Wednesday, March 23, 2016

MarTech Madness: Marketing Technology Managers Come Out to Play in San Francisco

MarTech Madness hit this week in San Francisco as 1,200 delighted marketing technologists escaped from their cubicles to cavort under the genial gaze of @chiefmartec Scott Brinker at the latest MarTech Conference. My own experience was a bit skewed because I was pulled into many side meetings, but the attendees seemed pleased and the sessions I did attend were excellent as always. MarTech is unique in its focus on the process of marketing technology management, with sessions covering organizational, staffing, and training issues even more than the technology itself. It’s also unusual in attracting people from both B2B with B2C companies, two groups that rarely mix.

As usual, I spent much of my conference time prowling the exhibition booths. I was struck by the number of content-related exhibitors – nearly half, based on my analysis of the conference program. Many of those were doing standard content management tasks such as workflow, approvals, and repository management.  But several offered some kind of interactive content, which I’d define as content that captures information about the user either through recording behaviors or explicitly asking for input (HapYak, ion interactive, LookBook HQ, SnapApp, and arguably Uberflipand Vidyard). This is a category that also caught my eye at the Content2Conversion conference last month.  Two mentions officially makes it a trend.

There were also several vendors doing what I’ll tentatively call “journey management” (Pointillist, Usermind, Thunderhead [represented at the conference by its partner Arke], and arguably IBM Journey Designer). These resemble conventional campaign managers but execute campaigns based on movement through a comprehensive journey map. These products differ from the earlier generation of journey managers in being tied to live customer data and execution systems, rather than simply drawing a map. There’s considerable variety among these vendors so I need to analyze them more closely before I can confidently call them a meaningful category. But seeing several products emerge simultaneously with similar features is usually a sign that something interesting is afoot.

As these observations suggest, many of my conversations during the conference – especially after the bars were open – related to the ever-popular game of What’s The Next Big Thing? The spotlight has clearly moved from predictive analytics.  ABM is still the current focus but it’s starting to feel dangerously familiar. Interactive content and journey management are definitely candidates, but the consensus at the deepest (and best lubricated) discussion seemed to be what you might call user-tuned content* – that is, content that adjusts to the viewer’s behavior, presumably using artificial intelligence to choose what to do next. That’s different from capturing behaviors with interactive content, as described above, although the same system could do both: in fact, I'd put LookBook HQ in both categories.

"User-tuned content" appeals to me in part because my own MarTech presentation was on machine intelligence, and one strand of development I foresee is combining systems that recognize an individual customer and select the best product or offer (e.g. Evergage or BlueConic); identify the customer's persona (e.g. CrystalKnows, Mariana, CaliberUX); and automatically write data-driven content tuned to that persona (Automated Insights, Narrative Science, Data2Content, and Arria). Concretely, imagine an ecommerce Web site that gives each customer different product descriptions based on her personality. That’s a step beyond current personalization or recommendation engines, which select the best message or product but don’t change how it's presented or use manually-created variations.  It’s also a step closer to what a good human salesperson does, tailoring their presentation to whatever they feel will best resonate with the person they’re talking to.

The pieces needed to deliver user-tuned content are all available, although I haven’t seen any one vendor combine them into a single product. Maybe that won’t happen soon enough to the very next Big Thing, but I’m pretty sure it will be a Big Thing in the not too distant future.

*I really wanted to call this "smart content", but that's used by HubSpot for something else.  "Intelligent content", "responsive content", "contextual content", "dynamic content", "personalized content", "tailored content" and many others are also taken.  "User-tuned content" has been used in pretty much the sense I have in mind, although specifically relating to content tuned to the needs of autistic children.

1 comment:

Wilson said...

I enjoyed your post, David.

I believe "user-tuned content" can be the Next Big Thing(NxBT)-- if the martech can overcome some difficult hurdles.

You've talked about these issues, and I think your 3 D's below are instructive:

- Data (ID management, real-time profiles, disparate sources, recognition, etc.)
- Decisions (multiple journeys, best actions from available actions, rules, etc.)
- Delivery (sequencing across multiple channels, testing, etc.)

The extent and depth to which vendors can cover all 3 D's in a single product will move them closer to the NxBT.

Thanks again for your post.

Wilson Raj, SAS