Scott Brinker put out his first MarTech (marketing technology) infographic of vendors in 2011, where it included 150 vendors. The 2017 edition which came out earlier this year, features an astounding 5,381 marketing technology vendors.
Collaborating with Brinker on this year’s list is Anand Thaker, CEO and founder of IntelliPhi. He has over 15 years of experience working with MarTech startups to growth-driven groups at F500 companies in marketing & sales technology, strategy, operations, talent, and innovation.
MarTech Landscape Drivers
I had the opportunity to talk to Anand about why areas like artificial intelligence (AI), account based marketing (ABM), customer experience (CX) and customer data platforms (CDP) are driving so many new startups to join the MarTech landscape.
Below is an edited transcript of our conversation. To hear the full interview click on the video or audio players below.
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Small Business Trends: So we’re gonna talk about MarTech, because that’s one of your areas of focus, and it’s a really important area of focus. But before we jump in and start talking to that, give us a little of your personal background.
Anand Thaker: I actually started off as a computer engineer and then went into the energy and finance spaces then found my way into marketing. A lot of the threads of the work that I’ve been doing has been around human behavior and understanding how to model that, and data AI. But mostly just understanding influence and relationships in a quantifiable manner of being able to help marketers scale on that and make big decisions.
Small Business Trends: Lots of big decisions, a lot more data, a lot more devices, a lot more interactions. How does all that shape what’s going on with technology from a marketing perspective.
Anand Thaker: Well I think we’re doing a lot of the work with the MarTech Landscape with Scott Brinker. Last year to this year, lots of logos. But I really wanted to work on that just to get that full, complete picture of what’s going on, so I appreciate you’re asking the question.
What I found is, a lot of the work that’s being done and the products that are being developed are still relatively point solutions. A lot of companies are still talking about platforms, and I think that’s also aspirational, and it needs to be. I think with marketers when you have 5,381 tools at your disposal, it’s pretty tough to be able to understand what you really need and don’t need, but at the same time, it is been very much helping marketers understand how to operational-ize the work that they’re doing, get some top level insights about how their campaigns are performing, and, quite frankly, really understanding how to transform to be a modern marketer in this digital world.
Small Business Trends: Artificial intelligence has been the big theme for the year. Where does marketing technology play a role in artificial intelligence and how companies are using it.
Anand Thaker: AI, this big data conversation is a little bit of déjà vu for me. Back in the energy finance worlds, those industries are very much well vetted into the data arena. They handle it, their livelihoods are based on it, actually our livelihoods are based on it, as a matter of fact. What I see a lot of opportunity for marketers in AI is around the idea of being able to really sharpen a pencil, right? So I know that I have a number of leads in the pipeline, and to be able to prioritize which ones we should go after. Also, another opportunity is to uncover things or uncover opportunities that may not be completely visible or understood by one person. So if there’s a tremendous amount of data at your disposal, having AI is useful to be able to gain some insights or some new insights that you may not have.
Small Business Trends: You were talking a little bit before we started recording about the behavioral side of things and how some startups you see are really heavy on the data side, maybe a little too heavy. It seems almost crazy to say it at this point, but can they be too heavy on data in this day and age?
Anand Thaker: There’s never enough data, certainly. How much you rely on it holistically in the decisions that you’re making is something that should be under question, right? I think that, especially in the status based world, which is prolific around the marketing technology space, predictable revenue has really started to trend on finding ways to understand our company from that data perspective. And that has pretty much taken hold. But at the same time, that’s very good for early to mid, in some instances late, stage, but what are you sacrificing in terms of potential other opportunities? There’s a lot of new innovations that have occurred in our lifetimes that haven’t been because of a customer or data point, right? They’re just a lot of wisdom and instinct and judgment that has been developed over time and that actually does have a significant role to play in how marketers should think about a lot of these things.
Another point, too, is I’m very grateful that a lot of marketers have started to build-in experimentation and being able to, what I call, play, right? Not only as part of their time, but as part of their budgets.
Small Business Trends: Really?
Anand Thaker: I think some of them are taking maybe 10% of their budgets and investing in different kinds of tools that might help them out, or potentially new data sets. The intersection of those data sets is unique to a company, and that might be a competitive advantage. I’d even heard of experimenting with just simply new segments of the market to understand whether their solution actually can take hold. I mean, literally differentiated from their particular focus at that particular point in time.
