Marketing technology, aka MarTech, has proliferated at an explosive pace over the last few years [1, 2, 3]. This post attempts to explain the underlying trends and landscape in simple terms. While my perspective is rooted in the marketing of cloud-based services, or SaaS, I hope it provides insight to general business readers.
Marketing Technology Defined
Let’s start with why there’s so much business interest. Two reasons loom large.
(1) Businesses increasingly communicate with customers over digital channels. Consumers comfortable with technology prefer the convenience and capabilities of digital communication channels [4, 5]. Businesses in turn, can analyze and act on the resulting data streams across the customer lifecycle. MarTech makes this possible.
(2) Pressure to offer more value for less. Competitive markets drive a continuing shift toward lower-touch sales, self-service transactions and process automation [6, 7, 8]. Again, MarTech make this possible.
I think these two factors shape the collective “duck test” for identifying marketing technology. Should I dare to offer a concise definition, then it’s something like this:
Marketing technology leverages the growing use of digital communication channels to help a business efficiently acquire, serve and retain customers.
Where Marketing Technology Fits
The above trends provide a simple way of categorizing marketing technologies.
Does it boost Customer Acquisition or Retention? Different marketing technologies apply along the customer journey from acquisition through retention.
Does it ease Self or Sales Served Purchases? Some marketing technologies optimize online purchase funnels. Others enhance sales team productivity.
An Example SaaS Customer Journey
Take a hypothetical SaaS business that relies on a blend of sales-served and self-served conversion paths [11, 12]. The customer journeys for these two channels have both unique and shared elements, as shown below.
Some Applicable Marketing Technologies
Digital marketing technologies help this business engage customers along the above paths, and measure the impact of those activities for further optimization. These software technologies fall into three high-level buckets:
- Communications technologies help businesses interact with prospects and customers in mass or individually, in real-time or asynchronously.
- Measurement technologies provide insight, using varying blends of marketer and third-party data.
- Automation technologies integrate communications and measurement, using the later to programmatically trigger the former.
For the prototypical journeys outlined earlier, relevant technologies include the following:
Numerous vendors vie to serve each technical function in the map [ 13, 14, 15, 16]. Some offer broad integrated communications, measurement and automation capabilities. Others provide narrow point solutions. While integrated suites promise simpler vendor accountability, ease-of-use tends to suffer [17, 18].
Here’s a sample of potential vendors for the above mapping:
Deciphering Vendor Jargon
The lingo of marketing technology can be off-putting. To cut through it, note that much of the terminology comes from just four domains.
AdTech (advertising technology) while arguably a subset of technology for marketers, is traditionally applied early in the marketing funnel to build awareness and acquire website visitors. Essential performance metrics for AdTech include cost-per-click and cost-per-unique-visitor.
MarTech (marketing technology) conventionally applies later in the marketing funnel, to convert and retain customers. Essential metrics for MarTech include landing page signup rates, paid conversion rates and customer lifetime value.
While AdTech and MarTech may appear to exist on a continuum, they are in practice separated by the privacy demands placed on the former, as well as the traditional relationship between agencies and marketers.
Consumer marketing solutions (B2C) usually apply to self-served purchase funnels. Think high-volume e-commerce. Since consumer audiences often provide sufficient visitor traffic for controlled experimentation, these technologies tend to incorporate testing capabilities. This is the domain that spawned “conversion rate optimization” and “growth hacking”.
Business marketing solutions (B2B) tend to support sales-served purchase funnels. Think high-service enterprise software. They integrate with CRM systems, aim to accelerate sales cycles, and enhance “demand generation” and “customer success” efforts.
Making Vendor Choices
There’s probably no better advice than “…start with the customer experience and work backwards to the technology” [19, 20]. That’s the intent behind first mapping out the customer journey and then identifying technology vendors to enable it .
However, even after carefully generating a short list of possible vendor solutions, many open questions will remain. At that point, ideas from Agile software development apply:
1. Start simple
2. Avoid vendor lock-in
3. Deploy early
4. Iterate (e.g. try, add and swap vendors as needed — hence idea #2)
Agile methods help marketing teams learn and adapt quickly. This greatly reduces technical risk — that’s very important as marketing teams and their IT partners deploy significant amounts of software [22, 23, 24].
Marketing technologies and methods are evolving at a rapid, some say daunting, pace [25, 26, 27]. However, marketers who make the effort to learn and harness these tools may find unique rewards. They will lead the way to a dramatically new kind of customer relationship: efficient and automated, yet personal and responsive.