Last month, I had the pleasure of attending chiefmartec.com’s MarTech East conference, which covers the latest and coolest of Marketing Technology. You may recognize chiefmartec.com as the creator of the infamous Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic, which it updates and reveals every year at its Spring MarTech conference. The organization keeps a pulse not only on the latest technologies, but also on the latest trends and challenges facing the industry.
Five trends in particular stood out to me at this year’s conference:
- MarTech Is Taking Over Marketing
The theme of the whole conference was that MarTech is Marketing. MarTech has reached a critical point where it is essential for Marketing. It is no longer just owned by IT within an organization. Marketers need to know, understand and guide MarTech, rather than leaving it in the hands of IT. The success stories told on stage all came from marketers working within different groups – such as IT, Compliance, and BD – to implement and use MarTech to improve the Customer Experience.
Many speakers touched on the Democratization of MarTech as being the next big trend. Marketing teams have already started (or are moving towards) running Agile programs to test and understand their customers better. Agile marketing isn’t simply adopting a sprint approach; it’s working with other departments within the firm to create customer value. There was also the understanding that this will take some time to accomplish, as it requires people and process changes within the organization.
Finally, there was an emphasis on not purchasing new tools without a good use case, and also first making sure that none of the tools that you currently have can solve your business case. This is also leading to the consolidation of the toolset being used instead of adding new tools to the stack. An example of this trend is in content production and management, which, until recently, has typically been done in disparate systems or manually. With the advent of tools like Sitecore Content Hub, we are seeing an increase in a single tool being able to manage the entire content workflow.
The last few years have seen a lot of investment around MarTech without clear goals, which has led to more confusing workflows and unrealized ROI. Orchestrating your stack based on your specific goals and continuous tuning and maintenance seemed to be the approach that many successful brands are adopting.
- Data Is the Solution and the Problem
Data and Analytics are the fuel that should run Marketing. Brands that went from operating just from "instinct" to a data-driven approach saw great returns on their investment.
Data silos between systems and departments pose the biggest hurdles, especially in professional services industries. For data to be actionable, it needs to provide a full picture of the customer and enable you to understand different types of customers and how they interact with your brand. This will require your systems to share data with each other.
It is also important to know what should be collected. It is easy to want all the data that you can get, but that could dilute the data, introduce noise and lead to confusion. It’s critical to start with a goal in mind (e.g.: improve click-through rate from newsletters) before deciding what data to collect.
- CX Is Gaining Speed
One of the prevalent themes in the conference was improving the Customer Experience from end to end, from customer awareness and acquisition to customer service and support. One of the most discussed approaches was to map customer journeys of engagement with your brand. It is important to understand how they become aware of you and what their state of mind is when they engage with you when performing this exercise. Analyzing what could go wrong is also important. MarTech tools, especially when they share data, can give you a more complete picture of the journey and suggest areas where you can help tune your CX.
- AI Use Is Getting More Refined
The last few years have seen quite a few false starts in terms of how AI will change marketing. As the hype dies down, products and brands are starting to use AI in targeted scenarios that are helping them uncover key insights about customers. AI is beginning to find its way into many of the MarTech tools that we use today. It can help with a variety of issues, from identifying segments of customers and finding effective ways to market to them, to finding and suggesting relevant content that a user may be interested in.
- CDPs Are the Latest “Toys”
CDPs, or Customer Data Platforms, seem to be the trend this year. Quite a few brands have adopted them and have seen a good ROI. A few quick pointers on CDPs:
- They make it easier to collect data from different sources and systems, be it your website, CRM, Social, Marketing Automation tools, etc.
- They help with identifying and creating customer segments.
- Some also help with acting on this data and with cross-channel marketing.
- They come in a lot of different flavors, so being aware of your customers and your goals will help in picking a CDP that is right for you.
All of this sounds great, but where do you start? Start with taking an audit of your current marketing technology stack and understanding the purpose of each tool. Layer on top of that your business goals and understand how each tool is (or is not) contributing to them. This makes it easier to assess, add or remove a tool from your MarTech stack, and ultimately create a more unified stack that will help you improve your customer experience.