MarTech San Francisco 2017: Not another landscape


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It seems like we have all reached our point of saturation with landscapes and ecosystems, as the amount of players does not seem to consolidate at all despite the many premonitions in such direction. As we brace ourselves for Scott Brinker’s 2017 logo soup we just know it will be indiscernible.

Add to this the growing inconsistency between multiple, overlapping points of view. “Big Data” landscapes clustering technologies from a solely technical perspective come to mind: Is this about positioning vendors, or rather about providing actual business value in the manner in which complex functions fit together?

There are growing calls for interactive “vendor directories” allowing brands to find the most suitable set of technologies given a particular need or strategic approach. These will necessarily be area-focused (marketing-focused in our case), most likely resulting in yet more transparency and the “rule of the real”, possibly leaving Martech vendors in a not-too-distant position from that of Uber drivers or AirBnB hosts: True customers will define our ranking and offering.

Is this really only the fate of the “long tail”, as Scott Brinker has argued, leaving a few very large “platforms” standing outsized in the middle with every other player plugging into them, feeding from and to them?

I would argue that there is little in Adobe, Salesforce, Marketo or IBM that really sets them apart as true platforms, in Ben Thompson’s Aggregation Theory terms. They are in fact large as a result of the many heterogeneous, often inconsistent value propositions they group together under the umbrella of a single brand. In other words: A solid customer base is not really enough… and they are very much exposed to disruption in the absence of a real breakthrough in terms of data ownership or lock-in effects.

Zooming in: Marketing Data Technology

Drilling down further, and just in case you are not yet suffering from “landscapephobia”, I will now revisit our own Marketing Data Technology ecosystem (first published on Chief Marketing Technologist) to build a couple of additional ideas on it. I am talking about this:

Marketing Data Technology Landscape

And I am referring to these:

  1. Categories are becoming harder to define. Overlaps are not only happening between adjacent functions, but all across the spectrum of value propositions in the marketing space. This is why reviewing “stackies” is quite an eye-opener: Your own vision determines the position of each offering.
  2. Despite my previous point, I do not believe vendors can really aspire to be part of a particular stack in the absence of a very clear vision with regards to their specific role in the new reality of marketing and digital experiences. Programming/statistical expertise is after all highly commoditized, and a mere disclosure of technical features will hardly help those in charge of putting the pieces together – for they are now marketing executives and no longer CIOs or hands-on architects.

Taking the first point further, I would argue that most Martech vendors aspiring to become category leaders are doomed to fail. Especially so if they owe their very existence to their investors’ faith in a repetition of “winner takes all” jackpots of recent but past times, expecting sales techniques to make up for the absence of a clear technical advantage in a demand-led world that looks nothing like 2008 (Does anyone still pick up that phone?.)

I do not see, in other words, a path to survival for most companies burning $200 or even $20 million a year in a space in which they do not clearly own a core, fundamental technical advantage. The space will only get more crowded. Real customer experiences, not calls per minute, will determine their position.

MarTech Conference brings it all together

Final point, and reason behind this post’s timing: MarTech is a very smart proposition as a get-together for brands, vendors, agencies, thought leaders and consultancies. Where else would you get all of the crucial points discussed above?

  • Current, live perspective of the Marketing Technology ecosystem: real offerings, expressed in our own words
  • Excellent discussions and case studies on the manner in which long-tail and supposedly “leading platforms” are put together by major brands.

I want to believe that my overall perspective is not conditioned by Sweetspot‘s current position as a niche, “long-tail” offering that excels at one single thing.

Please do not hesitate to pay us a visit (booth #313) and tell us what you think of our offering, our position, or these very thoughts.

More importantly, Enjoy the Show!

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Sergio Maldonado

Founder & Chairman at Sweetspot. Author, speaker on analytics, marketing technology, privacy compliance. JD, LLM (Internet law). Once a dually-admitted lawyer. Father of three. I love surfing and cooking.

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