The after-effects of the recent MarTech conference in San Francisco linger on. Between the strong speakers, fireside chats and diverse set of attendees, the event has already provided a point of departure for many a conversation on the state of marketing technology.

And beyond that -- as witnessed from colleagues, peers and personal experience -- it's sparked some needed soul-searching within the industry.

Marketing Technology is vast, diverse and rapidly evolving. Scott Brinker's Marketing Technology Landscape Infographic serves as a regular reminder of just how quickly martech has evolved. 

In such a fast-paced industry, there isn't always time to take in the big picture. With this event, Brinker offered that opportunity: two days to take a step back, take a deep breath and look at where we are with marketing technology.

As is typical of good events, I'm left with many questions, but also some key takeaways: 

The Existence of MarTech is No Longer Up for Discussion

It might seem obvious to attendees, but let's not forget that the existence of "marketing technology" was not always a given. Just like the marketing technologist's emergence, the acknowledgment that marketing and technology have a shared goal in the organization -- the creation of a cohesive customer experience -- is a recent phenomena.

The MarTech conference's packed attendance and speaker list can once and for all lay this debate to rest. So we know martech exists, but how do we best implement it? As Kanban Solutions' EVP, Client and Marketing Development, Philip Wisniewski pointed out,

"The attendees, at least those that we met, included director, VP and C-levels. This level of attendee suggests that marketing technology has evolved from the world of hands-on practitioners to executive-led strategy, making marketing technology a boardroom agenda."

'If You Build it, They Will Come' is Not a MarTech Strategy

As technology vendors, it's our job to innovate. We're building cutting-edge, scalable products that anticipate our customers' demands (sometimes before they realize what those demands are). But as we look across the martech horizon, we shouldn't lose sight of the immediate, fundamental needs of our customers.

Building innovative software is not enough. If our enterprise customers are to truly transform their organizations with martech, they need time and practical advice on how to use our software to put customer experience strategies into practice. Vendors shouldn't take for granted the internal advocacy and organizational change that often comes with decisions to implement our products.

As Marriott's Senior Director of Digital Data Strategy and Distribution, Meg Walsh rightly pointed out to us, events like MarTech should offer pragmatic guidance on customer journey mapping, customer segmentation and the steps needed to truly bring departments on board for designing multichannel digital experiences. She felt that that was missing at the event.  

Survival of the Fittest Demands Best of Breed

The best of breed versus suite question came up time and again during the conference, and the conclusions were quite consistent. As Battery Ventures General Partner Neeraj Agrawal pointed out in the VC fireside chat, the rate of martech's expansion makes it crucial for vendors to prioritize interoperability, agility and flexibility in order to remain relevant as the landscape expands.

No one blueprint exists for the designing the digital experience, and needs change over time. Customers need full control to innovate, working with systems in ways that meet their specific needs. Enterprise customers should also keep best of breed in mind when selecting software vendors. As my colleague Joanna Madej points out, "to truly enable agile business strategy," marketing technology "should be scalable and easy to integrate with whichever tools the evolving brand experience demands."

Philip Wisniewski adds,

data and content integration is now at the core of any marketing technology strategy.  As backbones in the marketing technology stack, CMS, commerce and marketing automation platforms must be open, provide a strong integration layer and allow for the aggregation and application of data to deliver rich, engaging and personalized experiences. "

Relevant Content is a Priority Across the Board

Regardless of the sub-category of marketing technology, the need to deliver context-aware, personalized content is non-negotiable. Bain Capital Ventures Managing Director, Ajay Agarwal put it well when he said, "the hottest thing in the industry right now is making sure you deliver the right content to the right audience."

As I've written before, we should see marketing technology as more than a driver of growth through new business. Marketing technology is equally responsible for aftercare, and providing the kind of increasingly relevant experiences to returning visitors that keep them coming back. It's here again that interoperability, and hooking into data sources across systems, becomes crucial to creating a holistic digital experience across the customer journey. 

Marketing and Tech Share MarTech

A highlight of the two day event, and great closing session came in the form of a fireside chat between EMC's Chief Marketing Officer Jonathan Martin, and Dun and Bradstreet's CMO Rishi Dave. The conversation between these two technology-oriented CMOs put the impact of martech's evolution in perspective.

Whether it's a cause or an indicator of increased collaboration between marketing and IT (though I suspect it's both), the evolution of marketing technology is putting the often discussed tech vs. marketing rivalry to rest. As integrated marketing technology becomes the understood and accepted framework for designing the customer experience -- the shared ownership of CX finds a natural fit between departments.

"The days of the Chief Megaphone Officer," as Jonathan Martin explained, "are over." Now that digital marketing has become increasingly about listening, reliance on data and analytics is as much a concern for marketing as for IT. Marketing technology divides the tasks to facilitate innovation for each: IT ingests data into the data lake, having orchestrated the ideal architecture for its collection, while marketing analyzes data, and adjusts strategy accordingly.

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License Title image by  Grand Canyon NPS