Thursday, April 02, 2015

MarTech Conference: Some Random Impressions and Interesting New Vendors

I spent last Tuesday and Wednesday at the MarTech Conference in San Francisco, where close to 1,000 marketing technologists heard sage advice, shared experiences, and otherwise frolicked with their peers.

It might just be me, but this MarTech felt a bit less intense – less tribal -- than the first, held last August in Boston. It might have been the larger crowd, more laid back West Coast audience, or that talking to so many exhibitors reduced the time attendees spent interacting with each other. Or maybe  the second MarTech experience is inherently less ground-breaking than the first.

That said, the conference was still tremendously valuable, with a wide range of speakers covering the organizational, operational, and technical issues surrounding marketing technology management. With so much wisdom flying through the air, I won’t pretend to have captured everything. (You can download the slide decks from the MarTech Slideshare channel.) Here are a few points that, for whatever reason, struck me in particular:

- Thomas Stubbs of Coca-Cola describing the lessons from several huge Web site launches tied to the World Cup (and therefore with fixed deadlines). What stood out was that the smoothest deployment  happened when the creative and technical work was done by two independent agencies.  This gave the technical team the leverage to push back against unrealistic timelines. By contrast, when the company used a combined creative-technical agency, the technical team’s objections were often overruled by agency management.

- Several presenters diagrammed the actual marketing systems in place at their companies. This was an important reminder of how complicated marketing technology infrastructures are in the real-world, as opposed to the simple diagrams drawn by people like me.

- A panel with Oracle, Salesforce.com and Marketo, where incisive questions from Chief Martech Himself Scott Brinker highlighted the different philosophies underlying each vendor’s marketing cloud and how few companies really deploy any cloud in full.

- A panel of venture capitalists where at least one member argued that marketing technology is the one sector where best of breed systems can outcompete integrated suites, because the small performance advantage of best of breed systems translates into large financial value. I’d say the only place that is clearly true is among large enterprises, which have the skills to take advantage of the most sophisticated features and where small percentage benefits translate to large dollar amounts. If you want a (pseudo) equation: integration for best of breed costs pretty much the same regardless of company size, while the benefits increase with company size. So there’s a point beneath which the costs outweigh the benefit. The real question is whether SaaS technologies will reduce integration costs or make them volume-related. If that happens – and the jury is very much out – then best of breed would make sense for many more companies, especially if best of breed vendors can build in enough automation that high user skills are also not required to benefit from their systems.

As I mentioned earlier, the biggest difference between this MarTech and the previous edition was a large exhibition hall. There were about seventy vendors covering an extraordinary range of functions. In fact, the very variety was intriguing: everything from content management to reporting to predictive modeling to social intelligence to data enhancement to plain old marketing automation. Many firms were familiar to me but others were new. Some of the unfamiliar ones I found most intriguing were (in alphabetical order):

- Acrolinx: very sophisticated scoring of content to match its tone, complexity, subject, and other attributes to target audiences. It doesn’t write copy but does analyze the copy you give it.

- Advanse: rule-based ad customization drawing on an advertiser’s individual-level data as matched to audience cookies. The system won’t create new ads by itself but will test alternatives designed by the user and will automatically deploy the winner.

- brandAnalyzer by Global Science Research: uses a large, projectable consumer survey and social media traffic to build detailed psychological profiles of brand customers. These are used to help guide creative development and media placements, but not to target individual consumers.

- Amplero by Globys: self-directed machine-learning to find the best message for each customer for each situation. Definitely very cool but we spoke twice and I still don’t understand exactly what it’s doing. I know the system generates messages with random combinations of offers, incentives, and prices and then refines its choices over time based on which perform best in which situations. But that leaves a lot of questions unanswered. I’ll get a briefing and let you know what I find.

- Insightpool: identifies social media influencers and manages campaigns to build relationships with them. What’s interesting is that the system looks for different types of influencers and designs different campaigns based on different user goals (traffic, followers, reviews, etc.) Campaigns contain different types of social media interactions (mentions, follows, direct messages, etc.) at different intervals or sequences.

- Persado: generates and tests optimal language for emails, landing pages, social media, and other messages. Essentially, it does multivariate testing with the test cases chosen by the system based on a huge database of marketing language and sophisticated semantic understanding. Just to be clear, it’s finding the best version for an entire audience or segment, not creating different versions for each individual. (Persado wasn't really new to me, but I've yet to review them formally.  Will do that soon.)

- Unmetric: social intelligence for brands. This is social media monitoring on steroids, ranking performance of individual content items, classified by topic and brand, and then offering a variety of reports and alerts. It also tracks response time to social media customer service requests.

- Whatrunswhere: tracks ad placements in online media to give competitive intelligence. World-wide coverage with details about reach and frequency.

Of course, there were many other interesting exhibitors; apologies to those I've left out. The full list is available here on the MarTech Conference site.

2 comments:

CDC MarketFirst Expert said...

Nice summary David. Growth of MarTech conference from 1st to 2nd year was pretty expected. I'm sure 3rd one will be even bigger.

Luella Ben Aziza said...

I feel like I was there. Thanks David!