What Is MarTech? Marketing Technology: Past, Present, and Future

What Is Martech?

You may get a chuckle out of me writing an article on MarTech after publishing over 6,000 articles on marketing technology for over 16 years (beyond this blog’s age… I was on blogger previous). I do believe it’s worth publishing and helping business professionals better realize what MarTech was, is, and the future of what it will be.

First, of course, is that MarTech is a portmanteau of marketing and technology. I missed a great opportunity to come up with the term… I was using MarketingTech for years before rebranding my site after MarTech was adopted industry-wide.

I’m not sure who exactly penned the term, but I have immense respect for Scott Brinker who was absolutely key in taking the term mainstream. Scott was smarter than I was… he left one letter off and I left a bunch on.

Martech Definition

Martech applies to major initiatives, efforts, and tools that harness technology to achieve marketing goals and objectives. 

Scott Brinker

Here’s a great video from my friends at Element Three that provides a brief and simple video description of What Is Martech:

To provide an overview, I want to include my observations on:

MarTech: Past

We often think about MarTech today as an Internet-based solution. I would argue that marketing technology itself preceded today’s terminology. In the early 2000s, I was helping businesses like the New York Times and Toronto Globe and Mail build terabyte-size data warehouses using a number of extract, transformation, and load (ETL) tools. We combined transactional data, demographic data, geographic data, and a number of other sources and utilizing these systems to query, send, track, and measure publication advertising, phone tracking, and direct mail campaigns.

For publishing, I worked at Newspapers soon after they moved from molded lead presses to chemically activated plates that had the impression burned into them utilizing first high-intensity lamps and negatives, then computerized LED and mirrors. I actually attended those schools (in Mountain View) and repaired that equipment. The process from design to print was entirely digital… and we were some of the first companies to move to fiber to move the massive page files (which are still twice the resolution of today’s high-end monitors). Our output was still delivered to screens… and then on to printing presses.

These tools were amazingly sophisticated and our technology was at the bleeding edge. These tools were not cloud-based nor SaaS at the time… but I actually worked on some of the first web-based versions of those systems as well, incorporating GIS data to layer household data and build out campaigns. We moved from satellite transfers of data to physical networks, to intranet fiber, to the internet. A decade later, and all of those systems and technologies I worked on are now cloud-based and accommodate web, email, advertising, and mobile marketing technology to communicate with the masses.

What we lacked back then to move to the cloud with those solutions were affordable storage, bandwidth, memory, and computing power. With the costs of servers plummeting and the bandwidth skyrocketing, Software as a Service (SaaS) was born… we’ve never looked back! Of course, consumers hadn’t fully adopted web, email, and mobile back then… so our outputs were sent via broadcast mediums, and print, and direct mail. They were even segmented and personalized.

I once sat in on an executive’s interview where he stated, “We basically invented digital marketing…” and I laughed out loud. The strategies that we deploy today have scaled and become far simpler than when I was a young technologist, but let’s be clear that the processes, patterns, and practices of deploying sophisticated marketing happened years before any company had access to the Internet. Some of us (yes, me…) were there when we worked on campaigns via a mainframe… or opened a server window from our workstation. For you young folks… that was basically a cloud running inside your company where your terminal / workstation was the browser and all the storage and computing power were at the server.

MarTech: Present

The companies span customer relationship management, advertising, event management, content marketing, user experience management, social media marketing, reputation management, email marketing, mobile marketing (web, apps, and SMS), marketing automation, marketing data management, big data, analytics, ecommerce, public relations, sales enablement, and search marketing. New experiences and emerging technologies like augmented reality, virtual reality, mixed reality, artificial intelligence, natural language processing, and more are finding their way into existing and new platforms.

I don’t know how Scott keeps up with it, but he’s been tracking the rapid growth of this industry for over a decade… and today’s MarTech landscape has over 8,000 companies in it.

MarTech Landscape

martech landscape 2020 martech5000 slide

While Scott segments the landscape based on marketing responsibility, the lines are blurring quite a bit with regard to platforms and what their core capabilities are. Marketers assemble and integrate these platforms as needed to build, execute, and measure marketing campaigns for acquisition, upsell, and retention of customers. This collection of platforms and their integrations is known as the MarTech Stack.

What Is A MarTech Stack?

MarTech Stack is the collection of systems and platforms that marketers use to research, strategize, execute, optimize and measure their marketing processes throughout the prospect’s buying journey and through the customer lifecycle.

Douglas Karr

A Martech Stack often incorporates licensed SaaS platforms and cloud-based proprietary integrations to automate the data necessary to provide everything necessary to support the company’s marketing efforts. Today, the majority of corporate MarTech Stacks leave a lot to be desired, companies spend a lot of time on development for integrations and personnel to still build and deploy their marketing campaigns.

MarTech Extends Beyond Marketing

We also recognize that every interaction with a prospect or customer is impacting our marketing efforts. Whether it’s a customer complaining on social media, a service interruption, or problem finding information… in a social media world, customer experience is now an attributing factor to the impact of our marketing efforts and our overall reputation. Because of this, MarTech is expanding beyond marketing efforts and now incorporates customer services, sales, accounting, and usage data to name a few.

Enterprise companies like Salesforce, Adobe, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft that build bits and pieces in the MarTech space are acquiring companies at a rapid pace, integrating them, and attempting to build platforms that can service their customers from beginning to end. It’s messy, though. Integrating multiple clouds in Salesforce, for example, requires experienced Salesforce partners that have done it for dozens of companies. Migrating, implementing, and integrating those systems can take months… or even years. The goal of the SaaS provider is to continue to grow their relationship with their customer and provide them better solutions.

