Scott Brinker says:
Even I was surprised that the number of vendors nearly doubled from last year’s edition, which charted an already-staggering 947 companies…
My intention with this graphic is to visually demonstrate four points:
- Marketing has unquestionably become a technology-powered discipline.
- The quantity of martech ventures is a barometer of how much marketing is evolving.
- The marketing technology field is heterogenous, with a very broad range of products.
- To thrive in this environment, marketing should steadily develop its technical talent.
When you consider the implications of those four points, the “technology management” piece of this is non-trivial — but it’s definitely not the biggest hurdle most companies face. The real challenge is changing how firms think and behave in this hyper-connected, always-on, customer-controlled digital world. The nature of marketing has exploded from an ancillary communications function to the Grand Central Station of customer experience. And the bar for delivering great customer experiences is rising rapidly.
That’s the real challenge. And most companies are still early in the maturity curve of such transformations. The difficulty of trying to sort out the marketing technology landscape is merely an echo of that revolution.
The good news is that most of the marketing technology innovations on this landscape are designed to help marketers conquer that revolution. They’re by no means miracle transformation pills (“instant relief, just add money!”). But when applied in the service of a well-organized, strategically-sound, executive-led digital transformation effort, these technologies are your friend. They can imbue your organization with superhero powers.
So please, don’t be disturbed by this landscape per se. We can navigate the technology.
But you should probably be daunted by the larger transformation of your organization that this landscape heralds — if you’re not, at least a little, you probably don’t yet appreciate just how massive of a management challenge that really is.
The Myth of Marketing Technology Categories
The most objectionable aspect of this graphic is its categorization. My choice of categories, the labels I used for them, which companies I placed in which category, etc., are all subject to debate. However, this isn’t just a problem with my graphic — this is a challenge across the industry (as any product manager for any of these companies will surely testify).
First, new categories keep emerging, often as rebellious offshoots from previous categories. For example, I charted “Influencer Marketing” separate from “Social Media Marketing” this year, because of the momentum of so many companies using that label. But it’s arguably a subset rather than a separate category, with enormous overlap between them. As product managers vie to differentiate their products, alternate labels and variations flood the digital airwaves. Most vendors wrestle with wanting to dominate a category of their own invention (“blue ocean”) yet compete in larger and more popular fields (“red ocean”). It makes for a frothy brew of ever-shifting category labels.
Second, many categories contain radically different kinds of software. Look no further than the “Content Marketing” category. Based on popular usage of the term, most people would agree there is a category of content marketing software. But when you examine all the myriad of products offered under that umbrella — production, workflow, curation, distribution, resource markets, analytics, etc. — you quickly realize they aren’t apples-to-apples: there are oranges, bananas, pears, and a whole exotic fruit basket in there.
Many of the products in such a category are complementary, not competitive. They’re not mutually exclusive. And they’re also not interchangeable.
Third, and a major source of confusion, categories of technologies and categories of “jobs marketers want to do” are often conflated (tip o’ the hat to Clay Christensen). But they’re not the same. For instance, almost all of the categories on this graphic have products that could be applied in a content marketing program. (In fact, if there is an overarching theme to the landscape, it’s that the “content marketing movement,” writ large, is the engine of the marketing technology landscape, and vice versa.) Marketers should strive for clarity about their “jobs to be done” and consider tools that help them achieve that, without getting too hung up on the category labels of the tools themselves.
And fourth, many innovative products have an architecture or a value proposition that inherently spans multiple categories. As Neeraj Agrawal of Battery Ventures said, “I think we’re still in the early innings, maybe the fourth inning” of this grand transformation of marketing. Indeed, many of the popular category labels that we use today — “marketing automation” — have baggage from earlier mental models of digital marketing. I believe it’s a really good thing that many entrepreneurs in this sector are inventing solutions that are untethered by those labels. But it does make them hard to categorize.