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I recently watched a presentation from the Real Story Group (RSG) that threw some shade at Martech vendors, and the industry analysts that promote them. I’ve also been accused of being negative on the industry because I point out gaps in the market that I feel could be addressed; but aren’t. RSG is critical of tactics that Martech players use to gain a larger footprint within their customer base. These are two totally different perspectives - yet both iconoclastic in their own right.
Share of Stack
Anyone that follows me has heard me state that getting more of the job done on a single platform is a key value driver for customer acquisition and retention. It’s simple, they don’t want to cobble together a dozen solutions or methods, even if they are each best of breed. If we can integrate these solutions into a single package, even if some features may be a bit weaker, customers will value it because it eliminates a huge burden on them.
RSG talks about vendors who are positioned by analysts into the elusive upper-right box (Mystics) of their BCG matrix, called the Mystical Quadrant. That particular box highlights vendors who are able to check the most functional boxes describing what the industry currently considers to be the elements of a complete Martech stack. I’ll get to the obvious problem a little bit later.
Martech vendors attempt to make the pitch that a customer can get more of the job done on a single platform; when what they really mean is a single brand…and only part of the job. Acquisitions just never seem to go as planned, and as a result end-users and IT departments have to deal with poorly integrated technologies that were never designed to fit together. The only thing tying them together is the logo. Vendors (it’s claimed) will use bullying tactics based on their market presence to win these deals and capture more of what they perceive to be value.
This is a slide from an RSG presentation, I’m not picking on Salesforce
RSG contends that it’s somewhat dishonest (my interpretation) to pitch a brand-integrated stack when there may be products from other brands that a) integrate better and b) are better at supporting a specific capability (best of breed). I’ve experienced this, for sure. But, I’m not going to get in the middle of this fight because I’ve chosen a different hill to die on.
Share of Market
The first obvious problem is that the reference architecture above is not a market - it’s a set of capabilities, or competencies, described using solution-speak. It also includes channels (technologies); another highly volatile area. Customers of Martech are trying to achieve sustained profitable growth, which they won’t find from a solution-oriented capability model. It doesn’t matter how many boxes a vendor is able to check, they will never be able to promise the growth their customer is looking for. As for the vendor, where will they find growth from once all the boxes are checked?
New inventions are continually developed in the theater of marketing with the hope that companies will simply switch, switch, and switch again. New solutions emerge within the boxes and attempt to replace legacy solutions (legacy equals > 6 months old). Sometimes the name on the box gets boring, so new language is introduced (e.g., journey orchestration).
We’ve seen an explosion of brands in the Martech landscape trying to get their share of the stack. This tells me one thing:
Current solutions are not producing valuable business outcomes over the long run, or these other brands wouldn’t see an opportunity
In my personal opinion, the reason we keep seeking new ways to do the same thing is that we can’t see beyond the ways. The “ways” are not helpful (as a unit of analysis) because their scope is limited to now and how. They really don’t tell us what we’re ultimately trying to accomplish, or help us to chart a course for how to get there. If you don’t make the objective visible, you can’t measure your progress. Are we making progress toward achieving sustained profitable growth?
While this is a conversation for the product planning teams, I’m sure it frustrates marketers to no end because there is an undefined problem they face as their organizations try to achieve sustained profitable growth. The fingers are often pointed at marketing teams, but there’s plenty of blame to go around! An Enterprise, believe it or not, shares that common goal I keep mentioning.
Planning for the Theater
Planning is not the same as rehearsing. Marketing teams rehearse all the time. They configure, they run scenarios, they test. The really good teams take extra care when planning. Planning provides the complete and predictable script that is then configured and rehearsed. Planning begins well before marketing, but that’s a different post.
Unfortunately, the really good teams don’t always share how they plan for marketing theater with their competition, and there is constant pressure to accomplish what they can't possibly accomplish; current period revenue. It’s takes so much more than doing Voice of Customer surveys. I’m looking at a book right now that is 485 pages long called “Market Segmentation: How to do it and how to profit from it”. Have you read it? I have (numerous times), and I’m not a marketer. So, I know there are methods out there for the deep planning that has to take place in order to be successful in marketing.
Another good one, and much shorter, describes a systematic approach (but not an actual playbook) for developing the contact plans necessary for successful lead nurturing. It’s called The Truth About Leads (Dan McDade - PointClear). I’ve read that numerous times as well. Yet, I’ve never seen a marketing technology that helps analyze and construct nurturing programs that are proven to work - first time every time. Sure, you can configure them, but the inputs are on you! And that takes a lot of time and testing…and luck. Learn from most founders, failing fast is not the path to success.
In my last post I talked about a CPQ system and the problem around PDF-based price book entry. Why are they in PDFs? How do they get into PDFs? What technology helped do the research and analysis required to develop a pricing and commission strategy? Why is a PDF a reasonable data storage platform?
Why aren’t these competencies included in the Martech stack?
Additionally, which standards, and technologies exist to:
help you define the market
help you to define market segments/micro-segments
help you define the structure of the market, and identify a representative sample of decision-makers
help you to understand where products are bought, when they are bought, and how they are bought
help you to identify key differences within groups in order to develop micro-segments
help you to understand the needs of key decision-makers (and end users) - is there a common data model for this?
help you size each segment/micro-segment to understand its potential
help you to understand your competitive strengths for each segment/micro-segment
help you determine what the lead qualification specifics should be given the segment/micro-segment
help you to determine what your contact flow and frequency should be; and who should initiate it
Notice that I didn’t say configure. These are the inputs you need in order to develop your playbook, prepare your team, configure your technology, and execute. Why hasn’t an integrated technology been developed for this, let alone a standalone technology?
The truly successful marketers I’ve spoken to say there is no magical formula, just lots of testing over time. But, doesn’t that mean there really is a formula, or at least a structure that can be agreed to? Let’s start by simply putting the structure in place so we can enable better visibility, measurement, and continuous improvement from a standard, instead of a theatrical free-for-all.
The technology does not drive the results. Solid planning does. We just need the technology to enable the planning to get more of the job done; so more marketing teams can get the results above. ☝️ Quota-carrying sales executives will thank you.
From a technologist’s perspective, I’d like to help Marketers get more of their jobs done on a single platform, not worry about capturing more of the stack. The stack is elusive, artificial, and ever-changing; and there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t get the entire job done.
Understanding the entire job of a Marketer is key in figuring this out. The job is the problem. I laid down what I think is a reasonable representation of the market of Marketing. It includes sub-objectives that relate to planning. And when I performed a cursory mapping of these to solutions, there were critical gaps on the front-end of the market.
Not a single vendor that I’m aware of is addressing those clear growth paths. It should be really easy if their own marketing teams have systematized their approach to marketing planning. My hunch is that they haven’t, or haven’t recognized it. Otherwise, they'd be screaming internally to digitally transform it…and then sell it. It would be an easy sell.
What’s good for their customers, will be good for vendor. Let the rest of the players make moves inside the stack while you follow a path that will not only grab market share (of a larger market), but also lock-in profit share that no one else can tap. I can envision a solution that would be far more valuable than simply addressing the props we use for theater alone. I recommend stepping away from the theater for a few days and think long and hard about it. 👇