A woman taking a picture sitting down among a crowd at the MarTech Conference in Boston.
PHOTO: MarTech Conference/Hill Media Group

BOSTON — About 2,000 professionals in the marketing technology space descended upon the Hynes Convention Center last week for the MarTech Conference to learn more about the growing set of tools used to power marketing and customer experience campaigns. The verdict? Some of them are getting better at things like personalizing customer experiences. No one, however, seems to have all the answers.

"I'm still hearing a lot around personalization," said Lynne Capozzi, chief marketing officer of Boston-based digital experience software provider Acquia. "Some people are a little bit further along than what they were last year for personalization, but some people are still wondering, how do I do it? How do I get started?"

Those people are not alone. We caught up with MarTech attendees about their challenges and focus areas as we head toward 2020.

Murky Waters for Martech, Digital Teams

Sonjai Gupta headshot
Sonjai Gupta

Sonjai Gupta, vice president and head of digital for the Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC), said he is having challenges with finding the right marketing technology mix. Further, defining roles on digital teams — those that touch all aspects of martech — is another hurdle. "There are different owners of digital properties," he said. "And if there is a digital team, then there’s confusion between the additional teams. How do they help? How do they interact with the owners of the other digital properties?"

Gupta said digital teams can gain more clarity, perhaps, by defining these teams as marketing technology and operations. "I think it would be beneficial," he said. "But that's just me thinking after getting inspired by what I've heard here (at MarTech)."

Related Article: How CMOs Can Tame the Martech Beast

Expansion into SMS, Website Personalization

Gupta's teams rely heavily on email marketing and email nurturing. They are looking to expand more into SMS messaging for candidates, especially for those prospects outside the US like China where "email is very hard to use."

They also want to get better at website personalization, taking information they know about somebody and showing them the next best action. "That's something I don't think our tools currently provide," he said.

Cutting Through the Martech Hype

Ania Wieczorek headshot
Ania Wieczorek

Ania Wieczorek, founder of Bowery Analytics, comes at martech from the implementer/consultant angle. Her biggest challenge? Helping teams grapple with their martech stacks and separate the hype from reality. "There are things we may be all reading about," she said, "but are people actually implementing this?" Martech continues to be a crowded space, she said, with "new solutions popping up all the time. People want to know what their options are."

Related Article: Why Digital Asset Management Is Now Officially Martech

CDPs Surging Through Martech

Customer Data Platforms (CDPs) are at the martech forefront, Wieczorek said. "I'd like to better understand what (CDP vendors') challenges are in selling because we're having a hard time explaining it to larger clients," she said. "Why do I need a CDP if I already have a data warehouse, data lake, or I have six other systems that are doing this for basically better understanding of customer data?"

Marketers remain uncertain they need another system for managing customer data. They're managing to get by, but CDP could be an opportunity to "optimize and improve," Wieczorek said. "They have not been successful at having all their data together to really look at the 360 view of what their clients are doing."

Video's Where It's At for Content Marketers

Headshot of Matthew Bushery
Matthew Bushery

How are some trying to make their companies stand out? Matthew Bushery, content marketing manager at BlueConic, said video is where he and his team of content marketers see the industry going. "We're becoming more visual, he said. "Multimedia is kind of transforming at a pretty rapid pace. We're seeing engagement with that kind of content is really amplified more so than traditional text-based content."

Don't get him wrong. SEO, blogs and downloadable assets will be in the content marketer's playbook for the foreseeable future. But a strong way to educate the market about CDPs — which BlueConic sells — is through video. "We're seeing that the best way to educate the audience in the long run is through in-depth videos that explain the product and the concept of CDP."

Related Article: How to Simplify the Martech Stack

Marketers Too Obsessed With Tech

Headshot of Perry Hewitt
Perry Hewitt

Too many marketers and marketing teams are mistaking the means for the ends in martech, according to Perry Hewitt, digital marketing consultant. "People mistake technology as the solution and the panacea, rather than investing in the skills and the leadership required to make the best use of technology and services to meet business goals," Hewitt said. "With marketing technology, they're mistaking the means for the end, getting too immersed in the myriad lumascapes of marketing technology."

Marketing Technologists on Path to C-Suite

What marketing technologists need to know is they have tremendous skills beyond burying themselves in the martech stack. They have "superpowers," in fact, they're not aware of, Hewitt said. They're uniquely positioned to accompany the rise of marketing technology spend with the rise of their careers to enter the C-Suite, Hewitt said. 

Marketing technologists are systems thinkers, data-driven storytellers and can manage through change. "They're great at understanding where they are along that continuum and measuring each campaign to see that," Hewitt said. "And they're also adept at changing through technology and regulation, whether it's GDPR or CCPA. They can manage through extreme change, be that technological, cultural or regulatory, to make them well-suited for the C-Suite."