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31 October 2015

Technology is an essential enabler for marketing today - Lessons from #MarTech Europe

Together with 300 MarTech aficionados, I attended Scott Brinker’s (aka first European edition of the MarTech Conference. Interestingly, half of the participants claimed to be marketers with a very keen interest in (Marketing) Technology, while for the other half it was exactly the opposite. A perfect convergence of Marketing and Technology in one room!

My overall takeaway from the conference is that modern marketing must be enabled by technology if we want to be able to fully leverage customer and consumer insights and deliver personalized and relevant experiences at scale. Or to quote Scott Brinker: “Technology must become part of marketing’s DNA”.


Four other takeaways that I would like to share:


  1. 1. Data at the center of everything

Getting better insights in the customer decision process and buyer journey is certainly a key success factor in today’s successful marketing. The better we are able to get these insights from the available data (be it 1st, 2nd or 3rd party data), the more successful we will be. And given the ever-growing amount of data, using technology to help us make sense of it must be a priority for marketers. So it will come as no surprise that many speakers gave data a prime role in their presentations.

I believe, however, that data as such cannot be a goal in itself. Bringing data and systems/technology together in order to drive insights that can help deliver experiences that are consistent across devices and channels, is what we need to do. In that respect, it was also nice to hear about the “human side of data” in the presentation by Collin Strong, stressing the importance of “the human hand in the big data machine”.

  1. 2. The end of Digital as a separate function

“Digital” becomes so integrated in the organization that it needs to cease to exist as a separate function. According to Ashley Friedlein, CEO of Econsultancy, most organizations are currently somewhere between the center of excellence and hub-and-spoke stages of digital maturity. Almost no one has achieved a fully integrated model.

Applying the principle “organize around the customer”, what would a fully digital, customer-centric organization look like? And where would marketing be within this structure? Ashley (and several other speakers) is a firm believer of the “Chief Customer Officer” (CCO) as the new spearhead of an organization built around the customer. The CCO is the customer-facing executive who is ultimately accountable for customers and who drives customer strategy at the highest levels of the organization. The role of the CDO (Chief Digital Officer) is viewed more as a transitional one in which “he will work himself out of the role”. The Chief Customer Officer will ultimately combine the CMO’s and CDO’s roles and is the one who will be responsible for everything related to the customer experience (including digital).

  1. 3. Are MarTech and AdTech colliding or converging?

In a panel discussion on this topic, it was interesting to hear several definitions and points of view on this question. In summary:

  • MarTech is about “Marketing Orchestration” and focuses on the customer experience, leveraging customer data of known or identified customers.

  • AdTech is the deployment of technology for advertising. It touches the unknown customers, with focus on media delivery and the optimization of non-personalized messages.

All panelists agreed that there will be more and more convergence as all major technology vendors are focusing strongly on development in this area.

  1. 4. Will the explosion of new marketing solutions ever stop?

There is a mass of new software solutions available and more are still being developed. At the present rate of development, we will need a microscope to read the logos on Scott Brinker’s framework. This explosion on the supply side leads to some additional observations and questions:

  • During panel discussions with leading vendors such as Marketo, Adobe, Oracle and Salesforce, there was a lot of agreement on how great the technology is that they sell … but that the real challenge is in the implementation. Or, to quote Steve Jobs, “Technology is nothing. What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.”But these same vendors also were having problems with their positioning and did not seem to be capable of making clear what their USPs are. So, good opportunities for marketers in these companies to professionalize this part of their go-to-market strategy.

  • On the other hand, suppliers and entrepreneurs still think there are unmet client needs, and they feel the need to invest in new applications. Or do they realize that the client’s needs are being met, but that the revenue potential of this market is so big it can accommodate additional suppliers?

  • How will Scott Brinker’s framework look in a couple of years, when all the dust has settled? How many vendors will survive? Who will be the most successful companies? Will it be those focusing on a very specific and limited number of customer needs, or those claiming to be a one-stop shop?

  • How do we maintain an overview of all these different alternatives? There is still plenty of work for consultants.

  • The bigger client-companies don’t seem to be able to make up their minds. Whereas you would expect a unified and well-integrated marketing automation software platform, most of them still have a multitude of applications and databases, making the exploitation of their data very complex. Or, are client-companies choosing different solutions because suppliers have very specific and unique positioning?

As marketers we are faced with a market that is still in its early development stages.  There are many wars being waged and battles being fought. But one thing is for sure: the client should emerge as the winner.


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