I can only marvel at the swarm of vendors, many of whom are just a few years old, buzzing around companies of all sizes looking to sell their digital marketing solution. In many cases they are presented as the answer to digital marketing requirements for a given channel or functional requirement, all coming from slightly different starting points.
So the questions are, what do the marketing clouds look like in 2016 and what are the implications?
Thereâ€™s brilliant post by Scott BrinkerÂ hereÂ that attempts to â€˜mapâ€™ the full marketing technology map with all the key players in each area of the marketing tech industry:
My first reaction on seeing this was one of admiration â€“ somebody has spent many hours snipping the logos of all these vendors â€“ Iâ€™d like to congratulate them on the kind of patience normally seen in people who do 10000 piece jigsaw puzzles! Apparently there are 3,874 logos in the 2016 map â€“ enough said!
As you wonâ€™t be able to see all the detail in the image above, Scott has posted the following link with the full graphic on itÂ here.
Whatâ€™s also cool is that Scott has been doing this for a few years, so you can see how the ecosystem has grown hugely since 2011:
So what are the implications?
The people I feel sorry for are the enterprises around the world trying to understand how to configure the maze of solutions to power their digital marketing.
While all the leading vendors are making their â€˜marketing cloudsâ€™ more comprehensive with every release (and by acquisition), we donâ€™t believe that any one vendor currently has all of the components required, at the required levels of capability, to deliver best-in-class digital marketing in one solution.
On the assumption that no single vendor has the answer in a form thatâ€™s perfect for your needs, itâ€™s a case of picking and choosing a range of solutions and then integrating them based on your requirements.
How do we decide?
As a marketer, Iâ€™m quite keen to see how this whole technology landscape develops, rather than placing my bets now. How can any digital marketer make platform choices with anything other than a dose of guesswork as to what might happen in the future?
Weâ€™re all for providing answers where we can, so what do you do if youâ€™re faced with driving forward your digital marketing agenda, surrounded by (literally) thousands of vendors trying to sell your theirs?
Here are our three tips to navigating that maze without becoming overwhelmed:
TIP 1 – Donâ€™t look at â€˜solutionsâ€™ until youâ€™ve articulated your â€˜problemâ€™
Most vendors are doing some cool stuff that solves all sorts of marketing problems. The thing is, first you need to understand what you fundamental needs are and where youâ€™re missing out. For example, Hubspot is great for generating inbound traffic to your websites using a rich-content strategy, both from a technology and methodology point of view. If generating inbound traffic is your problem, then maybe Hubspot is part of your answer. Salesforce is the leading sales personâ€™s friend for pipeline tracking, but in other areas of their â€˜cloudâ€™ they are arguably weaker than other vendors, at least today.
In a nutshell, I would recommend you donâ€™t look too closely at the shiny product roadmap of any vendor offerings, before you know exactly what youâ€™re looking for.
TIP 2- Check out analyst commentary and speak to a vendor-agnostic advisor
Letâ€™s say you know what the gaps are in your marketing technology. Now you start looking at vendors, maybe using Scottâ€™s landscape above. Every vendor has their own spin on the world, they may be right or wrong, but theyâ€™ll sell you their vision, often somewhat beyond where the current roadmap actually delivers. At this point it pays to surround yourselves with an advisor whoâ€™s seen the offerings of several vendors in your space and can give you objective advice.
The other pre-work we would recommend is building a set of requirements and then comparing solutions against them (using any form of weighted scoring method). Iâ€™ve developed one of these over time and we use our model with clients to make decision making more objective.
TIP 3- Try proof-of-concepts before you commit to a platform
One of the key issues with vendor offerings is that they make you sign you up for a yearâ€™s licence commitment. Â The problem is, itâ€™s hard to prove that the solution will work properly in during the 30-day trial, unless youâ€™re really organised and plan a quick proof-of-concept in that time.
Weâ€™ve spoken to many many clients who have set up a vendor 30-day trial and then barely logged in before it expires.
There are over 3,000 more marketing technology vendors in 2016 than there were 5 years ago. This is causing a tidal-wave of solutions and marketers across the globe are being relentlessly bombarded with messages about how each of these solves the digital marketing challenge.
For sure there are some amazing platforms out there and the boundaries are being pushed forward constantly, but we hope our three tips above help you pause before looking at them and doing your homework first!