The flooded market was represented in Scott Brinker's latest Marketing Technology Landscape, which determined there were 947 marketing software vendors out there split into 43 categories around six major classes.
And we trust the landscape's even bigger than that. Brinker himself admitted as much in an interview today with CMSWire.
Too Crowded? Much Too Crowded?
"It is a very crowded landscape," conceded Brinker, author of the Chief Marketing Technologist Blog and co-founder and chief technology officer of ion interactive, a company that provides marketing software for creating and testing post-click experiences. "And the truth is that there are many more great companies offering marketing software that I failed to include. So it's even bigger than this graphic would suggest."
The song that keeps popping into our heads with Brinker's Supergraphic is the No. 1 1967 hit, "Expressway To Your Heart" by Soul Survivors. The Blues Brothers have an awesome version.
The lyrics from 47 years ago are telling for today's marketing landscape:
At five o'clock it's much too crowded (Too crowded)
Much too crowded (Too crowded)
Much too crowded (Too crowded)
Too crowded for me
Couldn't get through to you baby
Oh, it's too crowded
Just like marketing software vendors, right? And Brinker told us he expects it to grow, rather than contract, for at least the next several years.
"The downside of such a crowded field is that it can be overwhelming when considered in its entirety," Brinker said. "But the upside is that marketers ultimately stand to benefit from all these different companies competing with better ideas and/or better pricing models."
Scott Brinker's Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic (2014).
Better Ideas, Better Competition
And therein lies the key phrase: "better ideas."
We tend to agree. Crowded? Sure is, but that's a good thing. What's better for a capitalistic society than fair market competition? It's a "the more, the merrier" economy, where even the big boys like Oracle, Salesforce and SAP must be on their toes with companies like Marketo and Demandbase getting bigger and better.
We're sure digital marketers have pain medicine at the ready these days from vendor software migraines. And have you ever walked around some of these marketing conventions? You don't need Bourbon to feel a little woozy after the endless pitches and demos.
By the way, it's funny, isn't it, how all of them are the "leaders" of digital marketing software? Pretty cool. 947 software vendors. 947 leaders.
In all seriousness, every single vendor should be applauded for diving in. It reminds me of lobstering off the coast of Gloucester, Mass., with my father: each year, there were more lobster buoys with which to contend, and more incentive for creatively and effectively setting our traps.
Why? A. To catch lobsters. B. To not get tangled with the next guy's lines.
We never backed away. Just kept on fishing -- just not through fog, of course.
Same with these vendors. They're in, and they're trying to catch their own lobsters -- the digital marketer on the hunt for technology that's going to help them do their job better.
Approaching a Packed Market
If I'm a digital marketer in the market for technology, what's the first thing I do? What are some steps to take toward making the right tech purchase for my organization?
"I think it's helpful to have a broad overview of the marketing technology landscape out there, just so you're aware of the possibilities," Brinker said. "But I'm a firm believer that customer value propositions should drive marketing strategy -- and then that strategy should be used to evaluate which technologies would be useful in achieving that."
Of course, we all want the best for our organizations or, as Brinker puts it, the "perfect marketing technology stack for your company."
Instead, he offers, take a more pragmatic approach: start by using a smaller number of products well and then slowly expand your tool portfolio.
Weeding Out the Frauds
But with so many vendors out there, how can a prospective digital marketer really distinguish the good, the bad, the phony and the legitimate?
Case studies, recommendations from peers and analysts and hands-on trials are all good ways to confirm that a product is legitimate, Brinker told us.
"I also think that companies who are doing great content marketing -- producing materials that you find helpful, even if you're not a customer -- are often worth a look," he added.
Remember, though: marketing is marketing, no matter the technology components. You need to find customers and find memorable ways to engage them, as Brinker puts it.
"That mission transcends any particular channel or tactic or technology used to achieve it," he said.
That being said, Brinker added, now that we're operating in a digital world, marketing teams must have skills that can really leverage the digital environment.
"Technology management is part of that," Brinker said. "But it's also important to have good analytics skills to interpret all the data that digital offers marketers. It's also immensely valuable to intertwine great creative and design skills in the context of these new tools."
Bottom line? Everybody's got to be on their toes today in the marketing software industry. Digital marketers and, of course, the vendors themselves.
The vendors -- all 947 of them -- can heed other lyrics from "Expressway To Your Heart":
I was wrong
It took too long
I got caught in a rush hour
Fellows started to shower
you with love and affection
Now you won't look at my direction
Getting caught in rush hour with 946 other drivers heading to the same place is not optimal in this industry.
Title image by blvdone (Shutterstock).