Why Marketing Automation is no longer the Hub of your Martech Stack
04 May 2017

If you’ve followed Scott Brinker and the blog for any period of time, you’re probably familiar with the Stackie Awards – an event that showcases the entire tech stack of a marketing operations team on one slide – outlining what vendors they use and to what end. In the past, you’d typically see a marketing automation platform (MAP) in the center: the hub of the marketing operations universe.

However, in recent years, the MAP seems to be losing its foothold.

At the recent Marketing Innovations Summit presented by Demandbase, it was further discussed that there is no “CRM” equivalent for Marketers. There is no “go-to” application where all tasks and outcomes are managed in real time. Even with a MAP deployed, marketers spend days dancing in and out of a multitude of point tools, executing campaigns, reviewing reports of the results, and making incremental tweaks.
So how did we get here?

  • More functionality and more choices. Back in the day, there were a handful of MAP vendors charting new territory in marketing and automation. Today, there are literally thousands of martech and adtech vendors with point solutions to fill in the gaps. We’re also seeing vendors in other spaces such as CMS introducing functionality that was previously exclusive to MAP.
  • More channels. MAPs are email centric. This is fine if your only channel is email and the occasional landing page, but that’s not typically the case anymore.
  • Individual vs. Account. MAPS are notorious for organizing data by individual. The surge in popularity of Account-based marketing has exposed a growing need to monitor and market to account groups as entities.
  • More consolidation. The alumni in the MAP space have all been acquisition targets in the last years. While there are obvious long-term benefits that can come from acquisition, in the short term, it’s a huge distraction. These vendors haven’t been focused externally, and their customers have been very vocal about it.

So you can see, it’s all gotten a bit muddy. MAPs are showing up in multiple categories and less frequently at the center. How should you be thinking about your stack if MAP isn’t at the center?

  • Stick with best-of-breed. There’s simply too much innovation in the space right now to lock into one suite of solutions. We expect the 2017 marketing technology landscape of vendors to surpass 3,800.
  • Focus on your needs, not the technology. There are vendors with point solutions that beat the MAPs for ease-of-use and reporting and offer unique solutions to common challenges. LookBookHQ, for example, recently announced their LookBookHQ Recommend engine; not only do they provide a crisp, speedy capabilities for serving up targeted content, but customers can now also use their AI engine to do so without human intervention.
  • Your data should be the hub. Start planning for your unified customer profile and how you’ll capture it in a customer data platform. If you’re looking for inspiration, check out David Raab’s excellent article on How Customer Data Platforms Relate to Other Marketing Systems. Further, consider that your content is also data, albeit unstructured, and needs to be centralized and inventoried.
  • Think about unifying workflow and how AI-supplemented tools can assist. The MAPs, among others, have very capable workflow tools, but there are better point solution tools. AI has the potential to take this over: rather than manually inputting if-then-else statements, the AI will determine the next best action, tactic, or content piece on your behalf. The writing on the wall reveals that this type of AI-driven orchestration is the future hub of the martech stack.

Many martech vendors are rushing to jump on the AI train, but the marketing automation platform is still the key to scale today. There will be plenty of opportunities to pilot AI, and the data deluge is growing by the minute. Soon, we’ll reach a point where we can no longer analyze available data and create manual, accurate triggers in an automated workflow. There will simply be too much. One could argue, there is already too much.

For now, the wins are earned with good strategy and thorough customer knowledge. Perhaps a robot will create great content one day, but for now, we can settle for delivering the right message to the right contact at the right time.

Gaea Connary
By: Gaea Connary
Senior Associate
Gaea has supported marketing organizations in using digital marketing to improve results for more than 20 years. Her career started in website management and marketing communications, graduating to demand generation and marketing automation. She’s sat on all sides of the table: client-side, agency-side and vendor-side, working with literally hundreds of B2B companies on their marketing technology journey. For the past five years, Gaea has been focused on guiding clients’ sales and marketing alignment, operating models, lead generation programs, crafting effective marketing technology stacks, and dashboards and data analysis initiatives.

Gaea resides in Austin, TX, where she feels extremely fortunate to be a telecommuter. She enjoys reading, crafting, building with (but not finding) Legos, and won’t ever say no to a glass of red wine.
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Gaea Connary
By: Gaea Connary
Senior Associate

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