I’ve just spent the last two days at the Martech Europe conference and I have to say it was time well spent. There was lots of great content but for me the biggest insights came from the recurring themes that dominated the event. While not particularly surprising in themselves, it was interesting to hear the extent to which the same sentiments were echoed and reinforced across such an eclectic mix of practitioners. This provided a first-hand barometer of the biggest issues and topics in the industry today.
The main trends I noticed were:
- It’s all about the people. This cropped up in presentations about as often as Uber were name checked. Personnel related challenges were continuously cited as the biggest barrier to change not systems. We must find ways to capture the hearts and minds of our teams and bring them with us on the journey to transform our businesses.
- Marketers must adopt agile principles. Customer expectations are getting higher by the day, the rate of change is growing faster than ever before and will never again move as slowly as it is today. How else can we possibly organise ourselves in order to experiment, innovate and disrupt.
- AI is the next big thing. Forget big data and customer experience, this is now what everyone wants to talk about. It seems that Watson and Einstein are already everywhere. AI tops the agenda for organisations like IBM, Salesforce and Oracle over the next 12 months so expect the noise to get even louder. And given the ever decreasing cycles of adoption we’re all bound to soon have hands on experience. AI will take us to the next level but Scott Brinker warned us that as a result our roles as marketers will become more not less complex. So at least it looks like we won’t be replaced by robots just yet. And whilst is easy to get swept away with the promise of the AI vision I also loved that Doug Kessler, Director of Velocity reminded us not forget to also ‘think small’ and continue to search for the human identified insights.
- The big platform providers took a bashing. Thanks mainly to aggressive marketing they have over promised, over simplified and created confusion by failing to differentiate from their competitors. The tide definitely appeared to be turning against them. The great thing about the Martech Conference is that unlike most, it is not just a glorified sales pitch for everything big and shiny. Not only was there a brilliant talk from Theresa Regli that focused entirely on debunking the myths these vendors perpetuate but we also heard from the alternatives, from David Hurley of Mautic evangelising about why open source platforms are the way forward to Steven Moody, Founding Partner of Beachhead, talking about applying a microservices architecture to marketing technology.
- An all-encompassing single vendor solution is not a realistic option today. The breadth of the technology landscape is too vast even with the further consolidation that’s expected. Yes you may choose to build a central spine around a combination of products from the same suite, but take time to understand exactly what you’re buying, don’t buy more than you need and accept that in all likelihood you’ll have to connect them to a host of point solutions and other types of third party applications that will make up the rest of your stack. Consider what kind of ecosystem exists to make these integrations as easy as possible. To cite Jeremy Waite from IBM, you need to think portfolio not platform.
One thing is certain, there’s lots to do and plenty of challenges ahead and to finish by paraphrasing Scott Brinker himself, there has never been a better time to be a marketing technologist.