MarTech IQ: Conference Roundup

Feb 10, 2017


A few weeks ago, I attended the AdAge IQ Marketing Technology Conference in New York. The conference brought together thought leaders who have spent time navigating the space as industry experts or brand marketers who are tasked to use technology applications to help grow their brands.

The conference was focused on growing your IQ in the MarTech space and illuminating the areas that marketers might ignore. After the conference, I couldn’t help but think that the MarTech problems we are facing are not really MarTech problems at all, but something much bigger. Technology alone is not enough to solve marketing problems—there are countless examples of great technology that gets implemented, but marketers get frustrated when the technology doesn’t solve their problems or isn’t making a difference. The challenges are still grounded in the need to build a customer-centric organization.

Companies that will find success in navigating MarTech are the same companies that put customers’ needs first and align their entire organization to meeting and exceeding those needs. The heart of the problem still lies in knowing who your customers are, understanding their implicit and explicit needs, and enabling the organization to provide the experiences that best show customers that you know them.

So what is being ignored in MarTech? Here is my perspective:


If I asked you who owns the customer experience within your organization, what would be your answer? The typical answers are Marketing, Customer Support, User Experience, Operations and sometimes the answer is “I’m not sure!” The reality is that every single function in your organization contributes to CX. With MarTech, it’s not any different. It takes a cross-functional approach to integrate data and technology and align it with the overall brand and business strategy. Mayur Gupta of Spotify calls this a war between the CMO and CIO, but aptly points out that war is taking focus off the customer.


The MarTech landscape is creating siloes of data, siloes within organizations, and fragmented views of the customer. Technology integration won’t solve this. In fact, the only thing that can break down the siloes is data. And by data, I mean a single source of truth that encompasses research and behavioral knowledge that strategically informs an organization’s actions, ultimately impacting consumer emotion, action, and choice. The best technology in the world won’t solve customer challenges if the wrong data is being used or if the strategy isn’t informed by insight.


There are many discussions happening about the changing dynamics of the marketing organization, notably the addition of a Marketing Technologist on staff. I like Scott Brinker’s perspective on this—not everyone in the marketing organization has to be a technologist. However, technology talent should be part of the marketing team. There is a powerful triad created when you combine marketing/business strategy, technology, and data. While the focus is on the linkages between marketing and technology, you can’t be successful without data.


There is a lot of discussion happening around machine learning and artificial intelligence as being the next analytical revolution. However, humans can see things that these machines can’t. Baker Lambert of TBWA states “people produce insights, not machines.” He takes it a step further to say that technology should be used to empower people to get better and quicker insights. I couldn’t agree more! Considering that insights are often coupled with strategy, humans are necessary to the equation.


While we see the major players building their integrated marketing suites, the 2017 Walker Sands State of Technology Report states that best-of-breed technology stacks are two times more popular than single vendor suites. But selecting the right technology solution starts with building good requirements and knowing where the vendor fits into your IT blueprint. Often times the requirements are built from a channel perspective with little regard to how the technology will integrate with other systems to support a seamless, multi-channel customer journey.

There is no doubt about it—the focus on MarTech is becoming more and more complex the faster it changes. With customer dynamics changing and the rise of the Internet of Things, organizations must adopt the fact that there is no black and white technology solution to all of this. If anything, the solution starts with the customer and the 0s and 1s that make each customer unique.