Small Business Trends: So you mentioned the current MarTech landscape of applications is over 5,300.
Anand Thaker: 5,381.
Small Business Trends: Yeah, you know it specifically. But, that’s up from the original one of 150. So, where are some of these new niches that people are playing in that are developing applications?
Anand Thaker: Sure. I think of four, and if I think of another I’m just gonna go ahead and add it in there. One is certainly ABM (Account Based Marketing). Being that I’ve been a traditional B2B marketer, although now I’m starting to really get into the consumer side with a lot of the human behavior work, behavioral sciences, quantifying all that work. ABM has certainly come out, I certainly believe that it’s a lot of B2B marketing repackaged, but the beauty of it is that it’s giving marketers a focus on, “Here’s how salespeople think,” and that’s the way you wanna think about it as a marketer, and how are you focused on that. I even wrote a whole blog post about my struggles with the term, but you know, marketing is marketing, and marketing to marketers is a unique challenge as well, and whatever works to get marketers in the right mindset to help them improve and elevate their careers is fantastic.
Another one is certainly AI. AI, big data, we talked about them and one, put two together. That certainly crossed the board. I had to say, nowadays, being in this AI space of the past, anything nowadays smarter than a hubcap is AI nowadays. But, I think that at least we’re having the right struggle and the right discussions, and I think that’s important to try it out, right? If there’s one thing that’s really wonderful about marketing technology, is we borrow from a lot of other disciplines. And those disciplines require us to really understand how we can intersect them in a way that is, not only unique, but also gives us new insights. I commend anybody as they get into that space, whether they are accurately doing it or not. Certainly I have a term called “feel the data” that I will be touching on a lot more next year, but being able to be immersed in that information, to understand the insights that you have, is certainly clear. It’s gonna be a huge factor for anyone who wants to elevate their career.
A third place that I’ve seen a lot of opportunity is customer experience. We talk a lot about how do we apply AI and in the early days of marketing automation it was, “Hey, I can actually put up some rules,” and there wasn’t a lot of marketing automation.
Small Business Trends: There wasn’t a whole lot of automation stuff.
Anand Thaker: Right, I know, there wasn’t a lot of automation in marketing automation, but it did allow us to sort of structure how we do things so that we can start to scale on that, and I think that was a big step and a big leap for us. Now, customer experience takes this to a whole new different level. Certainly as most marketers, we’re sophisticated in how to operate or how to deploy these types of technologies. We’re getting better at segmentation. We’re getting better at intersecting the right kind of content. We recognize that build and blast emails is not the ideal situation, it doesn’t work as much anymore. I think this customer experience is certainly not just in the digital capacity, but we’re talking about online, offline, it is the entire scope of a customer’s journey, or a buyer’s journey as some call it as well. That’s certainly a hotter trend, but it also requires to be more robust in our thinking about it, too. I think that is also very encouraging.
The fourth spot is the customer data platform (CDP). And, I know David Rob has been really pushing on this with customer data platform institute. I’m actually an advisory board there. As we were talking about earlier, I was so thrilled that he came up with this process, or just line of thinking, that I spent an hour and a half talking to him while he listened and he finally stopped me and said, “Okay, why don’t you come help me with this?” Even in my consulting days, even at Silverpop, even in my previous chapters before marketing, data is quite the asset for a company. And we have not fully realized that asset, but it’s time for us to start thinking about it. Particularly if we’re talking about sophisticated marketing, customer experience, AI big data. The data that we have, whether it’s identified or unidentified, is going to be the golden nugget that we need to continue to mine and protect it, manage.
Small Business Trends: Wow. Well this has been great. Tell the folks where they can learn more about what you do.
Anand Thaker: Sure. You can either follow me at @AnandThaker on Twitter, and then of course if you’d like to learn a little bit, I don’t have a lot there, about IntelliPhi, it’s intelliphi.com. And I will be out and about, you’ll probably see me writing a lot more, speaking a lot more now that I’ve taken some time out to do it.
This is part of the One-on-One Interview series with thought leaders. The transcript has been edited for publication. If it's an audio or video interview, click on the embedded player above, or subscribe via iTunes or via Stitcher.