Scott Brinker On: The Evolution of THAT MarTech Landscape.

And why Marketing is the most difficult profession today!

Jan 31, 2018 · 8 min read

We all love a good visual. So it’s no surprise that when back in 2011 Scott Brinker decided to demystify an industry that was becoming increasingly complex by mapping out the key players on an easy-to-digest visual, he started something that was difficult to stop…

The MarTech landscape has since become one of the most recognized and shared visuals on the internet [note: we’re not including Cat or Trump memes in this claim/stat]. And as MarTech has evolved as an industry, so has Scott’s MarTech Landscape visual.

The Evolution of Scott the MarTech Landscape

What started with 150 MarTech companies back in 2011, has grown to close to 5K vendors, with a UK-specific landscape due to be published shortly.

But the visual is only as interesting as the narrative behind it. At the inaugural MarTech Alliance Festival in London late last year, Scott shared his take on why the landscape was — and remains — so popular and discussed the “consolidation counter-narrative” which , pretty confusingly, accompanies the continuously expanding landscape.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF … The MarTech Landscape.

What Started as a week long DIY job back in 2011 is now, in Brinker’s own words, a “multi-month journey” requiring more than a few sets of helping hands.

He believes the reason the landscape is so popular is that whilst we were well aware of the explosion of MarTech as an industry… it was becoming increasingly difficult to quantify JUST HOW MUCH the landscape was changing. And we all know that not being able to quantify things makes people — especially marketers today — very uncomfortable.

Brinker believes the MarTech landscape blew up because it was “in some small way, a quantifiable measure of how much innovation was/is happening in our space”. I, like many other marketers, personally loved it because it was the one thing I could place in front of my CEO on a tough day to make him realise (at least to some extent) how different — and how much more difficult — the role of the marketer had become.

Which brings us to Brinker’s next point. In his own words “these landscapes do cause people a fair amount of heartache”.

For a lot of marketers it just “highlighted how difficult it is to sort through and work with the menagerie of solutions and providers”. In short, it was disheartening.

To make thing worse, whilst all we as marketers could see was a myriad of ever expanding vendors, solutions, platforms and plugins that promised to make our lives easier and our work smarter, better, faster in the long run…the reality felt like the exact opposite. As if the whole offline → online marketing shift hadn’t been a big enough learning & adoption curve, we now faced another uphill battle trying to not only get our heads around the new technologies and solutions — but the most difficult struggle of all — convincing the people with the purse strings that MarTech: a) was happening, b) was too important to ignore, c) just might be that golden ticket to unlocking that crazy growth all those “growth hackers” out there were promising. Gawd.

Source: Walker Sands state of Marketing Technology 2017

But despite the craziness, and the uphill struggle to adoption that lay ahead, there was one thing getting us marketers even more excited than having a visual to refer back to when we needed to pinpoint a provider or illustrate the challenges of our ever-expanding roles…

The prospect of CONSOLIDATION.

By 2014 — Year 4 of the visual — the number of companies on the MarTech landscape had grown from 150 to 1,000. By this point the industry — and the industry press — were starting to talk about the need for consolidation. Surely the MarTech industry was ripe for it? Surely very, very soon, we’d have a couple of platforms that could do the equivalent of what the multiple vendors we were having to work with concurrently right now could, right?!

But fast forward a year, and the number of companies on the landscape had doubled again [2K companies in 2015], growing by roughly 1.5K companies the following 2 years [3.5K in 2016; 5K in 2017]. Where was the predicted consolidation?!

Scott looked at the original players in the 2010 landscape to assess how many had become consolidated. Over a 7 year period, 61.7% of the MarTech companies on the original 2010 landscape had been acquired by someone else. Surprisingly, there were hardly any [perhaps 3 or 4 companies] from the original 2010 landscape visual who had folded/gone out of business all together. Barely any. Almost all of them were acquired, with their technologies and customers being consolidated/integrated into a different proposition/organization.

For example, ORACLE acquired 10 or so MarTech companies before consolidating the acquisitions into the Oracle Marketing Cloud — a perfect example of how the bigger entities essentially built their marketing clouds by picking and choosing from vendors already out there.

