If you’re seeking for one of the foremost thought leaders in the marketing technology (MarTech) space, it’s hard to overlook Scott Brinker who is the founder and editor of chiefmartec.com. As marketing has evolved into a technology-driven organization within today’s businesses, it’s important for marketers to properly understand the implications this transformation presents in this highly dynamic environment. This led to Scott creating and maintaining the MarTech Landscape, which now includes nearly 5,000 unique vendors participating in the MarTech arena. As Scott has been at the forefront of the marketing transformation, we knew it would be enlightening to ask him five questions.
–Richard Posluszny, Marketing Manager, Datorama
1) As with the annual release of your marketing technology (MarTech) landscape, the excitement was overwhelming at the MarTech SF event. Were there any surprises with the 2017 update?
SB: I continue to be surprised by the incredible scale of the space. There were 40 percent more solutions on it this year. Now, not all of those were new companies — I keep discovering more ventures that have been around longer, but that I wasn’t aware of before. But the more complete view we get of the space, the bigger it is.
With Anand Thaker’s help on some data analysis of these solutions, I was also surprised by the relatively low amount of churn — only 4.7 percent of the companies from 2016 went away in 2017. Admittedly, in an absolute sense that isn’t particularly low. But given thousands of companies and the deafening calls for consolidation, there was relatively little activity.
2) Since you’ve been covering the MarTech landscape since 2011, you must have seen a drastic evolution of the space: Which specific segments do you see gaining the most traction and growing year-over-year? What do you predict will be forces to reckon with in five years? 10 years?
SB: I’m fascinated by the fact that almost every category is continuing to see innovation and new entrants pushing the envelope. For instance, web content management systems is arguably the oldest category in the landscape, but there continues to be exciting new developments there too. The accelerating “headless CMS” movement is a great example.
Of course, the segments growing the fastest are the usual suspects: Data and analytics, social media, content marketing and sales-related technologies. They’re all gaining traction at an impressive rate.
It’s hard for me to predict what this space will look like in five years, much less 10. We’re in a period of exponential advancement of technology — not just marketing technology, but all of technology on a global scale. It’s hard to extrapolate that future from our past. The only thing we can be certain of is change. We need to be ready to continually change and adapt as the new normal.
3) In February you noted five marketing disruptions reshaping the space and you pinpointed artificial intelligence. Is 2017 set to be the year AI — in the context of how it can help marketers — is finally understood?
SB: AI is certainly the buzzword of 2017 for marketing. It’s still in its early days though. The capabilities in products themselves and marketers’ understanding of how to leverage them effectively is still emerging. It’s going to take some time for that to shake out.
But there’s no doubt that the AI revolution in marketing is real. It’s happening. And over the next several years it will transform the profession dramatically.
4) As consumers now expect a seamless, cross-channel journey, what would you advise today’s data-driven marketer do in order to prepare for this all-new expectation? What categorization of tools in the MarTech landscape are best suited to helping today’s marketer?
SB: Getting cohesion at the data layer is very important. Organizations have to move from isolated silos of data associated with all these touchpoints to a more interconnected fabric across all of them.
I don’t think you need all data to be perfectly synchronized — the effort to achieve that would outweigh the benefit at this time. But you have to have your core data defined and governed in a way to make sure it’s clean and consistent. Common identity resolution is at the top of that list.
For other data, it may be sufficient to take a more federated approach — there’s a path to connect the dots, but individual execution systems may have their own augmented datasets as well. But for things like analytics, you definitely want the option to peer into those augmented datasets as well, so as it see patterns from across the entire cross-channel customer journey as much as possible.
5) It seems safe to say that in the first half of 2017 we’ve seen some emerging marketing issues rising to the surface (e.g., marketing measurement problems, brand safety concerns), do you think there’s another MarTech shoe to drop in 2017?
SB: Marketing is a discipline in a state of flux. Every company is wrestling with new challenges. It varies quite a bit for each company as to which challenges are creating the biggest pain points for them, depending on the nature of their market and the maturity of the legacy systems already in place.
Again, I think there is an overarching management mandate to this environment: Be ready to change and adapt continuously. You never know what new innovation or competitive threat is going to appear next quarter. You have to be able to sense and respond to those opportunities and threats, and try to make strategic and architectural choices that maximize your optionality.
No one’s going to accuse marketing of being a dull profession anytime soon.