Martech’s New Horizons: Insights on the 2018 Marketing & Technology Landscape

By now, we all know about martech – that is, the intersection and blending of marketing and technology as a business function – and the role it plays in today’s commercial landscape. From marketing automation and CRM, to social media monitoring and ad technology, martech solutions range from the essential, mission critical platforms we’ve all come to rely on, to the cutting edge of tech apps that help us imagine new marketing horizons.

But it’s the size and scope of the industry that should begin to interest us, as its proliferation and complexity presents both real potential and  real challenges.

One way to get a sense of the martech industry’s scope is through the annual “Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic,,’ or the Martech 5000. The infographic, produced each year by  blogger Cheifmartech,  depicts the martech space – charting nearly 7,000 solutions from 6,200+ separate vendors in 2018. This year’s is the largest landscape to-date – its size is equivalent to all of the marketing tech landscapes assembled from 2011 through 2016 added together.

Joining in the effort to dissect and make sense of the growth of martech is Stein IAS’s 2018 report on Martech in B2B.  In it, the authors ask CMOs, VPs, and marketing directors about their experience and challenges with martech, and their expectations for either a continued rise in its importance or an eventual leveling off. We’ve summed up a few of our biggest takeaways from the report below.

Martech doesn’t strain the creative marketing muses

The authors point to the common perception that modern marketing – with its emphasis on AI, measurement, and attribution – is fundamentally different from traditional marketing’s creative, emotional, and psychological bent. Back in 2004, writer Eric Schmitt referred to this difference as “Left Brain Marketing,” predicting a skew away from creative marketing roots in the wake of marketers’ demand for measureability.

The prediction proved true, with (according to one study) more than 22% of today’s overall marketing budgets allocated toward martech solutions designed to measure, map, and automate marketing efforts. But interviewees insist that the rise of martech has not meant the demise of creative marketing efforts aimed at emotionally resonant content. One perspective is that performance-tracking tech simply doesn’t inhibit the creative process. Still, others contend that martech actually enables creativity, by providing systematic ways to safely test new, even “crazy,” ideas and run with the ones that work.

A lack of focus on integration and consolidation may be hurting strategic consensus building

According to the report, the average martech stack varies between 15-50 platforms, and marketers seem almost universally eager to reduce this number. Several interviewees call for consolidation in the martech industry, indicating that it has to happen in order for investment to continue to make sense:

“There has been a huge proliferation of martech providers. Sooner or later, it will have to consolidate. But we have not reached the pinch point yet.” Interviewee, Stein IAs Report

In lieu of industry-wide consolidation lies integration, which brings its own unique set of challenges. Even with the very best team that has the right skills to optimize your stack, the breakneck speed with which vendors are expanding functionality means that integration is still difficult. CMO’s need a clear, direct line of sight of these changes and also of what the range of options are in real time.

Without effective integration, it seems that firm-wide consensus building is at risk. One interviewee  reports needing better management and control over  separate divisions that access different platforms within the stack for decision-making. There are also regional differences across global marketing teams that result in varied utilization of martech solutions. A breakdown in internal dialogue with sales, the c-suite, and other stakeholders proves to be a major obstacle in realizing martech’s potential and proving its worth, which brings us to our next takeaway…

We know its necessary, we just don’t always know how to prove it.

Despite its challenges, martech isn’t going anywhere. As one interviewee stated, at this point “to think that using the newest [martech] is optional is a  flawed premise.” But unlocking the potential of martech goes hand in hand with demonstrating ROI on martech investment, which, especially in the case of poorly-integrated stacks, can be a real obstacle. This becomes clear when platform adoption and launch fail to sync with actual sales cycles. In this scenario evaluation can only take place on a case-by-case basis, rather than holistically, which doesn’t always provide a clear picture of value.

Despite martech solutions’ ability to measure marketing goals and output, the tension seems to still lie in the intersection between tech performance and a true understanding of the consumer. As one interviewee puts it:

“The challenge for marketers is to understand what real value [martech solutions] might add. Looking at the breadth of the martech landscape does not keep me awake at night, but wondering whether we understand our customers’ needs now, and as they develop, does.” Interviewee, Stein IAS Report

To read the full Martech B2B Report, click here.

View the 2018 Martech Landscape Supergraphic here, or click here to complete the form to download the excel version.

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