Marketing Technology: Is “Implosion” Where We’re Headed?

A chart of just some of the major marketing technology platforms -- and this is as of 2013!
A chart of just some of the major marketing technology platforms — and this was in 2013!

It seems that with each passing day, one or two new technology products are announced by MediaPost and other publishers in the marketing field.

The numbers tell the story. The marketing technology industry website lists nearly 1,900 marketing technology vendors in more than 40 categories.

That’s nearly double last year’s tally of around 950 vendors.

Software clearinghouse Capterra lists even more: a whopping 3,000+ marketing technology products across 30 categories.

These firms account for well over $20 billion in financing – the dollars that can be tracked, that is – including around 30 companies that are valued at $1 billion or more each.

That’s a lot of companies and vendors. Of course, there are many customers who are looking for tech-driven marketing solutions as well.  The question is whether things have gotten out of balance.

Business writer and marketing tech specialist Malcom Friedberg thinks so. He’s Chief Marketing Officer at CleverTap, and he also publishes columns on a variety of business topics.

In Friedberg’s view, the sheer number of marketing technology vendors and products means that the segment may now be on the brink of an implosion.

Friedman references a recent CMO Council document that reports that more than 80% of marketers are using as many as ten different marketing-related technologies or cloud solutions.

And as new technologies are added, the problem is finding educated staff – and enough hours in the day – to cover all of these products well. In many instances, users may be just scratching the surface of what these products can provide; the “multiple hat” dynamics of many marketing departments mean that very few people qualify as being “advanced” users.

The problems boil down to this: Even if a department has two or three marketing people devoted exclusively to tech-related responsibilities (at tall order in most companies) – this assumes that those people can work equally well on multiple different platforms.

The reality is quite different. It’s more like a big jumble – with consultants brought in to sort things out.  It may get the job done, but it isn’t pretty – and it’s hardly a recipe for “the best of best practices.”

Survey work by the CMO Council supports this hypothesis. The Council has found that fewer than on in ten of the marketers it surveyed reported that they possess a highly evolved digital marketing model that has a proven, clear path of evolution.

Malcolm Friedberg
Malcolm Friedberg

Friedman thinks he knows where things are heading. Not to more choices, but rather to less:

“In my opinion, we’ll start to see massive consolidation and uber-marketing systems. Think super-integrated marketing and advertising clouds … the preoccupation with ‘best-of-breed’ in every category will be replaced by a ‘tree-and-branch’ model, with one core technology and a few ‘good enough’ complementary ones.”

Friedman calls it “an expensive French meal” instead of “a Vegas buffet.” While there will always be new products promising incremental improvements, he predicts that by 2020, the common business model will be super-integrated marketing and advertising clouds as we see already with the likes of Marketo and Hubspot.

What do you think? Is Friedman onto something … or is the orgy of new marketing technology products going to continue unabated?  Please share your thoughts with other viewers here.

HubSpot’s Marketing Predictions: Hits and Misses

soothsayingOne of the things I like about SaaS inbound marketing firm HubSpot is the steady stream articles and white papers the company publishes on varied facets of marketing and communications. 

They’re often quite meaty and beneficial as informational resources.

Moreover, HubSpot isn’t afraid to go out on a limb and render a pretty strong “point of view” about various factors and trends in the fast-evolving marketing world.

The risk is that some of those perspectives can end up being “off” – or looking even a bit silly – in retrospect. 

But more often than not, HubSpot’s trendspotting is on the money.

Marketing Prediction Hits & Misses (HubSpot)Here’s a case in point:  HubSpot’s team of analysts made a number of marketing predictions for the year 2013.  Recently, it revisited those predictions to judge whether they’d turned out to be on the mark or not.

These are HubSpot’s 2013 marketing predictions that it feels were on target: 

  • Content and social will matter even more for search engine optimization.
  • Stop-and-start campaigns will fade, and real-time will be ‘in.’
  • E-mail will live on.
  • Inbound marketing will spread enterprise-wide.

