MarTech 2017: Lessons, Trends, & Technologies

Recently, I attended the MarTech conference in Boston for the first time. There were a fair number of attendees, exhibits for vendors, valuable sessions, and keynotes.

My goal was to learn about as many technologies as I could, so I spent a significant amount of time meeting and discussing ideas with many vendors (and I’m already starting to see the post-event emails come in – nice!). There are definitely some vendors that I liked more than others. Several vendors had offerings that resonated with me because I felt many of our clients would benefit from using these technologies. I’ll come back to this point in my next post, but for now, I want to focus on sharing my MarTech rookie experience.

Disclaimer… this… by no means is intended to be a promotion or critical review of technologies, but rather a layman’s guide to understanding what is available out there and their value proposition.

First things first, there were around 100 vendors at this event (and that’s being generous). The MarTech 5000 is a list of 5000 technology vendors, so those in attendance represent approximately 5% of what is out there and available to you. That in itself tells you that it is a bit too easy to get into MarTech and create a technology that serves the niche. The challenge for vendors is to differentiate themselves so they don’t get lost in the noise. The challenge for consumers? Well, there is a reason my summary is short.

To avoid getting lost in the sea of vendors, it is important to think strategically and critically about what you come across and not just fall for the next new shiny object. For instance, many technologies have overlapping functions. I find this challenging because it is confusing and makes it difficult for consumers to differentiate capabilities. Let’s take the most “basic” example – a marketing calendar. I can’t even begin to tell you how many tools include a marketing calendar – it certainly doesn’t make sense to maintain a calendar in all platforms. It should be maintained in a centralized place that’s visible to those that need to see it.

The other trend that I noticed is not related to marketing technology but rather managing change that technology brings with in. During keynotes and workshop sessions, the various speakers, CMOs, CEOs, and department heads talked about how they were able to impact large scale change, or drive impressive results in a short amount of time – it was always through the use of cross-functional teams – whether they were ‘war teams’, or ‘tiger teams’, or ‘task forces’. These teams were comprised of individuals from multiple disciplines and departments, working together on a daily basis towards the same goal. This strategy makes sense to me simply because increasing communication, eliminating in-house politics and road blocks results in productivity.

The last trend that I want to touch on points to what the future holds for us – artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). They are not just buzz words anymore. They are, and will be part of your job requirements as a modern marketer. You will have to learn to leverage these tools because if you don’t, you won’t know what hit you!

Half of the technology vendors that are out there have AI or ML as a core value proposition because it is in the heart of their technology. Two of my favourite vendors from the show (Adthena and Conversica) both use these tools. But AI and ML are not the silver bullet – just like it can give you an incredible advantage, it can be a poison pill. Why? Because the effectiveness of these tools is only as good as the data that is fed to them to learn from. In essence, we’re back to basics – data. I was having lunch with a group of people (talking about marketing and AI) and one of them had a good phrase that I want to share – “The AI is only as good as your IA” (Information Architecture), meaning, if your data isn’t normalized and structured, your AI isn’t going to be able to help you that much (imagine an AI that only watched Fox News!). As much as we’re about to go back to the future, we still need the solid foundation of the data that’s here in the present.

Now onto my vendor summary:

Bilin – B2B Marketing powered by AI
This is one of my favourites. Wasn’t easy to understand at first, but what I saw left a good impression. The tool can generate a list of leads (actual names, email address, etc.,) through the magic of AI. It’s easy to setup, and the system will regularly provide you with lists. Cost of entry is also low. Did I mention that they support 25 languages and nearly 100 countries? $$

Conversica – Lead management software for marketing
This is another favorite of mine. Again, AI and ML hard at work here. Conversica has created a chat bot, and a very good one. Instead of sending your marketing leads to inside sales for follow-up (maybe?), you send them to Rachel, a chat bot, who will send a nice email (or text) and qualify you. I already got a few emails myself and honestly, it’s impressive. If I didn’t know ahead of time it was a chat bot that I was communicating with, I wouldn’t have known! $$

Skyword – Content marketing platform to connect you with top talent to create your content
Their offering seems to be more in the B2C space rather than B2B, but I could be wrong. They don’t compete with Oracle Content Marketing or Kapost. Instead, they help with content creation and amplification with a dose of analytics for good measure. Not sure about pricing.

BrightFunnel – B2B Marketing Reporting
Definitely B2B here. They are serious about reporting and they feel that the value that their reports generate are worth the investment that you’ll need to make in order to gain access. This is not an SMB platform. Their pricing seems to be geared towards the Mid-Market and Enterprise spaces. With BrightFunnel, you can measure Marketing’s Impact, Revenue Funnel Analysis, Channel Performance, Campaign performance within each channel, and Account Engagement (great for that ABM trend). Pretty powerful stuff. $$$$

Triptych – B2B Sales and Channel Empowerment
Think about that sales and marketing alignment. What has marketing done for sales lately? With Triptych, your sales reps or channel partners can co-brand materials on the fly. Just think. Lots of marketing content, whitepapers that Sales and channel teams can easily tweak to make it prospect specific, print, and sell. I don’t recall the pricing.

PathFactory (formerly Lookbook) – The Intelligent Destination for all your hard-earned clicks
This is actually one of my all-time favourites because PathFactory offers a one of a kind experience. I have been a fan since before my visit to MarTech. They focus on allowing the marketer to create a series of related content pieces that the end user can consume in a sequence, in one sitting. Basically, it is content binging, and while the end-user is binging, PathFactory is tracking, scoring, and doing all other things that let content marketers measure engagement. Plus, it’s easy to use, setup and run. If it sounds like I’m gushing, that’s because I am. I love technology and when I see a technology that just makes sense I tend to rave about it. (Note – I am not affiliated with PathFactory, just a fan). $$$

SnapApp – Creative Interactive Content that Engages
Another favourite of mine, though I only recently figured out what they actually do. They take your existing (and new) content and make it interactive. Think interactive infographic or storyboarding. At MarTech I discovered that they just launched a new product that allows you to add interactivity to Whitepapers – for free. Here is what that experience will be (Note the dismissible lead form that I put in the middle!). The paid tier doesn’t have the SnapApp branding. Cost is reasonable. $$

Triblio – ABM Everywhere – Sales, Ads, Web + Analytics
I would be remiss if I didn’t include ABM in my list of platform vendors that I stopped by to visit. Triblio is one of those companies that I’ve heard about before and couldn’t remember why, until I visited them. The folks who played an important part in creating Eloqua are the ones who started Triblio. As such, the platform is thoughtfully designed, deep, and thorough in what it covers. I only saw a brief demo, but saw enough that I recommend further investigation. If you’re thinking about ABM, make sure you check them out. $$

There were many other vendors at the show and there are more that I spoke to, but they were either not memorable enough in their presentation, or value proposition, or my brain was in technology overload to remember that I spoke with them.

If you would like to connect with me to talk about Marketing Technology, or simply want some guidance to navigate the sea of vendors, contact me today. See you at the next MarTech!