The State of Martech: Data, Innovation, and Endless Opportunities

Shannon Fitzgerald-Lussier
November 10, 2022

If you’ve checked out Scott Brinker’s marketing technology landscapes over the years, you’re probably familiar with the rapidly growing spread of technology available for marketers. In 2015, the landscape comprised a group of 1,876 vendors, but in its most recent iteration, it climbed past 8,000.   

At a glance, the new landscape resembles a quaint, colorful map of lands and attractions of the Disneyland Resort (Commerce & Sales vendors are just as exciting as Space Mountain, no?), but when you look closely at all the names, it really sinks in just how massive that 8,000-vendor landscape is.  

The point, as discussed in our recent 2022 Marketing Ops Now podcast with Scott and Frans Riemersma, is that things in the martech world are certainly not slowing down. As Frans puts it, martech is never done; it’s always continuing to reinvent itself.  

So what should marketers be aware of during this whirlwind? First, focus on your data, but be careful what do you with it. Second, think outside of the box and beyond what’s directly in front of you. And lastly, keep evolving your marketing as the technology evolves beside you. 

It’s all about data 

Amidst all the changes in the martech world, what’s the single largest category of innovation? According to Scott, that’d be everything surrounding data.  

Describing a “treasure trove” of data at marketers’ fingertips nowadays, Scott points out that some of this data is very martech-specific, but part of it involves the data ops capabilities throughout the larger organization, too.  

“The digital firm as a whole is advancing at a phenomenal rate,” he says, adding that marketing is certainly not disconnected from this. In fact, marketing has one of the primary seats at the table.  

For example, how can you contribute data from all of your marketing touchpoints into the larger data ecosystem of your organization—e.g., using marketing data to impact customer experience? On the other end, now that marketing has access to more data than ever before in other parts of the organization—e.g., customer data or sales engagement data—how can you use that to improve what marketing’s doing?   

That’s where your content management system (CMS) comes in: First emerging in 1996, CMS is what Frans and Scott agree is arguably the oldest category in the martech landscape. Twenty-five years later, if any category ought to be mature in its innovation, you’d expect it to be the CMS category, Scott explains. Indeed, in reality, the true amount of CMS innovation is actually “mind-blowing,” considering all of the things happening from a capabilities perspective. 

Here’s where your CMS plays a critical role. From segmentation, to headless CMS capabilities (i.e., enabling the delivery of content across any channel) to the separation of content and experience, to how people interact with your brand, CMS helps you deliver on what your brand is promising and ensure you’re able to improve your marketing planning, says Scott.  

“How does that [brand] delivery happen? It’s happening through these CMS platforms,” he explains. 

Look beyond what’s in front of you 

It’s great to have so much data and all the right tools at your fingertips. But make sure you’re using everything wisely. From a marketing strategy standpoint, how can you best experiment to learn what’s most effective for not only marketing but also your customers?  

“It’s not just about having the latest data,” Scott explains. “It’s the strategy you layer on top of that.” 

Scott, whose career first began with conversion optimization and evolved into digital marketing, says something that particularly struck him back in the day was marketing’s often myopic focus on one single metric or one moment in time—or, as he puts it, the “positive dimension of conversion optimization.”   

Let’s say 0.5% of contacts clicked the CTA in an email campaign. Marketers may be inclined to focus on that positive number and keep sending out more of the same emails because, as Scott points out, there’s no financial cost in doing so, and they feel they can keep bumping up that number. (Rinse, lather, repeat. More CTA clicks!) 

However, that approach fails to incorporate the group of people who were actually turned off by the campaign. Even if they don’t unsubscribe right away and thus don’t provide the data to show how they felt, there’s still a major negative impact unaccounted for: brand perception. There’s a ton of people who didn’t like your campaign, and they’re not going to like it the second (or third) time you send it out.  

Instead, Scott recommends marketers don’t try to optimize one single metric but, rather, focus on the dynamics of how multiple metrics interplay with each other in the long run. 

“It’s not the revenue number this week,” Scott says. “It’s the revenue number for the next five to 10 years.” 

Don’t go overboard 

On a similar front, having such an expansive wealth of data can have its downfalls, too. 

The phrase “with great power comes great responsibility”—first attributed to Voltaire but more commonly popularized by Spiderman—is also relevant when it comes to martech, says Scott. 

“I think the [marketers] who are really winning here,” he explains, “are the ones who take this new technology and treat it with respect for that great responsibility.”   

 As Frans points out, although customers and prospects want to receive personalized messages, you have to make sure you’re not also invading their privacy. After all, although martech and adtech have been around for a long time now, many of the rules have changed, especially when it comes to data privacy. Therefore, marketers are forced to “innovate and update,” as Scott puts it.  

“How are we going to be able to reimagine identity and targeting in our upstream marketing advertising engagements in a post-cookie world?” he asks.   

From a high-level targeting perspective, while there are so many signals at marketers’ fingertips to help them identify individuals and groups who are searching for specific things at specific times, it’s important that marketers don’t abuse the data. 

“The most powerful personalization is when a company actually gets permission to have a direct relationship with the individual,” Scott says. 

Frans likens this to human interactions with friends and family—you don’t want to go overboard and turn them off with too much communication. Instead, you maintain the relationships by having meaningful, organic conversations. It’s more about quality over quantity, as well as serving the right message at the right time.  

“Personalization is one thing,” Scott adds, “but make sure the frequency and the quality of the communication is good.”  

What comes next? 

With so much innovation happening in the martech landscape over the years, where are we headed now? 

First, Frans and Scott agree that we’re certainly still often falling short in certain areas, particularly with the aforementioned “right message, right time” dilemma. How many of us receive unwanted marketing emails on a daily basis from companies you haven’t heard of, don’t want to hear from right now, or are sick of hearing from? 

Scott believes it’s fair to say we can get to a point where we’ll get this aspect of marketing figured out, and we have some of the tools to get there: e.g., feedback mechanisms, community management, or, depending on the nature of the brand, where customers can co-create with an organization and build things on top of what’s being delivered. 

“Even when we perfect the art of getting the right message at the right time and to the right person—hopefully we’ll get there—there’s so much more we need to do in how marketing engages with its audience,” Scott says.  

What’s entirely certain, Frans and Scott note, is that things will continue to change across the entire martech landscape. There’s no looking at a category and saying, “this one is done for good.” 

In turn, while this landscape continues to evolve, it’s bound to take the entire marketing world by storm, too, Scott explains. 

“We are not going to run out of opportunities for creative marketing leadership and the marketing technology to support it any time soon.” 

This blog was adapted from Uptempo’s Marketing Ops Now podcast. Each installment discusses valuable ideas for both management and marketing executives. You can listen to this 20-minute podcast here.  

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