Only a few years ago, most marketing automation vendors were sprinting to expand their cloud offerings.
It was an intense race: most major vendors wanted to be the first all-in-one, customer data platform to automate the entire customer experience — from initial prospect identification to post-purchase advocate creation.
They wanted to be the Salesforce of marketing.
They all failed. And this has been great for marketers.
In the past two years, all marketing automation vendors have shed ambitions for MarTech industry domination.
Instead, they’ve embraced a new reality, one based on the development of customizable ecosystems of tech vendors and data providers.
Consequently, innovative digital experiences have flourished through creative integrations.
Great Marketing Now Depends on Tech Specialization
When discussing a restaurant’s quality, have you ever heard the phrase: “The bigger the menu, the worse the food?”
This concept is pretty analogous to where marketing clouds were headed a few years ago.
While vendor offerings expanded, integrations between impulsively acquired systems left something to be desired. Moreover, such marketing cloud vendor acquisitions encumbered marketers’ tech investments and options, limiting their ability to build best-of-bread tech stacks.
Specialization begets better products, whether with food or technology. And while fewer logins and ease of use were once major selling points for marketing tech vendors, marketing automation’s rise itself is what (somewhat ironically) changed this.
Learning how to integrate marketing platforms with CRM systems, set up nurture tracks and scoring models, and customize reporting and analytics to the needs of various stakeholders transformed marketers into tech-savvy, data-driven professionals.
They became tech experts, priding themselves on their new set of skills.
Marketers Want Control, Customizability
As a result, marketers no longer wanted all-in-one marketing platforms.
Just like a racecar driver saddled with an automatic transmission, all-in-one marketing platforms limited control, innovation and performance.
Marketers wanted more control and customizability. This has led to marketers building customized MarTech ecosystems comprising numerous specialized systems, tools and data sources.
Marketing automation systems are now the hubs of expanding MarTech ecosystems.
3 MarTech Realities
The big marketing automation vendors haven’t been blind to these developments.
In fact, they’ve been very smart over recent years, highlighting partnerships with adjacent technologies and promoting innovative integrations.
This, in turn, has had further effects.
- The MarTech landscape has exploded. As Scott Brinker’s Marketing Tech Supergraphic clearly illustrates, the marketing tech landscape has grown to nearly 4,000 offerings across categories ranging from back-office operations (data reporting and analytics, budgeting and finance, project management, etc.) to front-office digital experiences (advertising, content creation, social media, etc.). This unlikely would’ve happened if the large marketing automation platforms hadn’t changed course from all-inclusive offerings to liberal integrations.
- Marketing automation platforms have become the must-have hub of the B2B MarTech stack. Almost every marketing system or tool is connected in some way to marketing automation platforms. It’s the first major tech investment any B2B marketing team makes (CRM is a sales technology). This wasn’t inevitable — it was a consequence of timing, a keen understanding of industry trends and market developments, and just great marketing.
- MarTech has and continues to gradually consume the AdTech space. Advertising technology was once on an island of its own, far removed from the desktops of marketers. It was something B2B marketing orgs handed off to their agencies to deal with, which explains why the pricing model was usually based on media-spend rather than subscriptions. But as marketers’ MarTech skills have grown, their AdTech hesitation has abated, and AdTech vendors have seen this as a prime opportunity to rebrand themselves marketing technology (which garners them better valuations). This wasn’t trickery — marketers have welcomed this (if not fully encouraged it) because it further increases control of the customer’s digital experience. And as with all marketing tech, advertising and other digital experience solutions are fully integratable with marketing automation platforms.
All Digital Experience Roads Lead to Marketing Automation
Digital experiences used to be thought of in a very compartmentalized way. Ads were handled by agencies and were mostly used for brand lift, having little impact on marketers’ efforts. Social was a tangential concern as well — one that a millennial intern could deal with. SEO has always been important, but just as a source of website traffic.
Now all these external digital experiences and more are seen as demand-driving vehicles that also enable the acquisition of prospective-customer data. Digital experiences aren’t only coordinated but also tracked to inform the subsequent sequence of digital interactions, whether via website landing pages, email or further advertising and social channels.
And at the center of all these interactions is the marketing automation platform.
It’s for this reason that the next evolution of digital marketing will witness the rise of tech solutions that help marketing automation platforms orchestrate all these digital experiences in highly sophisticated, continuously evolving ways.