5 Key Takeaways from MarTech 2017

I’ve distilled my reactions to the recent MarTech Conference in San Francisco into a few, easily digestible points surrounding the marketing technology sector. For those that aren’t familiar, the conference has emerged as the preeminent vendor showcase and thought leadership event in the industry.

  • Continued vendor fragmentation gives rise to new management solutions
    • Marketers are calling for both transparency and manageability when it comes to their increasingly cluttered tech stack, and specifically the data that flows within it.  Whether its performing a data analysis across platforms or bolting one application to another, marketers currently must rely on their overloaded IT departments. This creates bottlenecks, significantly hampers marketing agility and keeps manipulation of important marketing systems at arm’s length from the actual marketing people. A number of new vendors are emerging to address this, many of which could be considered various flavors of customer data platforms (CDP), a nascent but quickly growing category (more on this in a bit).  The companies that are best solving this pain are able to go beyond bulky central dashboards (these were hot a couple years ago) and provide the moveable pipes, flexible analytics, rules-based triggers, etc. across applications.
  • 1-to-1 marketing is finally becoming a reality after years of hype
    • One, unified customer view is a major buzz-phrase right now. In other words, this is the concept of bringing all of the information a company has gathered around a single person, including all touchpoints, into one single, accessible profile.  This is really a prerequisite for truly personalized marketing and customer engagement, but up until recently it hasn’t been feasible at scale.
  • CMOs want to make their data a unique asset
    • 3rd party data (data acquired from a broad array of outside sources) is a must-have for any marketing department but it is not viewed as a differentiator. 1st party data (data directly acquired through interactions with customers/prospects) is unique but provides an incomplete picture.  Combining the two effectively is optimal, but it’s easier said than done.  Several CDP vendors offer a “unified view” of a prospect’s interactions across a company’s marketing channels, but stop short of incorporating all 1st party and 3rd party data because the combination requires another level of hard core data synthesis.  This has been a vexing problem for B2B marketers in particular, as data silos continue to crop up within their marketing tech stack and it becomes more difficult to know which data sources to trust.  Synthio (disclosure: a Vocap Portfolio company) is addressing this for B2B marketers by integrating customers’ various silos of 1st party data with their own proprietary 3rd party global dataset, thereby creating a unique and complete picture of prospects.
  • B2B vs. B2C mindset
    • It’s always interesting to note the orientation of the MarTech vendor universe, which seems to be heavily weighted toward B2C applications vs. B2B (maybe because companies in the former tend to be the earlier adopters). Many vendors claim to serve both but few actually do both really well.  The fact of the matter is there is a big difference in the needs, the pain points and the use cases of B2C vs. B2B companies.  This is an important point for both MarTech vendors and buyers to consider.
  • AI + human element = optimal mix
    • Over the years, the pendulum in MarTech seems to sway back and forth between AI and human control.  For the first time, I’m starting to sense an equilibrium being struck (for now), which is to use machines for what they do best (big data crunching, scalable execution) and humans for what we do best (intuition, creativity, strategy).  It will be interesting to see if this dual approach sustains as the industry consensus.

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