How Has It Impacted Marketers?

To leverage MarTech, today’s marketer is often an overlap of creative, analytical, and technological aptitudes to overcome the limitations and challenges that most marketing technology platforms require. For instance, an email marketer has to be concerned with domain infrastructure for deliverability verification, data cleanliness for email lists, creative talent for building amazing communication pieces, copywriting prowess for developing content that drives a subscriber to action, analytical aptitude for interpreting clickthrough and conversion data, and… coding that provides a consistent experience across a multitude email clients and types of devices. Yikes… that’s quite the talent necessary… and that’s just email.

Marketers today have to be incredibly resourceful, creative, comfortable with change, and understand how to accurately interpret data. They have to be amazingly attentive to customer feedback, customer service issues, their competitors, and input from their sales team. Without any one of these pillars, they’re most likely working at a disadvantage. Or, they have to be reliant on external resources that can assist them. That’s been a lucrative business for me the last decade!

How Has It Impacted Marketing?

Today’s MarTech is deployed to collect data, develop target audiences, communicate with customers, plan and distribute content, identify and prioritize leads, monitor a brand’s reputation, and track the revenue and engagement with campaigns across every medium and channel… including traditional marketing channels. And while some traditional print channels may incorporate a QR code or a trackable link, some traditional channels like billboards are becoming fully digitized and integrated.

I’d love to state that today’s marketing is far more sophisticated than a couple of decades ago… providing timely and relevant messaging that’s welcomed by consumers and businesses alike. I’d be lying. Today’s marketing is largely void of any empathy to consumers and businesses being bombarded by messages. As I sit here, I have 4,000 unread emails and I’m unsubscribing from dozens of lists that I am opted into without my permission on a daily basis.

While machine learning and artificial intelligence are assisting us to better segment and personalize our messages, companies are deploying these solutions, collecting hundreds of data points that consumers aren’t even aware of, and – instead of finely tuning their messages – are bombarding them with more messages.

It seems the cheaper digital marketing is, the more marketers SPAM the crap out of their target audience or plaster ads across every channel they can find to hit their prospects wherever their eyeballs wander.

MarTech: Future

MarTech’s recklessness is catching up with businesses, though. Consumers are demanding more and more privacy, disabling notifications, reporting SPAM more vigorously, deploying temporary and secondary email addresses. We’re seeing browsers begin to block cookies, mobile devices blocking tracking, and platforms opening up their data permissions so consumers can better control the data that’s captured and used against them.

Ironically, I’m watching some traditional marketing channels making a comeback. A colleague of mine who runs a sophisticated CRM and marketing platform is seeing more growth and better response rates with direct-to-print mail programs. While your physical mailbox is more expensive to get into, there aren’t 4,000 pieces of SPAM in it!

Innovation in digital marketing technology is skyrocketing as frameworks and technologies make it easier to build, integrate, and manage platforms. When I was faced with spending thousands of dollars a month on an email provider for my publication, I had enough knowledge and expertise that me and a friend just built our own email engine. It costs a few bucks a month. I believe this is the next phase of MarTech.

Codeless and no-code platforms are on the rise now, enabling non-developers to actually build and scale their own solutions without writing a single line of code. Simultaneously, new marketing platforms are popping up every day with features and capabilities that surpass platforms that cost tens of thousands of dollars more to implement. I’m blown away by ecommerce nurturing systems like Klaviyo, Moosend, and Omnisend, for example. I was able to integrate and build out complex journeys that drove double-digit growth to my clients within a day. Had I worked with an enterprise system, that would have taken months.

Tracking customers is getting to be challenging, but customer experience solutions like Jebbit are providing beautiful, self-service experiences for buyers to navigate their own path and drive themselves to conversion… all with a first-party cookie that can be stored and tracked. The war on third-party cookies should put a dent in Facebook’s pixel (that’s what I believe the real reason is why Google is dropping it) so Facebook won’t be able to track everyone on and off Facebook. That may reduce Facebook’s sophisticated targeting… and could increase Google’s market share.

Artificial intelligence and high-end analytics platforms are helping to provide more insight on omni-channel marketing efforts and their impact on the overall buying journey. That’s good news for companies that still scratch their head on where to spend the most effort to acquire new customers.

I’m not a futurist, but I’m confident that the smarter our systems get and the more automation that we can apply to our repeatable tasks, that marketing professionals can spend time where they’re most valued – in developing creative and innovative experiences that drive engagement and provide value to prospects and customers. I hope that it provides me with the following capabilities:

  • Attribution – The ability to understand how every marketing and sales investment I’m making is impacting customer retention, customer value, and acquisition.
  • Real-Time Data – The ability to observe activity in real-time rather than waiting for hours or days to assemble the appropriate reports to see and optimize my clients’ marketing efforts.
  • 360-Degree View – The ability to see every interaction with a prospect or customer to better serve them, communicate with them, understand them, and provide value to them.
  • Omni-Channel – The ability to speak to a customer in the medium or channel they want to be communicated with from the system that I can easily work within.
  • Intelligence – The ability to move beyond my own bias as a marketer and have a system that segments, personalizes, and executes the right message at the right time to the right place for my customer.

What Do You Think?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback on Martech: Past, Present, and Future. Did I nail it or am I way off? Depending on the size of your business, sophistication, and the resources available, I’m sure your perception may be far different from mine. I’m going to work on this article each month or so to keep it up to date… I hope it helps describe this incredible industry!

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