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With more than 950 digital marketing vendors now offering software and services in about 40 categories, it's getting harder for marketing executives to blend the right mix for their companies.

More and more, they rely on experts like James McCormick, senior analyst for consumer intelligence (CI) at Forrester Research, for guidance. Speaking yesterday at the Ensighten Agility 2014 conference in San Francisco, he outlined the challenges and strategies for marketers making those choices.

Mapping Vendors

McCormick provided a five-tier blueprint or map he developed to help companies assess their capabilities, existing use of vendors and the gaps they need to fill. Overlaying that with those 950 vendors, he said, can help marketers choose which vendors to add, which products to keep and which to cut loose.

It's a good approach in a market that seems to grow daily. Just yesterday, Ensighten CEO Josh Manion told the 400 attendees at the conference that his company — which last week secured $40 million in series B financing — is adding  four new products: Activate, which helps customers scale their efforts; Pulse, to ID and track customers across channels; Ensighten One, to help collect and "activate" data; and Manage, which monitors and responds to tag-management issues.

CMSWire caught up with McCormick after his appearance and asked the British researcher to summarize his thoughts on key topics facing digital marketers.

CMSWire: What's your research specialty at Forrester?

McCormick: I focus my research on the customer insights professional, which is the professional in a large organization who manage customer data and utilize value-add. So it could be the CRM professional, a data scientist, the digital marketer. I specifically focus on the digital marketing aspects, how we can use customer data to inform customer interactions, to improve customer experience, and to make better decisions.

CMSWire: In speaking with companies, what is the greatest challenge to them right now?

McCormick: The greatest challenges are the evolving customers and the way they are empowered to engage with us. It's all about the way digital is giving them power they didn't have before. So, A, we need to evolve our organizations around that customer, around their thinking. And, B, there are things like the multiple masses of data that we have that we can plug together to understand our customers.

CMSWire: There are some 950-plus vendors in this field. It's awfully confusing to marketers. How can your clients cut through that clutter?