentals of executing what works. What’s different (but not new, this has been coming for years now), is how the entire organization has become in many ways critical to marketing. Look at what’s happened recently with everything from politics to even more recent airline issues and you can see how important multi-disciplinary collaboration has become.


BL: Aside from a solid understanding of key technologies and tools, as well as common digital marketing practices, a modern digital marketer still needs two key talents: knowing how to learn quickly what you need to know, and imagination. The first, because the tech changes daily. The second, because AI is in the process of taking care of much of the lower level task management, and of making sure that data of all kinds is collected and self-explanatory. Within a few years, there will likely be a whole series of tasks that self-running systems handle for the overseeing marketer. But it’s still a long, long way from the day when intelligent systems will, by themselves, figure out how to make someone want what you’re selling. That requires imagination.


You'll also present the "Stackies" and "Hackies" awards. Can you talk about some of the best submissions? What motivates people to enter the contests, and what value can attendees get from the visibility into their peers' martech stacks / best practices? Why is peer info sharing like this important to Marketing as a field?

MS: Barry and I were both Stackies judges this year, along a few others so we’ve had a chance to really dig into the different submissions. From my perspective it was fascinating to see the range and versatility of the different approaches. It’s always exciting to get an look under the hood to see what real professionals are doing. I was most impressed integrated nature of many of the submissions. You’ll have to attend MarTech or check in after the awards ceremonies but what I can say is that every sized company can build an effective, dynamic and powerful marketing stack. As for the Hackies, we were blown away by the breadth and depth of some of the submissions. You can find them all at www.martechconf.com/news or at www.chiefmartec.com.


BL: Without naming names, the most interesting ones were really about how they simultaneously visualized three values: hierarchy of tools, task and/or data flow through the tools, and categorization (e.g., social tools, CRMs, etc.) It’s really a conceptual exercise that some tried to make work through metaphors, which I think only makes the task harder, because now you’ve added the fourth value of translating into the metaphor. I think companies enter this because of the possible recognition, but more importantly because it’s a way for some of their people to think creatively about exactly what all that technology actually does and how it fits together. It would be interesting to see if anyone actually changed their stack after submitting a Stackie, because of what they discovered through the process.


Want to attend MarTech 2017 in San Francisco? Register for the conference here, and then get prepared for the opportunity to ask smart questions of marketing technology thought leaders and vendors themselves, as well as network with your fellow marketing technology users. Use promo code 100mttr (case sensitive) and get $100 off All Access Passes, or buy an Expo+ pass for $99.


Don’t have time to attend the conference? Connect with your fellow martechians on TrustRadius! Read reviews written by your peers about the technology you’re interested in, and leave your own feedback for martech vendors about the products you already use.

Emily Sue Tomac is Research Analyst at TrustRadius, where she studies the business software landscape, trends, and user feedback. She writes objective, user-focused reports that help buyers navigate crowded markets. She thinks of herself as a translator: she can help you understand marketing-speak, technical jargon, and crowd-sourced opinion, in plain English. Emily Sue is the author of the 2016 Buyer’s Guide to Marketing Automation Software, which you can download here for free. She has also covered the Sales technology landscape, eCommerce, Help Desk, SMMS, and Project Management software. Prior to joining TrustRadius, Emily Sue worked on research in linguistics and the digital humanities.