A Marketing Technology Retrospective: Where It's Been, Where It's Going, and Why You Need It Now

Marketing Technology: Where It's Been, Where It's Going, and Why You Need It Now

Most marketers are familiar with ad guru John Wanamaker's famous axiom: Half the money you spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is figuring out which half. Today's CMO could be forgiven a similar reaction when approaching the vast proliferation of marketing technologies available today. As Scott Brinker's 2015 Marketing Technology Supergraphic illustrates, the martech landscape has grown from 100 emerging products, such as Moz and Bizo in 2011, to over 7,000 products in 2019. How do CMOs know where to direct their marketing technology dollars to get the best return on investment?

The Evolution of Marketing Technology

The Evolution of Marketing Technology

The earliest marketing technologies were born in the 1980s when computers gained the capacity to store huge amounts of customer data. Pioneered by Robert and Kate Kestenbaum, who founded ACT!, a contact management company, these early, rudimentary CRMs were little more than a digital Rolodex. However, these databases fundamentally transformed the relationship between consumer and company by giving companies the tools to track their customers in a whole new way.

In the '90s, growth in CRMs, known as SFAs (Sales Force Automation) at the time, exploded when major players such as Oracle, Baan, and SAP entered the market. These competitive players forced new innovations, including sales, marketing, and servicing applications. In 1999, as the Internet emerged as a powerful player, the CRM evolved into a dynamic tool that could aggregate vast amounts of customer data to understand better and predict customer behaviour. The year 1999 also saw the first software as a service (SaaS) marketing solution come to fruition.

Early in the 21st century, digital behaviour shifted the marketing landscape dramatically. The Internet put more information in the hands of consumers; in fact, most of them researched products and services and progressed through the purchasing decision long before they ever contacted a salesperson. In 2007, companies jumped into the breach with the first marketing automation solutions.

Social media was also born during this tumultuous time; LinkedIn emerged in 2002, followed by Yelp, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, all in just four short years. Today's consumers have gone from tech-savvy to tech-dependent, spending an average of 11 hours online each day. Mobile use is also growing exponentially: 67 percent of people regularly check their smartphones whether they get an alert or not and 44 percent sleep with them.

Today, new marketing technology is flooding the market, and there are niche players that address every possible digital marketing need. Overall, 66 percent of digital marketing executives believe they need marketing technology to compete, and 60 percent plan to increase their martech spend in the next year.

Types of Marketing Technologies

Brinker's complex and rather intimidating infographic aside, marketing technology can be separated into three broad but interlinked categories, or "buckets," that move across the customer experience. These "buckets" are:

  • Media distribution

  • Post-click experience 

  • Marketing operations

Media Distribution

Media distribution technology focuses on getting eyes on the content. Experienced marketers have noticed it's increasingly difficult to get their content in front of their target audience; Facebook isn't shy about announcing its goal to reduce organic reach to at or below 1 percent. Pay to play is the norm in social media.

Post-Click Experience

Post-click experience marketing technologies are designed to improve the customer experience once they engage with a brand by clicking on an ad, responding to an email, or engaging with any content marketing strategies; in essence, the post-click experience optimizes the space between click and conversion. Landing page generators, microsites, content marketing systems, design technologies, deep links, and conversion paths fall into this category.

Marketing Operations

Marketing operations technology includes marketing automation systems, dashboard analytics, CRMs, and digital marketing systems (DMS). Customers are won and lost based on their experience with a brand on the Internet. According to B2B and B2C research, 67 percent of a buyer's decision-making process occurs online. And the ChiefMarTec.com blog reports that over 50 percent of lost sales are due to failures in the sales enablement process.

For most CMOs, the correct approach to marketing technology includes a "marketing stack." Marketing stacks give executives a set of tools to manage and integrate all aspects of their data collection and digital marketing strategies and ultimately improve the customer experience. Companies pick and choose products from one or more technology "buckets" to create a martech portfolio that advances critical marketing priorities.

Potential Benefits of Implementing Marketing Technologies

Marketing technology focused on improved media distribution such as remarketing and retargeting are valuable to a company's martech portfolio because they reduce the overall cost per impression, increase conversion rates, and in general lead to a greatly enhanced return on investment. These platforms handle the technical details like earmarking visitors, monitoring their behaviour, and predicting customer intent. Some platforms boast returns of $10 for each dollar spent on enhanced distribution strategies.

Optimising the post-click experience is key to successful marketing campaigns; post-click platforms direct click-throughs from targeted ads to a company's lead gen and customer acquisition programs. Traditional landing pages featuring a hero shot, a bulleted list, a call to action, and a form have dismal performance metrics: About 96 percent of landing page visitors leave without responding to the offer.

Perhaps the most powerful tool in the marketing operations arsenal is marketing automation platforms; it is the fastest-growing technology in the CRM-related segment over the past five years. Statistically, 77 percent of companies investing in marketing automation see a return on investment in 12 months or fewer. Companies who use marketing automation have a 53 percent higher conversion rate and see a 70 percent reduction in the length of the sales cycle.

How to Know Which Marketing Technology Is Right for Your Business

CMO's are bombarded with vendor information touting the benefits of various martech platforms. The overarching goal of any advanced marketing technology stack is to improve the experience of potential and existing customers, but this can get lost in the pressure to embrace the latest technology or risk being left behind competitors.

The Harvard Business Review suggests evaluating any martech decision based on answers to the following five questions:

  • Will the technology address a critical marketing need? Too often, tech decisions are siloed to various marketing teams who make channel-specific choices that fail to account for overall organisational needs, leading to short-sighted technology investments that complicate rather than streamline marketing processes.

  • Will the platform add balance to the martech portfolio? Most successful marketing technology stacks draw from each of the three categories above to create a balanced approach; the technology mix is based on the company's unique marketing challenges.

  • Is the organisation culturally positioned to embrace change? Changing long-held beliefs and behaviours requires a deep commitment to the new technology. There must be strong buy-in and a committed management team to implement process change successfully.

  • Can existing workflows integrate the new technology? Overhauling core processes affect the technology's overall return on investment and overall value to the organisation.

  • Do users have the right skill set to benefit from the new technology? Understanding the need for training, support, and even additional personnel leads to a more realistic tech assessment and more accurately reflects the cost-to-benefit analysis of the new technology.

Because of the proliferation of marketing technology tools, organisations of all sizes can find platforms scaled to their needs. Social media marketers, for example, can choose a post-click experience tool combined with a content management system. Smaller organisations may benefit most from a cloud-based CRM and dashboard analytics. Once key marketing goals are identified, choosing the right martech portfolio becomes less challenging. 

In Short

The marketing technology field has come a long way from the earliest digital customer databases and fledgeling CRMs. Today's CMOs can choose from powerful integrated platforms and tools to pinpoint every aspect of a digital marketing campaign. From creating and managing content for inbound marketing campaigns to driving conversions with landing page generators and microsites, CMOs can create a marketing technology stack to address every challenge in digital marketing processes.

Marketing technology is not this century's newest technology fad; it is a proven solution that delivers measurable results, lowering the cost per acquisition, increasing campaign effectiveness, and driving qualified and engaged leads. Today, solutions exist that can be scaled to any size business or digital marketing business. There's never been a better time to explore marketing technology platforms and see how they can improve the effectiveness of your marketing activities.

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