If we consider that over a similar 7 year period, roughly 63–65% of US businesses get wiped through acquisition or business failure, the consolidation rates we’re seeing in the MarTech space are nothing out of the ordinary and actually totally in line with averages.

The MarTech Landscape is not growing because of some unusual dynamic on the consolidation rate

It’s growing as a result of an unusually high volume of new market entrants. The number of new businesses popping up in this space is what’s driving the expansion.

Yeah, but WHY?!

A number of reasons.

  1. Acquisitions may reduce the number of players in the short term, but not necessarily in the long term. Here’s an example Scott uses: the founders of Pardot were acquired by ExactTarget, who in turn were acquired by Salesforce. We went from 3 companies on the landscape to 1 company right? Wrong! The ExactTarget founders cashed out and founded many more… so in this particular example, 2 companies disappeared and 12 more appeared on the landscape.
  2. We live in a world where it’s easier to build software than ever before in history. Basically thanks to open source software and the concept of infrastructure as a service, almost anyone with an idea for a novel piece of software can get it built and deployed on infrastructure that would have cost millions of dollars just a few years ago.
  3. It’s easier to sell software. Years ago selling software required convincing the IT department to install your software in their data centre. Then it would have required costly ongoing maintenance for patching, updates etc. Software as a Service [SaaS] has changed the game completely. That’s not to say selling software is easy — it’s still hard — but the mechanics of trialling that software and getting a pilot project going is so much easier than ever before.
  4. Moor’s Law. Just look at AI as an example. Everyone is getting excited by the “sudden explosion” of AI startups. AI is new right?! How exciting! Except that’s not the case — there’s about 50 years of AI research behind us which has fed into the creation if the algorithms that underpin what modern AI is. So basically AI, just like MarTech software/capabilities, have been there for years. It just wasn’t affordable. But now it is. Moor’s Law has slowly chipped away to the point where we now have the sort of computing power and storage you need to affordably apply these AI algorithms in a way that’s practical for businesses. Same story with MarTech.
  5. In Brinker’s own words: “perhaps the biggest feeder into the crazy growth of the MarTech landscape: The redefinition of what Marketing actually is.” As any marketer born before the 90’s will tell you, marketing for a very long time was a peripheral department. Marketers were the guys handling comms, advertising, dealing with the press releases, briefing the brochures, setting up the direct mail campaigns etc etc. It was a valuable function, but it wasn’t CENTRAL to most businesses. What’s happened with the advent of the digital revolution is that customer touch points — from the very first touchpoint all the way to the customer becoming a lifelong advocate of the brand or product — all happen across channels that marketing has largely ended up owning. As a result, the responsibilities that marketing owns has grown incredibly. Not only does marketing still have the same responsibilities as before, marketing also has a whole bunch of new ones. PLUS we’re dealing with learning about, adapting and adopting the myriad of new touch points that keep appearing as consumer behaviour continues to evolve. We as marketers are on an ongoing scramble to meet customers WHERE THEY ARE. And WHERE THEY ARE is constantly changing.

In a nutshell, with more and more channels emerging, comes more and more novel software that helps marketers meet and manage their customers. And so the landscape continues to grow and expand, hand in hand with Marketing’s function.

CISCO has 39 different marketing solutions in its digital engagement stack

Brinker is adamant: “Everything that marketing is doing now is being implemented by some kind of technology. The average marketer uses 100 different pieces of software in a given month — and they don’t even think about 90 of them. They just use them!” That’s how ingrained technology has become in Marketing. And whether you like it or not, that trend is set to continue.

Microsoft’s MarTech Stack

Let’s face it: “Marketing is officially a technology-powered discipline”.

So let’s brace ourselves and those of us in Marketing, let’s congratulate ourselves… Brinker himself admits that Marketing right now “is not easy. It’s probably the hardest profession to be in at this time. But rethinking the relationship between businesses and customers, is what makes it so exciting. There’s so much opportunity to disrupt and take the lead”.

So let’s look on the bright side: “Yes this is a really challenging mission to wrestle with, but its one where there is an opportunity that makes it worthwhile. You’ll be hard pressed to find any profession that comes close to this”.

This article is based on Scott Brinker’s talk on the State of MarTech 2018 at the MarTech Alliance Festival, supported by ODIN.


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