B2B Solution of the Week: Trends and Successes in Martech Stack Building

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With the recent and rumored announcements by B2B marketing and data analytics providers for cloud solutions that will build on top of Salesforce, Oracle and other SaaS platforms, the multi-relationship model of martech stack-building exists in high relief. And while vendors may be pushing a multi-relationship model, marketers may want to think carefully before pursuing this path, according to analysts.

“In our recent survey of B2B marketers using marketing automation technology we found that 59 percent use only a minority of features on their platforms,” says Andrew Dalglish, co-CEO, Circle Research, a specialist B2B market research agency. “This begs the question of whether they actually need to lay more functionality on top of existing platforms. What’s more, 27 percent say that technology integration is a challenge. Adding more tech to the stack may just compound this (issue).”

Other questions also persist: What are the successful and less-than successful trends in martech stack building? How are B2B companies going about building martech stacks? What are the connections between how they go about it and the recent rash of B2B mergers and acquisitions? B2B News Network recently contacted leading B2B martech experts to get their thoughts on these developments.

3,874 Martech Vendors and Counting?

Over the last years, the marketing stack has grown exponentially, according to Sonjoy Ganguly, Senior Vice President, Product Management, Madison Logic, as he cites Scott Brinker of Chief MarTec, an industry blog. With 3,874 marketing technology (martech) vendors in Brinker’s most recent survey of the martech landscape, managing a fully-loaded marketing stack is an increasingly unwieldy proposition, according to Ganguly.

“Marketers would rather focus on results,” he says, “not deal with complexities of multiple vendors. Most (vendor) stacks give access to many components, but aren’t doing a great job of unifying those components.”

As an account based marketing (ABM) vendor, Madison Logic has seen and felt this proliferation of marketing technologies. And now the countervailing force of market contraction has made itself known.

“While the ABM martech stack contains many different categories, they can basically be boiled down to three types of technologies: data, media, measurement,” Ganguly says. “Data includes many different types of data providers, like lead scoring, audience identification and segmentation, firmographic data and others. Media technologies help you execute data sources across individual media platforms, and measurement technologies help you identify and gauge your success.”

However, while stack consolidation remains necessary to make it easier for marketers, Ganguly feels it’s clear most haven’t figured it out. With approximately 4,000 martech vendors, B2B marketers are more than overwhelmed, in his opinion.

One Martech Platform to Rule Them All?

As the customer journey becomes more complex, marketers must deliver a customized experience across all channels, according to martech experts. That has to include when customers move from mobile to digital to offline engagements.

“This has created need for more sophisticated attribution and analytics that measure each of these interactions, and provide relevant data to optimize marketing spend and customer experience,” says Julia Stead, director, demand generation, Invoca, a call intelligence integration provider. “A key trend is the ever increasing volume of specialized martech solutions available to B2B marketers. While marketers adopt more sophisticated point solutions, they are also moving toward a streamlined, consolidated martech stack.”

Stead and other industry participants feel the dichotomy between individual martech solutions and foundational platforms will continue. But the trend remains toward marketers only running one main application—whether Salesforce, Oracle, Adobe or another solution—with the individual technologies operating atop that. For example, ABM vendor Terminus has already begun the soft launch of ABM Cloud, which seeks to help marketers understand the ABM software product landscape and select best-in-class tools across functions, according to Lauren Patrick, Terminus spokesperson.

Strategy before Purchase

With so many B2B marketing technology companies, immense confusion can abound when creating a martech stack. If marketers acquire technology simply to create an ad hoc martech stack, it will lead to wasted dollars, according to experts. In contrast, ABM has quickly become a strategy of choice as marketers look beyond single target buyers and seek to address the highest value accounts in aggregate, according to Peter Isaacson, CMO, Demandbase, one of the ABM pioneers.

“When building an ABM stack, most companies start with infrastructure tech including marketing automation and CRM systems such as Oracle Eloqua and Salesforce,” Isaacson says. “Marketers can then customize the combination of technologies for their needs and consider how each solution will achieve account selection, attraction, engagement, conversion, account-based sales development and measurement.”

Platforms in Search of Integration Partners

Other martech observers see that big cloud computing purveyors such as Microsoft and SAP have yet to create martech platforms in any substantial way. Although, Microsoft and Apttus did announce a partnership earlier in 2016.

“Microsoft and SAP: they have been trying to piece together (a martech platform) in a meaningful way for years,” says Nikki Roche, Marketing Product Portfolio Director, Bisk, a provider of B2B corporate and other learning solutions. “They are like giants trying to play with a mixed set of Legos, TinkerToys and Lincoln Logs. They bought quality parts, but they don’t fit together well. They are duplicative and aren’t meant for big, rough hands.”

While Roche thought Marketo would have made the perfect marketing automation acquisition for Microsoft, obviously that won’t happen now—at least not at the moment. “Microsoft has not chosen its automation partner for Dynamics CRM yet,” Roche says. “Many surmised it would be Marketo, who just went private in a definitive act to remain the marketer’s choice.”

Driving Force behind Martech Platforms?

If you accept the point of view of some martech practitioners, the martech stack building phenomenon traces its origins straight to the inflection point where CMOs began to have more technology budget than CIOs. B2B News Network has written about this martech paradigm shift before. And other authorities share this perception.

“The driving force behind consolidation and opportunistic acquisition is the ongoing transition of power—and budget—in enterprise companies from the CIO to the CMO,” says Neil Lustig, CEO, Sailthru, a customer retention cloud provider. “CMOs own the customer journey, and they have the data, the insight and, more recently, the budget. As such, thousands of venture-backed startups are chasing a piece of that pie.”

For example, Responsys was profitable before its acquisition by Oracle, while Marketo likely could have become profitable before being acquired by Vista, according to Lustig. Like Roche, the expectation of Lustig remains that larger players Microsoft and SAP will likely pursue the startups chasing this martech stack pie—as well as HP, IBM and CA.

“I would not be surprised to see new acquirers enter the market, including large ad agencies and systems integrators,” Lustig says. “Marketing is hard enough without creating your own monster of multiple point-solution integrations, and so CMOs will seek platforms over point solutions.”

Ultimate Success of Martech Stacks

Successfully identifying, targeting and measuring B2B customers is only amplified by the nature of cooperation between individual applications in a single, unified multi-relationship cloud, according to those in the know.

The ability to manage leads, opportunities and accounts in a single source of truth enhances collaboration between the sales and marketing teams,” says Maria Pergolino, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing, Apttus, quote-to-cash solution provider. “Its success will be measured in increased brand awareness, quality and quantity of pipeline developed and sales deals closed and won.”

Future of B2B marketing technology stacks are heavily influenced by the latest trends and technologies on the market, given the influx of technologies and data available to ingest, compared to 10 years ago, according to the experts.

“Massive quantities of data in CRM and external systems such as ad platforms represent tremendous possibilities for improving target account selection, contact coverage and message personalization,” says Shari Johnston, Senior Vice President, Marketing, Radius, B2B predictive analytics provider. “At the same time, this increase of data and subsequent uptick in technology options has influenced the B2B buying landscape.”

Therefore, the B2B buying process now requires additional stakeholders to make sure that new technology purchases play nicely with existing systems, according to Johnston.

 

 

Photo credit: Kris Schulze

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Derek Handova

Derek Handova

Derek Handova is a veteran journalist writing on various B2B vertical beats. He started out as associate editor of Micro Publishing News, a pioneer in coverage of the desktop publishing space and more recently as a freelance writer for Digital Journal, Economy Lead (finance and IR beats) and Intelligent Utility (electrical transmission and distribution beats).