The State of Marketing Tech

According to Gartner’s 2017-2018 CMO Spend Survey, marketing technology now accounts for 22% of overall marketing spend. That’s a 15% drop from the previous year.

So what’s happening? Are marketers cooling on new tech and putting their resources elsewhere? Or are they just spending more efficiently? What should marketing leaders be considering as they contemplate further tech investments in 2018? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Demand may be down, but the supply of marketing technology continues to grow. Scott Brinker’s annual supergraphic—which jams every martech vendor’s logo onto one ridiculous eye chart of a slide—grew by 27% since last year. All of those tiny logos add up a whopping 6,242 marketing technology companies.

  • When Brinker started putting this graphic together back in 2011, there were only 150 on the list. The last 7 years have apparently been very busy.
  • Somewhere in those busy 7 years, Brinker started handing out awards for the best martech stack. Here’s a wrap-up of this year’s “Stackie” winners. This level of unbridled geekery still lives on the fringes, but there’s a message here for marketers: stringing all of this tech together is an intricate and difficult business.

  • Of course, technology is only as good as the humans using it. A recent Wunderman survey found that while 74 percent of brands have access to a full stack of integrated marketing tools, 68 percent are not able to actually change their creative output based on data insights. In other words, martech investments are yielding substandard returns.
  • With this in mind, Possible’s Brandon Geary has a suggestion we agree with: “Maybe it’s time to focus more on the driver than the car and start building the teams, talent, and capabilities we need.”
  • This gap between tools and skills seems to explain the slowdown in martech spend. As Gartner have observed: “CMOs’ ascent to a lofty technology role was swift and came with an intense learning curve. As a result, only half of CMOs regard themselves as effective at acquiring and managing tech.”
  • But the challenges with martech go beyond education and skill building, as Brinker himself recently pointed out: “Forget consolidating martech, humanize it instead. What matters is how you harness these technologies to deliver compelling marketing and remarkable customer experiences.”
  • This “customer-first” message may seem obvious, but is it getting through? Recent Forrester research uncovered the ugly truth about what’s driving tech-driven innovation: “Companies were most likely to first look at what other companies were doing. They would then look at advances in technology. Finally, they would be inspired by deep customer empathy.”
  • If someone in your organization still isn’t convinced that leading with customer empathy is the best way to turn technology into results, point them to the example of Jeff Bezos. The world’s richest man made his fortune in tech, but customer obsession has always driven him more than technology or what the competition is up to. Here’s a relevant quote that we love from his most recent shareholder letter.

Issue #44
May 13, 2018

Further Reading