At the same time, four other marketing predictions for 2013 didn’t pan out so well, as underscored by HubSpot’s own cheeky editorial commentary about them:

  • Mobile or bust … “Not so hot.”
  • Marketing becomes accountable for revenue generation … “Meh.”
  • ‘Big data’ becomes real for businesses … “Nope.”
  • Print is dead … “Not even close.”

HubSpot’s post-mortem discussion points on these “misses” are interesting.  Quoting from its report:

  • Mobile or bust:  “Customers pay attention to multiple screens … and smart marketers capture attention by adding value wherever a consumer pays attention  … we need to be prepared, not by targeting just [mobile] but by embracing them all according to our specific customers and data.”
  • Marketing becomes accountable for revenue generation:  “The biggest challenge … has been proving ROI.       Even more frustrating … has been the lack of sales and marketing alignment in many companies.  Tracking can also get tricky, thanks to trying to reach fragmented digital audiences against so many channels … As much as lots of us really want this prediction to be a hit, it’s still largely aspirational.”
  • ‘Big data’ becomes real:  “Big data remains mainly a buzzword to many companies and markets — and continues to be more of a prediction than a reality …”
  • Print is dead:  “Saying ‘print is dead’ has lost pretty much all of its roots in reality … nor will it die in the next few years.”

Ever intrepid, HubSpot isn’t shying aware from new forecasts for 2014.  Looking forward, what do its analysts predict for this year?

  • Podcasting will continue to grow substantially.
  • Marketing departments will become more like engineering departments.
  • Social listening tools will gain context and get smarter.
  • The economy will become highly collaborative.
  • Marketers will become more holistic and less channel-focused.

And one more HubSpot prediction that’s a particular favorite of mine:

We’ll check back again a year from now to see how well HubSpot’s prognosticators fared this time around.

What types of word terms perform best in social media?

Words that sell in social mediaEver since the rise of social media platforms, marketers have wondered if the terms and phrases that generate the best response in direct marketing also perform as well in the social arena.

One reason why:  There have been plenty of experts emphasizing how consumers don’t wish to be “sold” in their social interactions, but instead prefer to develop a relationship of give-and-take with brands.

Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist at HubSpot
Dan Zarrella, Social Media Scientist at HubSpot

Now we have some empirical analysis to guide us, conducted by Dan Zarrella, a social media scientist at SaaS inbound marketing firm HubSpot based on reviewing ~200,000 links containing tweets.

Mr. Zarrella found that the tweets that contain more verbs and adverbs experience higher clickthrough rates than noun- and adjective-heavy tweets.

Zarrella’s research also found that when social media posts ask for an explicit action on the part of the recipient, that tends to increase clicks and engagement.

For instance, retweets are three times more likely to happen when people are specifically requested to do so.

Interestingly, the most “retweetable” words in the HubSpot analysis turn out to be the same terms that do well in e-mail marketing and other forms of direct marketing:

  • You
  • Please
  • Post
  • Blog / Blog Post
  • Free
  • Media
  • Help
  • Great
  • How To
  • Top
  • Check Out

In a parallel research endeavor, a recent evaluation of blog posts by writer and software analytics specialist Iris Shoor reveals how much a post’s title impacts on the volume of “opens.”

In her analysis, Ms. Shoor studied posts on 100 separate blogs, using an evaluation technique that rank-sorted blog posts from the most read to the least shared.

What were the words that resulted in the most opens?  Shoor calls them the “blood in the water” terms:

  • bleeds leadsKill
  • Fear
  • Dark
  • Bleeding
  • War
  • Dead
  • Fantasy

Translation?  Negative terms are more powerful for shares than more ordinary terms (e.g., positive ones).

It’s very much like the old adage in the newspaper world:  “If it bleeds, it leads.”

That’s another takeaway from the most recent research:  What’s worked in the offline world over the years appears to be working very much the same way in the online space today.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose …