This year’s Discover Martech event took place in April as an entirely virtual (and free) event. From keynotes to education sessions, everything was live online, and is now accessible for post-event viewing and catching up—and will be there until October. The event billed itself as a free educational event for senior marketers who want to stay abreast of developments in modern marketing, and understand how to use marketing technology effectively. Our own Jane Waight tuned in to find out more about what Scott Brinker had to say. Here are her key takeaways from the event. 

  1. Covid 19 demands operational flexibility, and has been a ‘wake-up’ call about digital 

Keynote speaker Scott Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist blog, noted that the coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the value of digital.  Percentage investment in both online budget and conversations has increased hugely over the last few months at the expense of face-to-face meetings. Research  from IAB shows that nearly three-quarters of US respondents either stopped or changed their marketing as a result of the pandemic, and operational flexibility is at a premium.

  1. It is essential to balance centralised and decentralised activity to achieve flexibility

One way to achieve flexibility is to find the right balance between centralised and decentralised activity. Scott Brinker suggested that it was particularly important to balance brand authenticity, efficiency and innovation. He felt that this works best when strategy is centralised, but operations are decentralised and flexible. This enables businesses to change rapidly in response to events on the ground. 

  1. Change needs to be central to planning to remain agile 

Change—and constant change, at that—has become almost as much a certainty as death and taxes. This means that organisational leaders must keep change central to planning. Even if the details of the change cannot be predicted, we can make things ‘future-proof’ by designing in ability to change with open platforms and self-service models. These ensure that marketing remains agile and can adapt in response to events. 

  1. The rise of martech has been fuelled by increasing numbers of ‘digital natives’ among marketing teams  

The Martech Careers Survey 2020  reveals that a growing number of marketing professionals are now ‘digital natives’.  Buyers of marketing technology are therefore very software-literate. They also spend on average over 10 hours a week on analytics, meaning that data is an increasingly important part of how marketing works. Marketing operations is increasingly about martech stacks, including providing training and support for new software, improving the process flow and integrating elements of the stack.   

  1. The martech market is increasingly mature—but data is the big growth area   

Over the last nine years, the martech market has expanded by 5,233%, and there are now around 8,000 solutions available, a rise of 13.6% year on year. It is now a near-mature market, with a dominant Top 10 of category leaders, and a long tail of specialist apps. Major martech investments areas are supporting customer engagement in three main areas: data (up 25.5% year on year), management (up 15.2%) and social and relationships (up 13.7%). 

  1. Martech buyers are now looking for ease of use within ecosystems

Scott Brinker suggested that the primary challenge in martech was now shifting from build to buy. He also suggested that there as a move from integration to ease of use within ecosystems, and supporting shared outcomes. Buyers were increasingly demanding apps developed across common platforms. The use of multiple cloud services was also expected to increase.  

  1. Imaginative mapping of martech stacks created a talking point about ‘cool’

‘Cool’ is not always the word most closely associated with martech, or indeed technology of any kind. However, the Stackie Awards 2019, where organisations share visual representations of their martech investment stacks, had people talking about what was cool in marketing. In particular, it highlighted  some interesting themes about how organisations viewed their martech. Several organisations had shown their stack as a version of the digital customer journey, including Red Hat, Cisco and Juniper.

Phillips had also placed customers at the centre, with a ‘love knot’ visual. Other approaches included a periodic table (Next Think), and a planetary system showing investments and processes across earned, paid and owned customers (Poly). Some companies had taken a more channel-based or functional approach. Infutor, for example, had mapped its stack across content, customer, commerce and community. Sargento had looked at channels, logistics and distribution, and the United States Postal Service had focused on marketing activity. 

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